If it weren’t for a little serendipity, Marc Jean, internationally acclaimed mixologist might have just been Marc Jean, headwaiter.
“But one day the head bartender at the place where I was working, didn’t come in to work and the manager asked me to step in.” he says. “I was terrified that somebody would ask me for a fancy cocktail, but luckily, nobody complained.”
From that day when the Frenchman first took his place behind the bar, Jean has never looked back. Today, touring the world in his capacity as ambassador for Rhum Clement, the 42-year-old master mixer is looking for new flavours and concoctions that he can add to his ever-increasing repertoire.
Ask him the difference between a mixologist and a bartender and pat comes the reply, “There is no difference. Mixologist is only a fancy word. But of course, even I like to call myself a mixologist.”
A self-professed lover of tradition, Jean isn’t too taken by the new trend towards molecular mixology.
“Most of my customers are conservative when it comes to alcohol. They are not taken in by fads like cocktails that you spray into your mouth. They want to get their drink in a glass, made from traditional local spirits with a little innovation.. I agree completely with them,” he asserts.
The same goes for flair bartending. Jean admits that despite being a bartender for 20 years, his first attempt was in the garden of the Taj President during his trip to India in 2007. “I love to watch bartenders flair but I’m afraid it’s too complicated for me,” he says sheepishly. “Luckily, people do not expect that of me.”
Art of flair
Jean insists that unless a bartender learns how to master the art of flair bartending, he should never attempt it behind a bar. “It is very dangerous for the bartender and his customers if he makes a mistake. First, you must be a good mixologist, then try flair, but only if you are perfect,” he warns.
Speaking about the new trends in cocktails, Jean says, “Vodka is the most popular spirit in the world.
Vodka-based cocktails with fresh fruits are climbing on the favourites list.”
He also notes an increasing interest in organic alcohol with people willing to pay more if they are certain of the product. He says, “Customers want to know where and how the drink is made. Though organic products are more expensive, they are willing to pay for the quality.”
As far as his learning experience in India goes, Jean admits he was surprised to discover the variety of alcohol available here.
“In India, there are so many different flavours of vodka like black currant and green apple, flavours we don’t get in France,” he says. Also, the Indian customer is peculiar because he likes his cocktail very sweet.
Despite this discovery, Jean believes that it is important for different cultures to retain the identity of their flavours. “Even though I’m trying to introduce a new taste, I do not want to standardise the local palette.” He asserts, “I tell my bartenders that they need to please their customers. It is their satisfaction that is most important.”