Déborah is a former psychology student turned “bar problem-solver”. A mixologist and Gold medal winner at the “Un des Meilleurs Apprentis de France” (One of France’s best apprentices) competition, she manages the consulting division of the Catherine & Co agency, which helps many cocktail bars in the French Riviera design their menus. Journalist Cécile Cau met up with her.
How do you approach a new collaboration?
– I often start with the product, with an emphasis on defending local specialities. With Cognac, for instance, I enjoy explaining where it comes from, the fact that it is made from grapes, distillation methods, what a pot still looks like, the history of Cognac, why it is so popular around the world… To sum up, I give a quick lesson and try to create a sense of pride! It instantly arouses interest and is respected even more! Later, during blind tastings, we realise that Cognac is more appreciated and accessible than other types of spirits, even those consumed more often. I also take the time to talk to waiters and head waiters. Because even though they are the real product ambassadors, when it comes to serving Cognac, they often forget the people behind the glass, whether the harvester, cellarmaster, distiller, cooper, among others. They also need to be trained – and not only those working behind the counter.
What are the Cognac consumer trends in the Côte d’Azur?
– This spirit is popular with an international clientele who fantasize about the French Riviera. Among young people, Cognac is often associated with American rap. For them, it’s not uncommon to open a bottle of Cognac and mix it with soda, lemonade, or ginger beer. They stick to branded Cognacs because they fit into their lifestyle. The French are less willing to try new things. They are increasingly concerned about where products come from and how they are made. But when we take the time to explain the whole story behind Cognac, they are instantly won over. Consumption patterns also vary according to the seasons. In the summer, Cognac is suited to a late-night mood: people rarely order it before 10pm. In the winter, we focus more on cosy, intimate settings: this is when barmen have more time to promote their creations. It’s my favourite season!
As for yourself, how would you describe Cognac?
– Like a Swiss army knife! Thanks to its wonderful range of aromas, this spirit is incredibly round, accessible and easy to work with, even if it isn’t always perceived that way. We therefore need to keep repeating this message. But Cognac is a well-established institution and a real cultural product rooted in a terroir and history. I really like to play on this idea… At Catherine & Co, for example, we like to sign our cocktails with comforting names like Hubert or Marcel: and with Cognac, which is a rather generous spirit thanks to its rich range of aromas, it’s easy! And then there’s the personal challenge. From an early age, I was taught the value of products and what they represent: that’s why I want to better showcase these products from our terroirs. I am very proud of Cognac’s reputation and the role I play in championing it. Especially now that France boasts many high-quality cocktail bars and professionals who know a good product when they see it!