Mido Ahmed Yahi : Café Moderne (Paris)

Mido is the head bartender and co-founder at Café Moderne in Paris. He makes two cocktails for us, one with gin and bergamot and the other uses mezcal and rum.

Mido introduce yourself
Hi, I’m Mido Ahmed Yahi and I’m the owner and head bartender at Café Moderne in Paris, a cocktail bar and restaurant (specialising in meatballs). Before I opened Café Moderne I worked in communications and events for four years. I was fed up with Paris so I moved to NYC to improve my english. I stayed for 3 years and discovered a sharp cocktail world, contrary to Paris, where pina coladas, blue lagoons or sex on the beach were more common. I was very interested in cocktails so I read a lot about distillation, how you make bourbon, rum etc. When I understood how to make the different products, I trained in classic cocktail preparation. I worked at Bar Tabac, a bar/restaurant in New York where I become a self taught cocktail barman. When I came back to Paris, I really wanted to become an entrepreneur. Cocktails were becoming very trendy, so I opened my own business with Lucile my partner (who is now the european ambassador for Saint Germain) and Thierry my father-in-law (who is in charge of the restaurant). We opened Café Moderne in September, 2012 and it’s a real family business. Thierry used to work for Luca Carton with Alain Sanderens, so for us the food and drinks are of equal quality and the menu has a pairing perspective, even if’s not explicit. Our staff propose the cocktail regarding the food selected or vice versa. There are no ingredients on the menu, only stories or feelings, so the idea is to create conversations and interactions between the staff and the customer. When we opened I quickly began participating in cocktail competitions to extend my bartending network and get various points of view on my work from other professionals. I won some big competitions like Hendricks in France and I came second for the international Beefeater competition. My biggest challenge was when I decided to participate in the World Class Competition in 2014 where I represented France and finished third in the world.

The classic you want to show us
Jockin’ Jay Z
30ml of Tanqueray Gin infused with Bergamot
25ml of Campari infused with Bergamot
15ml of Fino Sherry
10ml of Suze D’Autre Fois
Top with Grapefruit Juice Soda

The bar or party you dream of
This bar is our baby, we are young entrepreneurs and 75% of the construction work we did ourselves. We have 3 different spaces and each one represent something related to the owners. The entrance is more like a Parisian bistro, very old school, the second area is decorated with comics book pages stuck on the walls, with a pop art feel and the last area is more industrial style which has a Brooklyn vibe, as we used to live there. I don’t think I would really change anything. It a high volume bar, with a huge set up, we are open from noon, so all our mornings and afternoons are dedicated to the set up: making syrups, infusions and prepping the garnish. We are buying more and more machines to perfect and enhance our drinks. Our chef helps us to discover new ways to work with ingredients, so we are learning new things everyday from him. And most importantly we use fresh products, there is no waste in the kitchen or the bar on daily basis. When you have a small budget to open a bar and restaurant like ours, it drives you to find good solutions and it feels more like your place than if you had bought everything. Part of the pleasure in life is the imperfections.

When I go out I love to go to cocktail bars to visit friends and on Sunday nights when I am off I go to restaurants. Contrary to other bartenders, I don’t order shots like fernet branca. I order classic cocktails from a Mai Tai to a Manhattan. My inspiration comes from stories from my family… when my father was a boxer, from books, movies and music not especially from other bars or restaurants. I am very happy that in less than 10 years, Paris is now considered up there with London and New York for their cocktail scene and you can find all kinds of cocktail bars all over France, from classic to tiki.

The spirit you like the most
Years ago it would have been Rye or Bourbon, but working behind the bar my taste has evolved and now I would say rum. As with whisky, you cask rum several times with different types of casks like the Solera methods. Rums are more and more complex. They can be very sweet or dry or smoky. It’s easy to work with and has a vast range of tastes.

What makes a good cocktail and which product do you want to highlight at this moment
It’s about balance firstly, after that it should reflect an expertise. I should be able to explain why I made this cocktail, with what ingredients and create a universe for the customer. You are here to serve the clients. I never refuse to make a mojito if that’s what the client wants, but I will propose to make it with my own touch. I share an experience. At the end it’s about charisma as well as making customers feel welcome.

Now I am focussing on bergamot. It’s complicated because normally it’s only available for 2 weeks a year between November and December. So, every year I buy all the bergamot I can and put it under the vacuum to prepare cordials, syrups and infusions. It costs me a fortune, (70% of the production is dedicated to earl grey tea) but I like the floral notes and the smell. I love this agrume and in fact this year due to global warming, it was available for nearly 4 months.

The signature cocktail you want to show us
French Palenque
25ml of Mezcal Vida del Maguey
15ml of Rum Zacappa 23
20ml of Plantation Jamaican Rum
2 dashes of Spanish Bitters
3 dashes of Angustura
2 dashes of Café Moderne Bitters
2 dashes of Orange
Foam of Rinquinquin and St Germain

Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender?
In France you have to meet Sacha at Le Parfum in Montpellier and Leyenda in Brooklyn, the head bartender Ivy was elected the best american bartender last year. They are very welcoming, the food and drinks are inspired by south america and they are great.