Buzz: Interview with Jean Louis Camo

By Margaret Kemp

To visit Monte Carlo and not hit the Hotel de Paris’ American bar, named in honour of USA’S President, General Grant, is impossible. Head barman Jean Louis Camo first worked the bar when he was 12 years old and, apart from a stint at The Howard Hotel London, has been there ever since. Camo thought he would lose his job when Frank Sinatra, who always insisted on sitting at the same table, ordered him to turn out the casino lights; they were shining in his eyes. “We finally reached a compromise and closed the curtains”, recalls Camo. The name Jean-Louis Camo features on A-list Palm V’s worldwide.  Regulars know they must call ahead to get Sinatra’s table (No. 35). Seated there, “le tout Monte Carlo” knows you arrived at Nice International Airport in the NetJet, the Lamborghini’s parked outside, and of course, you have a table booked on the terrace of Ducasse’s Louis XV restaurant.  
 
How would you describe your crowd?
Captains of Industry, Hollywood, the jet-set, young start-ups and a delightful English clientele who return frequently. Since 11th September the American clientele has been very absent. But I’m sure they’ll be back soon. There are so many events in Monte Carlo -- the Grand Prix, the Music Awards, the Red Cross Ball, the Tennis Open -- that it’s traditional to meet in the American Bar for, say, the “Monte Carlo breakfast” (Fernet Branca), aperitifs or nightcaps, before going on.
 
What’s your most popular drink now?
Fresh Ferrara peach Champagne Bellinis.  My new cocktail is called Volcano, inspired by my recent holiday on the Ile de Reunion. It’s rum based with fresh fruit, egg white and topped with chocolate.
 
What drinks will be big this season?
Frozen cocktails with a rum base, fresh fruits and lemon juice swirled in the blender. Tastes like a liquid sorbet. The Morito is mint based with lemon juice, Perrier and a touch of rum. And of course, Pimm’s with champagne. We serve these with tiny Monaco ravioli, grilled almonds and, after dinner, mini-pastries prepared by the chef patissier.
 
Which celebrities have been over in the past two weeks?
Prince Albert, David Coulthard plus Clan Coulthard --they really know how to party. Also Elton John, Rod Stewart, Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, Mick Hucknell, Tasha de Vasconsuelos.
 
What’s the worst chat-up line you’ve ever heard anyone use at the bar?
He’s a regular, an Italian Count, he’s undressed the woman mentally before offering the drink that makes their day.  El Calvador, a passionfruit, peach liqueur and calvados cocktail. Mind you it works every time for this guy.
 
What do you say when it’s time for someone to leave?
Usually I suggest calling a taxi. The rowdiest times are during the Grand Prix season, the excitement level becomes unreal, and I don’t mean just from the circuit. Once I poured a gentleman into a taxi and he was back ten minutes later having realised he was staying at The Hotel de Paris.
 
What’s the best cocktail you’ve ever drunk, and where?
In London, at The Halcyon. The barman makes a wicked Bloody Mary. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to duplicate it, I think it’s something to do with the way he shakes it!
 
If you could choose any bar, real or fictional, where would you most liked to have worked?
In America. I would love to work at Ian Schrager’s Hudson Hotel, NYC.
 
Recipe:


Rose des Vents
40 cl Fresh Orange Juice
40 cl Fresh Peach Juice
40 cl Strawberry Liqueur
10 cl Crème de Banane Marie-Brizard
30 cl Rum – slice of fresh peach to garnish
We put all the ingredients in a shaker and voila we’re Tom Cruise in Cocktail.
 
Hotel de Paris

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