Inspiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “If you’re going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers.” We can’t say for sure that those words had any effect on Sophie Larrouture as she’s navigated through the male-dominated bar world in Europe, but it wouldn’t surprise us if they did.
A native of suburban Paris, Larrouture held odd jobs in the hospitality world before working her way up through Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva, a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star property that has long commanded respect for being the site of the city’s first hotel and the place where the League of Nations’ first assembly was held.
Larrouture has flourished as assistant bar manager at the hotel’s Le Bar des Bergues, winning Best Bartender of the Year for Switzerland at the 2016 World Class competition and helping the establishment earn a spot on Forbes Travel Guide’s 2019 list of the World’s Best Hotel Bars.
Blazing a career that would probably put a smile on RBG’s face might be accomplishment enough for some, but not Larrouture. She knows that if permanent change in her industry is to come, more cocktails need to be made, more awards must be won and more young women have to see her in action.
What does the World’s Best Hotel Bars honor mean to you?
I’m very grateful for this honor, of course, but also for us as a team. We are talking about the overall guest experience and it includes many people and aspects. It’s the recognition of years of work that are valued in the most prestigious travel guide in the world. It’s an achievement!
How did you fall in love with bartending?
I discovered bartending by chance. I started as a waitress at Le Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva. When the barmaid left, I got offered the opportunity to learn the job. I took the challenge, and I worked hard to achieve the expectation of the hotel standards.
Meanwhile, the passion for it grew. The more I learned and discovered about it, the more I was keen on knowing and exploring even more.
Why aren’t more women leading bars at top hotels around the world?
Bartending is globally led by men, even though women are blooming in the industry [lately]. Women have proven that they can drive great success stories in bars. There is no doubt that they deserve to be in this industry.
But it is a different story to talk about leading hotel bars. I believe that leading bars in hotels is not an easy career. It can be very challenging for men as much as it is for women in the hospitality industry. Performing as a barmaid in a hotel bar may not be challenging at first, but when it comes to leading the outlet, it’s a different story. I believe that, by the time they reach this point in their career, women may aspire to [focus on] other aspects in life, which may not be matching with the job requirement.
For the female Forbes Travel Guide reader who’s considering a career in cocktails, what are the few words of advice you’d offer her?
If you want it, go for it! The cocktail industry is fast and constantly evolving, which requires people who are passionate and willing to spread the word about it. Women are great for that. They can bring their feminine touch to a cocktail recipe, concept, selling process, storytelling or hospitality service, which will definitely make a big difference in a bar.
Just be yourself and share your passion without questioning if you can make it or not because you are a woman.
What make a drinking experience so unique at Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues?
We are here to provide the experience that you expect and much more. Our drinking experience is mostly focusing on the human interactions you will have while being in this bar. You are going to meet people and products with stories behind them, requiring all your senses to be on.
Of course, like in any Five-Star hotel, every single detail counts. Beautiful products can be found [here], but what will make your experience unique are the memories that you will keep. It’s not the rare spirit you have drunk or the beautiful environment you enjoyed staying in, it’s the story you have shared with our bartender or waitress, which helped them to create your unique and memorable experience that evening. We are writing your memories together!
How is the Geneva bar scene different from those in Paris, London or New York?
Geneva’s bar scene is pretty conservative. People tend to stick to what they know. Nonetheless, the cocktail scene has been growing, especially the bar community. The amount of cocktail bars is booming in all of Switzerland. However, in Geneva, even if bartenders are ready to move forward to the next level of cocktails, guests take their time.
Also, the culture is different. People go out but do not necessarily have a cocktail, which is very common in London or New York. Here, the glass of wine or a beer is very much enjoyed as much as a cocktail.