Andre Chalson, founder of La Casita retail space and La Familia spirits importer, on providing the building blocks for the Cambodian capital’s growing scene. As told to Paul Mathew.
“La Familia translates to the family. Everyone who is part of the La Familia team is part of a special family, and every family needs a home. La Casita is therefore the home for La Familia and our extended family. It is a place for bartenders to drop in to pick up bar tools and ingredients, an educational hub for brand ambassadors to give masterclasses, a walk-in boutique for spirits connoisseurs, and an industry-focused bar that showcases our fine spirits.
Phnom Penh is an amazing city to be working in, but when I started La Familia, I realised we were going to have to raise the bar and give bartenders the knowledge to adequately use and sell our products to their guests. There is an immense need and desire for information here, even at a basic level on categories of spirit and modern bartending techniques. La Casita is part of that – somewhere for us to offer training and a top quality bar experience so that people in the industry know what to aim for – to give them ideas. We have done a number of trainings at bars around town, but very often, the bars lack the proper set-up. From a training and consulting perspective, La Casita allows us to control all the elements that are necessary for this. We are able to use the space to show bartenders what a great set-up looks like, how to do their mise-en-place, how to prep for a busy night, and even how to be efficient for a quieter one.
La Familia is extremely lucky to have Jennifer Queen working in our team, someone who has a lot of experience opening bars from a bartender’s perspective – for example she designed all the stainless steel that we’ve then had made in Phnom Penh. So far, the space is focused as a showroom for our products and for events, but we are keen to see how people respond to our regular Tuesday evening cocktail sessions. The emphasis is on training bartenders and marketing our brands, but if regular consumers want us to take it to the next level and drink with us more often, we have a great space waiting for them.”
La Casita / Street 244 (by Street 240 1/2), Phnom Penh, Cambodia