Thibault Massina: Le Syndicat's new star

The wine industry doesn’t often mix naturally with the bartending community, but for Thibault Massina, an early education in Bordeaux lay the foundations for an organic pairing behind the bar.

“My father was a big Bordeaux fan. The game when I was a kid was to guess what wine my father was drinking just by smelling and I think that’s where I got my inspiration to work in that industry,” says Massina, sipping on a beer in the second arrondissement of Paris. 

Hailing from Tours in the Loire Valley meant that quality wines were part of his DNA and Massina’s early ambition took him to London to learn English aged 18. He didn’t do this behind the
bar or serving wine, but as a handyman. 

“I used to visit people’s houses to fix things, but I barely spoke English and didn’t know how to fix things,” adds Massina. From here he studied tourism and, after returning to Bordeaux, got a job in Saint-Émilion as a tour guide and after following his girlfriend to Paris his wine knowledge broadened while working in some of Paris’s top wine shops. 

Massina adds: “I learned a lot about wines from all over the world, which was important for me, but after a while I found the wine industry quite boring to be honest. It made me think I needed a change, so I started learning about cocktails, experimenting at home.” 

His raw enthusiasm got Massina a job at Cocktails Spirits in Paris as a welcoming host for the guest bartenders. “To me they were like stars, people like Nico de Soto, Monica Berg and Alex Kratena and I was running around making sure they were OK, even fetching Nico a sandwich when he needed.” 

He left a good impression with the organisers of Cocktails Spirits, and they wanted him to be the face of the show moving forward, but he needed bar experience. After several applications he landed a bar back role at Le Syndicat, one of the most innovative bars in Paris, and he didn’t touch a shaker the first six months. 

“I like to talk a lot,” says Massina with a grin. “And in the bar industry the pace is much faster than in wine, so it took a bit of getting used to. The guys loved my energy but I had to be more efficient.” Massina’s ardour to thrive in the bartending world was evident when he entered a cocktail competition before he could really bartend. The competition was focused on the garnish for a drink and, after winning, he was flown to Dubai to do a bar takeover at Zuma. 

“I was so excited to win that competition because I was up against some established bartenders, but the takeover was a bit embarrassing because I had very little experience – I could barely open the shaker while loads of influencers were filming me.”

In 2019 it was announced that renowned bartender Remy Savage was moving to Le Syndicat having left London’s Artesian, which excited Massina. 

“Even before I heard the news I had made it my next goal to work with Remy, so everything fell into place for me. He was an amazing guy to work with and I owe Remy a lot for the help and knowledge he gave me.” 

When Savage moved to London to open A Bar With Shapes For A Name in 2020, it opened the door for Massina to progress. Since then Massina has been a key part of the bar’s success and during the pandemic he developed Fefe, Le Syndicat’s range of canned RTDs which are now distributed across France and on the verge of big things. 

“I’ve had an amazing few years at Le Syndicat and I can’t wait to see how far we can go championing French spirits, but I really want to preserve my identity with wine as well as bartending. I think wine knowledge is something I want to bring to the bar industry, because I’m sure we can do more with wine behind the bar.”