Tell us about Candelaria. “It’s a restaurant and cocktail bar in the middle of Paris that was started in 2011 by three associates. When you enter the restaurant, it looks like a classic Mexican taqueria but at the end of the room there is a white door that leads to Candelaria. It’s not a Mexican bar, but we use Latin-American products, like tequila, mescal, cachaça, pisco and rum, and mix them with spirits from around the world. The most important part about Candelaria is to have fun. We try to make people happy, even just serving them a glass of water.”

What were you doing in Paris? “I’m from Bogota, Colombia. I was a psychologist for three years. At the time, I was lost and didn’t know what to do in psychology. I used to work with children and an organisation that fights for women’s rights, but it wasn’t a good-paying job. I was even a head hunter. Then, in 2011, I decided to move to Paris to get a master’s degree in psychotherapy. I got a degree in French and then started studying for my master’s, but it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t happy – the education system in France was different from what I was used to. So I quit and just focused on being a bartender.”

Why bartending? “I did culinary and bartending classes when I was 22 years old and studying psychology in Bogota. It was just a hobby – I wanted to learn to cook and make cocktails to pay the bills if I moved to another country. I started work­ing at Candelaria in 2012 and I did well; it gave me a chance to be a professional bartender. I decided if I do this, I have to do it right. In 2014, I got a degree in hospitality manage­ment for hotels, bars and restaurants and now I’m the general manager of Candelaria.”

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Does your background in psychology help? “It depends on the kind of bar you work in, if you get to talk to the customers and your personality. Before, I wanted to be a psychologist to help people in a deep way. Now I serve in a different way; it seems superficial but I’m serving them and helping them be happy in a quicker and easier way. Psychology taught me to be really patient.”

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What does it take to be a good bartender? “It doesn’t matter what you are serving – a crafted cocktail, beer or wine or even water – you are there to serve people. You need to be humble, to remember you are not perfect, that people can teach you a lot of things. When you’re a good human being, people can feel it. You should be respectful, too. We are all equals; we should listen to everyone, to different points of view.”

Which liquors do you prefer working with? “It evolves all the time. I do like tequila and mescal. Two years ago, I started working with Italian amaros and vermouth and sherries. I love to make and drink aperitifs.”

Where do you find inspiration? “From history, jokes, movies, paintings. Four years ago I created a drink called Magritte [after René Magritte, the Belgian artist behind] the painting of the faceless man with the apple. I saw it in Brussels and I fell in love with it and wanted to create a drink like that, but put the apple at the back and other flavours in front. The drink is based on aquavit, fennel and anise, with French vermouth, Galliano and calvados, and I created this salty solution with salt water and celery – it had a dry, strong finish – and then I put an apple on top of the drink.

“Two years ago I created a cocktail that reminded me of my mother. She used to make alcoholic punch when I was a kid. When I was eight or nine I would sneak around to get some. It had passion fruit, aguardiente [made with sugarcane and anise], and it was really sweet. I called mine Mother’s Julep. She was happy to hear I made that drink.”

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How did your parents feel when you changed careers? “They had spent a lot of money and time on me but, in the end, they just want me to be happy. But at the same time you question yourself; ‘What are you doing? Hospitality is not a recognised profession in Colombia.’ But, when my parents visited me at Candelaria, they realised I wasn’t doing this for fun. They saw I was happy there. I’m not looking for money and recognition, I just want to do my job well. I think they are OK with it.”

What do you do when you’re not working? “I love to go to restaurants and bars, but not too much. My best friends aren’t even in the industry. I play a lot of sports, especially football and ultimate [played with a frisbee]. I also like movies that entertain, like fiction and action films.”