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Cocktails in Paris


Forest
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A friend just sent an email looking for food and drink recommendations for an upcoming trip to Paris. I have plenty of food recommendations, but less for good cocktails.

There's some places that I might recommend for drinks (but not for dinner) where I think the cocktails are well-made compared to a lot of what I find such as:

China Club

Buddha bar and related bars

SoMo

Kong

and for more laid back atmosphere:

Fubar & Rhubarb (although I've only had their creative tini's there and think they are pretty good, but don't know about a range of cocktails at either of these)

Harry's

I've never really gone on a search for the best cocktails in Paris (but wouldn't mind finding them). So, any recommendations on where to find the best?

Edited by Forest (log)

52 martinis blog

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A friend just sent an email looking for food and drink recommendations for an upcoming trip to Paris.  I have plenty of food recommendations, but less for good cocktails. 

There's some places that I might recommend for drinks (but not for dinner) where I think the cocktails are well-made compared to a lot of what I find such as:

China Club

Buddha bar and related bars

SoMo

Kong

and for more laid back atmosphere:

Fubar & Rhubarb (although I've only had their creative tini's there and think they are pretty good, but don't know about a range of cocktails at either of these)

Harry's

I've never really gone on a search for the best cocktails in Paris (but wouldn't mind finding them).  So, any recommendations on where to find the best?

Le fumoir is always worth a shot - they list all their different martinis etc and when i asked the barman to stir my martini and not to shake it he seemed aghast that shaking was even an option, very laid back "Graham Greene" vibe to it, probably not the best but worth a visit all the same

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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A friend just sent an email looking for food and drink recommendations for an upcoming trip to Paris.  I have plenty of food recommendations, but less for good cocktails. 

I have no experience (thus no recommendations), except for one martini I had years ago at Harry's but if you look on the first page of the 2006 Digest you'll find a note the Week of Feb 27th about Market's 18 cocktails, a Figaro article the Week of April 10 and a Figaroscope "Dossier" the week of June 19th. I am told by the cognoscenti that the Palace hotels that cater to US tourists are cocktail-sophistocated. Maybe you can open a new world of taste for your friend by introducing him to Richard and Kir, separately of course.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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How about the Bar Hemingway in the Hotel Ritz?

Bar Hemingway, considered by many to be one of the world's best bars, is definitely worth a special detour. The drink prices are high, but well worth it for the experience of high quality, fresh ingredients delivered in a comfortable setting with gracious, professional service. The clientele are an interesting mix of tourists and locals.

The Bar Hemingway is small, with a clubby, intimate atmosphere that once provided a great place to enjoy a cigar surrounded by Hemingway memorabilia. The bartender, Colin Field, is amazingly talented; he would mix whatever drink you wanted to match with the type of cigar you had. Unfortunately, I have not been back since the smoking ban, so I don't know how they are handling this issue. Although it would be less enjoyable to spend time in this masculine setting without the ability to accompany drinks with cigars, it must still be a very special place.

"Some ladies smoke too much and some ladies drink too much and some ladies pray too much, but all ladies think that they weigh too much."

From a poem by Ogden Nash - Curl Up and Diet

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Bar Hemingway is one of my favorite bars anywhere. (I can't say I will miss the cigars though.) The drinks are as good as they get anywhere, and they are worth 23E. The Vendome Bar in the front of the hotel is also the most romantic bar I have encountered.

Edited by Carlsbad (log)
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I recently went to the Murano for drinks, which was very nice but quite expensive (20€ a cocktail I believe).

Alcazar isn't bad either for drinks.

What about the Hotel Amour?

Or the bar in the Plaza Athenee.

Is it the atmosphere you are looking for or the cocktails themselves?

www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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I like the Murano, too, both for the drinks and the interior design.

On my last visit to Et dans mon coeur il y a... (just off the canal saint-martin) I noticed that they had a cocktail menu, mostly the classics. I didn't try any as I was there at lunchtime, but I really like the feel of the place, and I think it would be quite pleasant to meet friends for a pre-dinner drink there, and then stay on for dinner or go elsewhere.

Clotilde.

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Thanks, all. Yes, I've been to the Bar Hemingway & agree: great drinks.

Felice: no not looking for a particular atmosphere (although something nice is always good!) but more for where everyone thinks the best cocktails are. Otherwise, I'm pretty open.

And, will take other suggestions on board and report back if i find anything really good!

52 martinis blog

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  • 1 year later...

Both disheartened by the dearth of local cocktail information and inspired by my interest in drinks, a few weeks back, I began my own search for the best cocktails in Paris with Wednesday night cocktail adventures. The plan was (is) to go to a new bar (reputed for good cocktails, of course) every Wednesday after work. There’s been discussion in the spirits and cocktails forum on what drink best judges a bartenders’ skills (with many good suggestions). But, for me, I decided my plan of attack would be to try a martini to start (to give me some sense of comparison) and then a different second cocktail – preferably the specialty of the house. And, in the event anyone else is interested, I’m reporting back with my findings.

Experimental Cocktail Club

For my first Wednesday Cocktail Adventure, I decided on the aptly named Experimental Cocktail Club (37 rue St Sauveur, 75002). I hadn’t heard anything about this place, and didn’t have high hopes, but I was immediately surprised. This small bar, with dark heavy curtains, low cushy chairs and sofas, has a lounge-y, relaxed feel. The menu features about 10 different specialty cocktails and a selection of whisk(e)ys, bourbons, and ryes (including some interesting looking Japanese whiskeys) As far as I could tell they do not serve beer or wine.

I don’t really believe in testing bartenders’ ESP and expecting them to know exactly how I want my drink. So, when he began to ask questions about how I wanted my martini (which I already see as a plus – he’s not just going to throw something together for me) I explained exactly what I wanted: 1 part vermouth & 4 parts gin. I noticed that they had grapefruit bitters listed as an ingredient in another drink, so I asked for a drop or two of that as well. The martini was stirred, the glass was chilled and it was very nice, indeed. Another thing I especially appreciated was his avoiding an upsell on me. Their house gin is Plymouth (I believe – I’ll check my notes which are elsewhere and edit if that’s not correct) but I had asked for a step up from the house. After a bit of thought, he, instead, suggested that with the addition of the bitters the house would work better. (which leads me to believe he was putting some serious thought into how the drink would taste) My second drink was off the menu – a Chicago Fizz – and also very nice.

Some other things that raise this bar in my estimation: They stock a variety of bitters. They have a selection of uncommon and interesting brands of spirits. When the bartender (who I later found out is also one of the three owners) couldn’t answer a question about some of their ryes listed, he made a point to get the answer during the evening and came over to give me the information before I left.

Thus, my low expectations were completely surpassed. For the quality, service and careful preparation, I’d gladly go back. And, as a bonus, the cocktails were very reasonably priced by high end Parisian cocktail standards. (10 – 12 Euros) The bartender/owner said he doesn’t believe that there is another place in Paris that is putting as much conscious thought into their cocktails – with the exception of hotel bars where you are going to pay much more. (and, from my current experience, I’d agree with that…although future Wednesdays will tell)

It’s worth noting that I was there early evening on a week night. After talking to the owner, I get the impression that the weekend nights turn into more of a loungey/hipster vibe and the crowd is less interested in high end cocktails than listening to the DJ while downing vodka crans. So, while for cocktail purposes I might avoid it at those times, the others who were with me are looking forward to checking it out on the weekend for the music and atmosphere.

And, if I get some more energy tonight, I’ll post on my next two following this & happily take suggestions for next Wednesday’s adventure.

(incidentally, if anyone in the France forum thinks these posts should be moved to spirits and cocktails, let me know – but for now I’m leaving them here since it’s specifically for Paris)

52 martinis blog

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Forest,

Did you happen to note if Manhattans were on the menu there?

I'm going over next month with a friend who is a first time visitor to the city. He's a Manhattan drinker. My guess is that, despite my exhortations of " eat and drink what the locals eat and drink", some time during the week there, he's going to want one.

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Le Fumoir

Everyone seems to love le Fumoir (6 rue de l’amiral Coligny, 75001). But, as my second try for Wednesday Night Cocktail Adventures, it didn’t knock out the Experimental Cocktail Club as my favorite so far.

When I walked in on Wednesday, I remembered why everyone likes it so much – it’s got great atmosphere. There’s a big, welcoming bar greeting you as soon as you walk in and tables, booths and couchy-things scattered about. The restaurant area further back looks comfy, fun and smells good. If you get the nice spot with the red (fake leather?) sofa you can relax and feel like you’re in a place where you should get good cocktails and good conversation. You’ve already got a good start for cocktails in Paris when “a martini” on the drinks menu means a classic martini (with their 3 variations) instead of a glass of sweet vermouth over ice. (note: I’m not disparaging sweet vermouth over ice as a common French apero - but this search is about finding a typical gin/vermouth martini)

While as I said, I don’t believe in testing my bartender and expecting him to know just what I want, I also don’t want to be that annoying jerk at crowded bar who is constantly telling him what to do. And (being happy hour!) the bar was crowded. So, I just ordered a standard martini. I was surprised when it arrived within minutes (making me wonder if it had been sitting at the bar already? Prepoured?) it was too crowded for such speedy service. The martini (served with olives) was pretty good – nice proportion of gin/vermouth (which was specified with their three classic martini choices) although not as chilled as I would like. I asked what gin they used – it was the house, which is Gordons.

I followed my martini with an old fashioned. Then, (ignoring my two drink plan) followed that with a side car. However, the fact that I still felt pretty decent (read: sober) after three drinks, made me wonder how watered down the second & third drinks may have been. The old fashioned was good. But, the sidecar wasn’t really that great – lots of citrus mixer in it. (I drink a lot of sidecars…so the difference may not be so apparent to someone who doesn’t like them as much) But, considering that, I still enjoyed the cocktails there – especially at the 6.50 Euros happy hour price. For anyone who just generally likes cocktails (but isn’t a high maintenance cocktail aficionado) it’s a good spot to stop for a drink. Non-happy hour prices were about double, and I have a feeling that outside of the that time, you might get more of an opportunity to let the bartender make you exactly what you want (and they have the appropriate spirits and equipment to do so, so I wouldn’t write it off as a nice cocktail bar!) And, I have to say: what we got, was well-made, it’s just that they didn’t do it exactly as I would have. Also of note, the service was very good (they were helpful about moving chairs and tables around to accommodate us, answering questions, speedy orders)

My fellow-testers ordered several different drinks as well, but the only thing I really noted was that the margarita was pretty decent and the Green Dancer (I think that was the name) was too minty for my taste. (and just for someone else’s perspective – besides mine - they all really enjoyed it)

52 martinis blog

@52martinis

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Harry’s

For most of my (drinking) life I didn’t think I liked gin. That was until I discovered it’s actually tonic that I don’t like. So, since then, I’ve been enjoying a good martini. However – even back when I wasn’t drinking gin – it always bothered me when someone asked if you want vodka or gin in response to a request for a martini. So, when the bartender at Harry’s asked me “vodka or gin” I had to remember that it’s my own personal semantics issue (things should mean what they are supposed to mean!) and a reflection of what patrons order that made him ask and not necessarily his skill as a bartender.

Come to think of it, I probably could have done better at Harry’s than I did. I sat there and watched him make the martini – chilling the glass with ice, stirring the ingredients – and thinking “gee, I wish he would have put more than a couple of drops of vermouth in that pitcher of Beefeater” (when what I should have done is just asked him to add more – why I didn’t, I don’t know – it had been a long day). He topped it off with a lemon twist. The martini was good, and he seemed to know what he was doing – I just should have been more assertive about what I wanted.

The others arrived and we followed with a round of (what else at Harry’s?) bloody marys. The bloody mary’s are good – I prefer mine a bit spicier (again easily rectified by just asking). My fellow drinkers really liked them, but bemoaned the lack of “stuff” in them (celery, etc) and a neighbor complained that it had too much of the “brown stuff” (Worcestershire, I imagine?)

Again, like le Fumoir, this is a bar that is equipped to make what you want and can put out a good cocktail. But, again, this one didn’t impress me from a cocktail perspective as much as the Experimental (where you get the impression that the person behind the bar is not just willing, but interested in discussing the cocktail and its creation and the various ingredients to give you exactly what you want)

But from a non-drink perspective, you can’t discount the history of Harry’s , the great space and the sheer popularity of the place for Bloody Mary’s. (although I’m not really sure if the bloody mary was really invented here or not…perhaps someone else has more information on that, but everything I find is conflicting)

So, in short, I’d go back and enjoy a drink. At 12 Euros a cocktail, it’s fair – but not cheap.

52 martinis blog

@52martinis

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Harry’s

Just one question Forest, the last time I was at Harry's before Jan 1, 2008, with my pal the real Martini afficiando, the air was so smoky it was impossible to breathe. I assume now it's clear, but has any of its charm diminished, its charm being how decrepit and dissolute it was?

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Harry’s

Just one question Forest, the last time I was at Harry's before Jan 1, 2008, with my pal the real Martini afficiando, the air was so smoky it was impossible to breathe. I assume now it's clear, but has any of its charm diminished, its charm being how decrepit and dissolute it was?

I have to say it did, in fact, seem a little cleaner somehow than the last time I went. However, it was still packed with paraphernalia and bustling with a lot of charecter.

What was your friend's verdict on the martinis?

Edited by Forest (log)

52 martinis blog

@52martinis

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Harry’s

Just one question Forest, the last time I was at Harry's before Jan 1, 2008, with my pal the real Martini afficiando, the air was so smoky it was impossible to breathe. I assume now it's clear, but has any of its charm diminished, its charm being how decrepit and dissolute it was?

I have to say it did, in fact, seem a little cleaner somehow than the last time I went. However, it was still packed with paraphernalia and bustling with a lot of charecter. What was your friend's verdict on the martinis?

He thought they were quite OK, but since he's a loyal member of the eGSFSCA&L, I'll let him chime in. I'm a cocktail novice, rarely getting beyond a stiff Ricard.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Thanks Forest, this is great. We were just mentioning today that dinners in Paris tend to be less expensive than in the US because we don't order cocktails beforehand, but every once in a while the need for a great martini kicks in. For me that usually means vodka, but friends have introduced us to Hendrick's gin, which has turned my opinion of gin on its head.

The Experimental Cocktail Club is just around the corner from where we stay in Paris and we'll definitely try it soon.

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Best martini (Gin only!) in Paris so far has been at the Bar at Hotel Meurice; with the jazz piano playing in the background, what could be better. Grossly expensive I admit; also like the Club Sandwich etc. A good place to visit on your last night in Paris. Harry's is OK; but dingy and overpriced...then again, it has history on it's side.

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Forest,

Did you happen to note if Manhattans were on the menu there?

I'm going over next month with a friend who is a first time visitor to the city. He's a Manhattan drinker. My guess is that, despite my exhortations of " eat and drink what the locals eat and drink", some time during the week there, he's going to want one.

Follonica2,

Manattans weren't on the drinks menu (there weren't any kind of classics on the drink menu - the martini listed was some version of a chocolate martini) But, I'm sure they can make you one as the bartender/owner was very accomodating. Also, when we were discussing the ryes and whiskey's he told me that he (or one of the partners?) focused on getting good whiskey's and ryes for classic cocktails (and I think he may even have mentioned the Manhattan)

And, I agree, I love eating and drinking like a local...but sometimes I just want a good cocktail! (man cannot live on ricard and foie gras alone!) :rolleyes:

52 martinis blog

@52martinis

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How about the Bar Hemingway in the Hotel Ritz? 

Bar Hemingway, considered by many to be one of the world's best bars, is definitely worth a special detour.  The drink prices are high, but well worth it for the experience of high quality, fresh ingredients delivered in a comfortable setting with gracious, professional service.  The clientele are an interesting mix of tourists and locals. 

The Bar Hemingway is small, with a clubby, intimate atmosphere that once provided a great place to enjoy a cigar surrounded by Hemingway memorabilia.  The bartender, Colin Field, is amazingly talented; he would mix whatever drink you wanted to match with the type of cigar you had.  Unfortunately, I have not been back since the smoking ban, so I don't know how they are handling this issue.  Although it would be less enjoyable to spend time in this masculine setting without the ability to accompany drinks with cigars, it must still be a very special place.

Second that. Colin and his team give a whle new meaning to the term cocktail, with the incredible fine tuning, the mastering of temperatures, the super-fresh ingredients, and the infinitely classy and personal service.

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How about the Bar Hemingway in the Hotel Ritz? 

Second that. Colin and his team give a whle new meaning to the term cocktail, with the incredible fine tuning, the mastering of temperatures, the super-fresh ingredients, and the infinitely classy and personal service.

It's definitely on my list...I'm just trying to convince some of the people who go with me that they want to spend 20 Euros on a cocktail...but I'll get there again and looking forward to it.

52 martinis blog

@52martinis

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