Cocktail Spirits is set to take Paris by storm from the 19th to 20th June 2016. MIXOLOGY author Andrew Wilkin took a closer look at the scene with some esteemed industry figures, to find out more about the city’s cocktail scene. Here’s our top five bars for your visit to the City of Love.
It’s a funny fact that Paris – arguably the cocktail capital during the Prohibition period – was once seen as lagging when it came to top-end mixology.
Nobody is saying that anymore. “It took the Experimental Cocktail Club in 2007 for Paris to be once more on the cocktail map and in a few years France has really caught up,” Remy Savage, Head Bartender of Little Red Door, observes. How did it do it? “Maybe it’s because we have a passion for everything tasty and maybe cause the scene is still sufficiently small that we all evolve together in a non competitive way.”
Whatever the cause and effect, Paris really is on a roll. And with Cocktail Spirits upcoming on the 19th June, we felt it was high-time to explore the cocktail scene in the city that just keeps on coming back. Alongside some industry legends who visit Paris on a regular basis, here’s our 5 bars that give Paris it’s indefinable cocktail “je nais se quoi”.
Le Glass – hotdogs & hedonism
Le Glass is a bar that is particularly beloved of Christina Schneider, Head Bartender of London’s Happiness Forgets and formerly of Berlin’s Envy Bar (in the Nhow Berlin hotel). It’s “always and forever” been a favorite of hers. “Not because it was ‘my’ bar, but because it’s the only place I know where you can get a perfect Martinez at 5am while moshing to Master of Puppets. Period,” she says.
Indeed, Le Glass is one of the only bars in Paris that has a late night license, so expect late night revelry of the most raucous variety. The dimly lit bar offers up hotdogs and pickles in the early hours, regular DJ sets and there’s a disco ball in the centre of it all. So far, so good. And then there’s the cocktails, which is what we’re really interested in…
Since opening in 2012 in the über trendy and affectionately titled SoPi – South Pigalle, for the uninitiated – Le Glass has been offering up top-notch, innovative cocktails. Spirit fans who also dabble in craft beer should sample one of their Boilermakers – a shot and then a beer – such as the Pickleback 11, a shot of Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon and pickle juice followed by a Demory IPA. Tattoo You, a mix of mezcal, ginger, grapefruit, lime and beer, is a favorite of ours on the cocktail menu. Opened by the owners of Paris’ long established Candelaria, it’s a bar definitely not to be missed.
Le Syndicat – on a mission
The full name of the famed Le Syndicat is “Le Syndicat – Organisation de Défense des Spiritueux Français”. Le Syndicat is on one heck of a mission to promote French alcohols of the little-known variety – cognacs, eau de vie’s, armagnacs and the like. Expect a menu full of cocktails that utilize old-time French spirits, but still keep things contemporary.
There is much acclaim for the skills of Head Bartender Sullivan “Sully” Doh. “He is a genius bartender and you always have a really fun time there,” says the always enthusiastic Vassilis Kyritsis of Athens The Clumsies. Christina Schneider praises him for actually having a concept, in comparison to the many bars in Paris thinking “some posh furniture and an elaborate sounding cocktail menu is all you need to be successful.”
And despite the military-sounding name and the serious concept, Le Syndicat still remains a good time dive bar. Behind the newspaper-covered facade, the bar is lit in golden curtains and sparkles, matching its mission with an indefinable sense of fun.
Little Red Door – for now evocative
There was always something evocative about stepping through the LRD’s small red door and being served up endlessly innovative cocktails – including ones utilizing the famous paper syrup invented by Remy Savage, Head Bartender and Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender of the Year 2014. Now they’re quite literally putting pen to paper with their Evocative Menu, launched in April this year.
A highly innovative approach to menu-making, the 11 drinks are ‘evoked’ with only an image with no names or ingredients. It allows you to choose things based on sensitivity, like a piece of art, ignoring the predispositions you may have for certain flavors. Quick disclaimer: just like in a children’s book, you can always pull a tab on the right hand side of the menu if you so wish to find out what you are actually drinking.
Even before this evocative turn, Little Red Door, owned by Timothée Prangé and Dotan Shalev, was a bastion of creativity. Fernando Castellon, owner of Bar Expertise and renowned mixologist, has always been impressed by their “very sophisticated, technical approach to the ingredients” and the way in which they “extract the intensity of the components, whether it’s by using infusion and filtering, or the use of herbs and spices”. It’s not just the technical nitty gritty either – Castellon praises the welcome they offer all their guests, creating a “great vibe” that Vassilis Kyritsis also applauds.
Le Mary Celeste – smart casual
Named after a mysterious American merchant ship that was found deserted in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872, the Le Mary Celeste is anything but adrift. Located in Paris’s Le Marais district, it’s a bar-restaurant befitted with a casual vibe and the double gastro-whammy: great food, great drinks. In comparison to the cleverly disguised bars or high concepts of other bars in the city, Le Mary Celeste goes for a low-key approach.
“Absolutely everything there is awesome,” claims Christina Schneider. “The food is some of the best in the city. So are the drinks. And on top of that you get a small but incredibly well selected wine list, presented by knowledgeable, smiley, beautiful people. What more could you ask for?!”
We can particularly recommend the Batida Express cocktail for two, a delicate mix of absolut elyx, apérol, maraschino luxardo, eau de coco, pineapple puree, sirop de maté, citron vert and angostura bitters. Then, there’s also Cyril Zangs cider originating from San Germain and a bunch of craft beers on the menu too, including Brooklyn Brewery beer. Foodies swarm in for the oysters. And Le Mary Celeste is a particular joy in the summer when the big windows open up and the crowds spill onto the street. A ship well worth jumping on, then.
Sherry Butt – not at the rear
“Its reputation for offering the best drinks in the city still stands in spite of all the new places around. If you want a truly great drink in a quiet and classy surrounding, that’s where you have to go,” says Christina Schneider about the wittily titled Sherry Butt.
Funnily enough, Sherry Butt is more famous for whiskey than fortified wine – boasting over 100 whiskeys from all around the globe in its repertoire. It then boasts a cocktail menu of just 11 drinks, which it pairs with an authentic Mediterranean tapas list – dried hams, chorizo and more.
The vibe is NYC and post-industrial, made of wood and metal, with two dimly lit rooms punctured with studded leather sofas. There’s no doubt the Butt is cool but it’s the drinks that keep people coming back for more. “It’s the finesse in their cocktails for me,” says Fernando Castellon. “The Sherry Butt bartenders are always elegant and very technical. They really care about bringing you great flavour.”
Bildquelle: Sherry Butt bar via Philippe Levy