Paris’ burgeoning cocktail scene
A recent spate of new cocktails bars is putting the French capital firmly on the mixology map. (Kim Laidlaw Adrey)
Though Paris is traditionally associated with wine, a recent spate of new cocktails bars is putting the French capital firmly on the mixology map.
One of Paris’ newest cocktail bars is the interestingly-monikered Ballroom du Beef Club (52 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 75001; 09-5252-8934), a speakeasy-style basement bar hidden under a steakhouse. In the dimly lit space, complete with vintage-style wallpaper and velvet seating, the expert mixologists serve a concise menu of unusual drinks, such as the spicy yet refreshing Concombre Fumant, a mix of tequila, fresh cucumber and homemade chilli syrup, or the bitter Salers Smach, which features the old-fashioned tipple, Gentiane, made with the flower of the same name, alongside absinthe, Champagne and fresh mint.
The same team behind the Ballroom is also responsible for another of Paris’ most successful cocktail bars -- the edgy Experimental Cocktail Club, which hosts many a fashion week party behind its unmarked door, drawing in the crowds with its refreshing and fruity Strawberry Alarm Clocks (a vodka and strawberry concoction).
If you like some food to go alongside your cocktails, Grazie -- a pizzeria-cum-cocktail bar in the trendy Northern Marais -- is the place. The Italian team serves simple and authentic pizzas to go with their innovative takes on cocktail classics, such as the gin and tonic (one of which features a spray of sea salt as an additional ingredient) and the Bloody Mary (with ingredients such as wasabi and sake), alongside drinks such as the Aperol Spritz, a Venetian cocktail-hour staple.
One of the most exciting places in Paris right now has to be Le Carmen, a cocktail bar housed in a listed building that was once home to the composer Bizet and after whose opera the establishment is named. The romantic setting -- complete with high ceilings, sculptures and columns -- hosts many of the capital’s most interesting parties, including the modern literary-salon-with-a-twist, the Book Club. There is no cocktail menu; instead the head barman concocts custom-made cocktails according to the whim of each individual patron.
However, excellent cocktails aren’t an entirely new affair in Paris. Family-owned bar Le Forum, which serves serious drinks in its smart lounge-style setting, was established in 1918. Classics such as the Martini, Mai Tai and Bloody Mary are on the menu, alongside creations like the bar’s signature Forum Cocktail -- their own version of the dry martini composed of gin, Noilly Prat Dry and Grand Marnier, which was created in 1929.
Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes unlockparis.blogspot.com.