It wasn’t that long ago when you couldn’t get a decent martini in Paris. The pour on the vermouth was always way too long, the size of the cocktail too tiny. You’d have to head to a hotel bar to get anything resembling a proper drink. But ever since the Experimental Cocktail Club opened in 2008, that’s all changed—and thank goodness.
In winter of 2015 while researching my book, Paris Cocktails (Cider Mill Press), I schlepped to 55 bars in six weeks—an enjoyable hardship, for sure. And although I by no means think my work is done—there’s plenty more left to be explored—I’m confident in knowing exactly the right Paris cocktail bar for any occasion. If I’m in a nostalgic mood, I head directly to Rosebud, a Mad Men-era bar in Montparnasse, where the bartender, a true gent, dons a classic white jacket, and where Negronis, martinis and Manhattans are standard fare.
Here are five other cocktail spots to visit in the City of Light.
① Best VIP Brunch: Apicius
Apicius, which occupies an old French mansion, is a Michelin-starred restaurant with a delightfully beautiful bar. Its incredible Apicius Bloody Mary, which was invented by a former bartender, is the best drink I tasted in Paris during my extensive tour. You won’t find any Bloody Mary mix in this baby; rather, it consists of muddled fresh cherry tomatoes, BBQ bitters, cranberry juice and vodka, with Cajun salt on the rim. Simply magnifique.
② Best-Looking Crowd: Artisan
In SoPi (South of Pigalle), Artisan is a gorgeous horseshoe-shaped bar with incredible cocktails, small bites (think: jamón Ibérico, burrata, mushroom velouté) and the very cool crowd you’d expect from the hipstery 9th Arrondissement. Go for the atmosphere but sit for a while, thanks to the expertly made craft cocktails such as the Green Velvet, a truly international drink made with Brazilian cachaça, Velvet Falernum from Barbados and Italian liqueur Strega.
③ Best Craft Bartender: Pas de Loup
How does a gal from Minnesota come to run one of the most important craft bars in Paris? About a decade ago, just as the craft cocktail scene was taking off, Amanda Boucher arrived in Paris to study art history at the Sorbonne and worked in bars to cover the rent. Now at the helm at Pas de Loup, Boucher shakes some of the most intriguing drinks in Paris. One standout is the Winter Bloody Mary, with celery juice instead of tomato and a rim of dried tomato powder. It’s so good, you’re almost fooled into thinking Boucher hand-squeezed fresh tomato into your glass.
④ Best Rooftop: Le Perchoir
Le Perchoir started the whole rooftop bar craze in Paris a few years ago, and it remains a superb hangout in nice weather. Tucked inside what looks like an office building, the alfresco cocktail den offers a bohemian-chic vibe plus twinkling views over the rooftops of Paris. Go early and watch the sunset.
⑤ Best New Craft Bar: Danico
Danico is located in Galerie Vivienne, one of the most stunning covered passages in Paris. Nico de Soto, the barman who specializes in his own syrups, hails from all the right places, including Experimental Cocktail Club, where an entire generation of Parisian mixologists have been trained. Get adventurous and try the Sayonara Motherfucker!!!!—they like exclamation points at Danico—which, with Nikka whisky infused with figs, kuromitsu syrup, soy sauce and seaweed bitters, is a bit like Japan in a glass. After you’ve had your fill, head to sister restaurant Daroco, right next door, for some seriously good wood-fired pizza.
During In Good Spirits month, we're going behind the bar to find out what separates aperitifs from digestifs, which It cocktails the world's top bartenders crave and how to turn your home into the hottest speakeasy in town.
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