50′s California in Paris Cocktail Adventures: Lone Palm

barLone Palm
21 rue keller
75011 Paris

bar artThe boys behind the Tiki Lounge now have a new spot with a personality all its own. This time they’ve traded blowfish lamps and masks for something more midcentury modern. Here, you can sip like a Californian lounge lizard of the 50’s when “modern design” meant comfy booths, kicky palm prints and Jetsons-like abstract art.

I grabbed a stool at the beautiful bright green tiled bar to check out the menu. The thirteen cocktails are an interesting mix. You’ll find a lemon drop, Royal Jamaican Yacht Club and Clover Club hanging with some of house creations that incorporate things like Duvel syrup or red pepper and coriander infused tequila.

martiniAlso on the menu: a Dirty Martini. And, while I generally keep mine clean, this seems like an appropriate choice for a location rocking this kind American retro vibe. There’s a range of gins in the house including Hendrick’s, G’Vine, Beefeater 24, Beefeater, the Botanist and Monkey 47.

At Lone Palm, things are more relaxed than you’ll find at some of the city’s very serious cocktail bars. Reuben was behind the bar and, if I understood (read: overheard) correctly, rather than coming from a bar background he has his own line of shoes. However, he still turned out a nicely made classic martini in a well-chilled glass that started my night off right.

IMG_0648They’re ticking all the (now standard) boxes with bitters, freshly squeezed juices, a variety of spirits and so on. But they still manage to blend into the Bastille bar style with a low-key attitude along with low-key prices (7 to 10 Euros). And, with a happy hour from 6pm to 8pm and the Café Moderne just a few doors down, rue Keller is shaping up to be a fun option for a little bit of bar hopping.

IMG_0657The night of my visit, French singer Gaspard Royant was in the house for a photo shoot. With his Roy Orbison style and vinyl tendencies, he fit in perfectly at this place with its rockin’ soundtrack courtesy of an old turntable behind the bar.

Lone Palm is a laid back and nostalgic nod to simpler times that turns out good drinks at good prices without the need to put on airs.

Private Cocktail PopUp Adventures: the Chamber

Hello, lovelies! We interrupt your regularly scheduled cocktail reviews to bring you a little information about our new project, the Chamber.

The Chamber is a Private PopUp and Cocktail Club brought to you by 52 Martinis.  Although we think there’s a lot going on with the Chamber, the very basic idea is simple: Join the club & get invited to interesting events created exclusively for the members. To introduce the Chamber, we’re kicking off with a private Focus on France Cocktail PopUp. Interested in joining for these ultra swank, intimate, convivial cocktail evenings? Want to have a bit of a secret cocktail experience like these lovely guests did last night?  We only have three more  days left & spaces are going, so sign up here.

If you can’t make this week’s launch PopUp, we hope to see you in the future. We’ll be running monthly themed PopUps and other one-night-only events (like cocktail classes, master classes, bloody mary brunches, wine tastings & more). We’ll be introducing new and interesting products, places and people to our members and striving to create a more unique way to socialize or go out.

To encourage a sense of community and to ensure members get access to limited spaces for events, membership is currently limited to a maximum of 500 members for the first year. For the moment, registration is closed to all but the guests at this week’s PopUp who are recieving invitations.  Following the PopUp, any remaining space will be up for grabs. But that doesn’t mean 52 Martinis is slipping away!  We’ll still be here providing bar reviews, writing for other sites and publications, running the regular meetups and generally having a grand time of things. But we’re really excited to share these new things with you.  So come join us this week for the PopUp. It’s really a sexy little soirree of a PopUp.
Otherwise, a bientot and we’ll see you around here or the Chamber.

 

Parisian Coffee and Cocktail Adventures: Lockwood

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Lockwood
73 Rue d’Aboukir
75002 Paris

With the emergence of a new breed of coffee bar, cocktails aren’t the only notable drinking trend to hit the capital over the past few years. Recently, three brothers have capitalized on both crazes in creating the Lockwood.

IMG_9233Paris’ latest It-spot combines three different drinking styles all under one roof with Brûlerie Belleville coffee and light snacks during the day, easy-going aperitif options early evening and serious cocktails from 8 p.m. onwards in the downstairs bar.

Upstairs, a large, clean glass front brightens things up while mellow wood tones and soft light keep it warm. Bottles hang from bungee cords above a small bar (reminding me of the setup up at the Tippling Club….), coffee filters serve as lampshades and customers cluster around high tables. Slip down the back stairs and you’ll find a collection of stone-vaulted rooms with low chairs and tables and a larger central bar. There the vibe is more conducive to nighttime drinking. The Lockwood feels both Parisian and international at the same time, which is no big surprise considering the team’s collective experience includes time at Silencio, Ten Belles, plus a few international endeavors.

IMG_9227The night I stopped in with Laurance, Thibaut and Regis, we started upstairs where the menu offers a dozen drinks that kick the night off nicely. The aperitif aspect is obvious with options including bitters like Aperol Spritz, Campari Orange, or Americano. There’s a Paloma on the menu, which has been coming into cocktail play a bit more recently plus a couple of hot options like mulled wine or Irish Coffee. My martini was enjoyable as were the Whiskey Pomme (Buffalo Trace and apple juice from the owners’ family orchards) and a Negroni. While there are no surprises, they are none needed to deliver a good drinking experience. It’s a solid and satisfying selection of aperitifs ranging from 7 to 12 Euros plus some beer, bubbles and wines.

IMG_9255The larger downstairs bar does things a bit differently with just under 20 cocktails at 11 to 15 Euros. The Zacapa old fashioned (old fashioned variation with Zacapa rum 23, house syrup of apple & cinnamon, orange and angostura) was nice, although ever so slightly sweet for my taste. The Whet Appetite is a similar to some options we’ve seen around Paris with its  combo of tequila, cool cucumber and a Tabasco heat. Their rendition of the Penicillin delivers the familiar smoke and honey flavors you’d expect.

IMG_9258Ingredients are fresh and preparation considerate. They aren’t overextending themselves but rather focusing on a manageable menu, which is key to successfully pulling off a concept that focuses on doing different things simultaneously.

On the night I was there, I not only enjoyed myself but noted there were plenty of booze and bar biz people in as well – which I take as a good sign. At this point, Paris is probably not desperate for another cocktail bar.  And, that’s why Lockwood is exactly the type of place the city now needs.  Its relaxed attitude, understated cool, and focus on quality ingredients are the right combination to satisfy the coffee connoisseur, casual early evening drinker as well as the late night bar crawler. Given their initial showing and reception, they are set to be a popular and prevalent force on the Paris drinking scene.  Fortunately they open from 8am onwards making it a venue worth a visit anytime of the day.

 

Champagne in a Bubble Paris Adventures: le Bulle du Collectionneur

main bubble cocktailsle Bulle du Collectionneur
Hotel du Collectionneur
51 rue de Courcelles
75008 Paris

Paris cocktails1The Bubble is back!  A few years ago, we stopped into the Hilton Hotel Bubble Bar.  Since then, the hotel has gained a star and changed its name, but it has kept the winter tradition of blowing up the courtyard bubble for a festive cold weather coupe de champagne.

While on our last visit it was a white, winter wonder land sponsored by Tattinger, this year it’s a sexy darker decor with Moet on offer with the option of tiny plates of tasty snacks.  Otherwise the space and setup are basically the same as the previous occasion.

exterior bubble cocktailsDuring the day it’s a tea bar with sweet snacks like Christophe Adam eclairs or Bruno de Lorgues truffles. And this year it remains open until March.

At 24+ a glass of champagne it’s a bit of an indulgent evening.  But, worth it if you’re looking to stretch out the holiday feeling by escaping into this fairytale like little bubble hidden away in a sweet courtyard.

More SoPi Cocktail Adventures: Artisan

IMG_8411 Artisan
14, rue Bochart de Saron
75009 Paris

IMG_7911Brought to you by the Maison Mere team, Artisan is the latest addition to the growing list of interesting places around Pigalle. However, unlike Maison Mere, which swings from sad quasi-quesadillas to surprisingly good mini-burgers, Artisan is consistently very good. I can comfortably attest to this after several successful visits.

Artisan’s understated décor is charming and relaxed. Dim industrial lighting and flickering votive candles reflecting in distressed mirrors shine through the large bay windows giving off a warm glow that beckons passersby. The rest of the street feels a little dreary in comparison to the simple yet inviting ambience.

IMG_8750Once inside, patrons pull up a stool at the U shaped bar or grab a table to enjoy something from the short, but solid selection of cocktails under the direction of Frédéric Le Bordays. The last time we saw Fred here on the blog, he was doing cocktail classes at la Cuisine. But it’s always a pleasure to see him either here or in real life, so I’m happy that he’s currently involved in this enterprise. Running his own cocktail consulting business and having just published his first cocktail book, he brings a good level of experience to the table.

IMG_7928There’s a quiet confidence to both his comportment and his cocktails. While Artisan has incorporated some successful trends like small plates, large format drinks (their punch serves four) or bottled cocktails, nothing feels gimmicky or risky. It’s quite simply a well-put together cocktail program that is as nicely balances as Fred’s drinks.

The cocktail menu is expected to change every two weeks. While I feel like that’s rather ambitious and not really necessary, it doesn’t detract from the bar’s appeal either. But due to ever-changing choice, I won’t focus so much on specific drinks I’ve tried (of which there have been several) but more the overall impression. The 8 cocktails remain in the typical price range of 11 to 13 Euros. The menu covers a nice selection of spirits and incorporates high quality, fresh ingredients. Fred neither shies away from dark and bitter ingredients nor intentionally pushes demanding or precious options. Syrups made with such things as yellow beetroot or mulled wine work well in his recipes. In short: cocktails, as they should be.

IMG_7916For more choice, straying from the menu poses no problem. The staff working with Fred have skills and experience to handle these requests. On my first visit, I was happy to see Keltoum at the bar. Considering her training with the Experimental Cocktail Club group and her work that I’d seen while judging the Abuelo cocktail competition, I was comfortable starting off with my standard martini, which was well made.

And, if you want something beyond the (excellent!) olives served alongside the cocktails, IMG_7932move on to the tapas-like menu for a snack or meal. In the kitchen, Vanessa Krycève (who has previously worked with the likes of Pierre Herme, Guy Savoy and Laduree) makes magic happen on small plates with her takes on French classics like country terrines, mushroom veloute, or brandade. And bonus: the kitchen stays open late.

Given its positive reception and the reputations of those involved, Artisan pulls in the food and drinks folks along with a crowd of fashionable, bed-headed and bespectacled locals. There are no reservations so go early evening, mid-week, if you want to snag a seat and get more focused service.

In short: I’m a fan of Artisan.

Fanciful French Cocktail Adventures in Paris: Buvette Gastronomique

IMG_8723Buvette Gastronomique
28, rue Henri-Monnier
75009 Paris

IMG_8734In case you’ve been living under a polished rock from Urban Outfitters and missed it: Paris is in the midst of Hipstergate. Debate has been sparked. Outrage has been expressed. Camps have been chosen. I’m not going to use today’s post as yet another avenue to discuss the issue because i think it has already been intelligently and amusingly covered. Instead, I’ll take the opportunity to review a new SoPi spot  so twee that it sounds like a joke about hipsters: New Yorkers coming to France to sell Americanized French comfort food to Parisians in a carbon copy of their NYC shop. But, since I came down on the ‘hipster’ side of the current debate, I went to Buvette Gastronomique with an open mind.

IMG_8727Buvette has a stylized French farmhouse aesthetic with pastel tones, antique-like plates, mini-silver serving stands, rickety wooden stools and chairs, and exposed brick walls. It’s basically a rather pretty representation of the rustic france of American fantasies, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I dropped in a couple of weeks ago for a ladies lunch and enjoyed the tiny servings of reinterpreted French classics like croques and hachis parmentier. They’re not what you’d find in a traditional bistro, but they were both fun and tasty. (although I can’t quite put my finger on the unusual flavor in the hachis parmentier – nutmeg? cinnamon?) Both the cheeses and the duck rillettes received unanimous praise as well.

We tried a few different wines which were hit and miss, but perhaps due to a range of personal tastes. The only thing that wasn’t entirely enjoyable during this visit was the service. Although I was the first person in the restaurant, it started off slow and sloppy with a wait time of 20 minutes from the time I arrived to the time I was asked if I wanted to order even a drink. We stretched lunch out over a few hours and service improved immensely with a different staff member helping us select wines and cheeses. Regardless of their level of attention to customers, the staff does seem to pay attention to detail as far as their products and confidently gave informed and helpful answers to all of our questions about their dishes and wines. It was an enjoyable lunch and my curiosity was piqued by the list of cocktails on offer.

So, I stopped in again this weekend to check out drinks selection, which hovers around a very reasonable price range of 8 – 10 Euros. In addition to classics like Bloody Mary, Martini or Negroni variations, there are some frenchie type choices. You can choose from Kir options or appropriately bubbly aperitifs. There is a page of four cocktails with some Gallic virtue whether it be simply their name (en francais) or their (possible) origins: Bee’s Knees, Vieux Mot, French 75, Sidecar. This seems like a pretty decent showing for a place that doesn’t necessarily bill itself as a serious cocktail bar.

IMG_8729My martini was good enough. Based on taste, I would guess they are using Hendrick’s, light on the vermouth. It came with both a twist and an olive, which is not my usual preference but I can live with it. The server inexplicably left the mixing glass and strainer with my martini, although there was nothing left in it. But, at 10 bucks I’m not going to quibble too much on these details. I’m happy to see that Paris seems to be moving into the phase in which every establishment is not a craft cocktail lounge but restaurants are starting to clock onto the fact that they can serve decent drinks even with a relatively small selection of booze behind the counter.

IMG_8721Due to their licensing requirements, customers must order something to eat in order to have a drink. We tried a trio of tartines (nut pesto, ham pesto and ratatouille), which were all good enough for the low price of 5 Euros. But, what confounded me, yet again, was the service. We were the only two customers in the place, while six staff members did everything except give us a menu. I eventually had to ask for a menu so we could actually get to the business of patronizing the place. It’s all rather odd because – again – the staff seemed pleasant, friendly, and interested in the products but just a little unmaliciously negligent and confused about their priorities. This is why i didn’t try the second cocktail I ordered; they simply forgot about it. By the time we realized the drink wasn’t coming, I was already running late enough to grab the bill and move onto the next stop.

Overall, the food is fun and well done. A lot of people will love this space for what it is, while a good number will like it in spite of what it is. Personally, I have no issue with the American reinterpretation of French plates being sold to French palettes. However, they really need to work on their customer service because that’s one bad Parisian cliche they don’t need to play on.

Surprising Paris Cocktail Adventures: Shake N’Smash

IMG_8324Shake N’Smash
87 rue de Turbigo
Paris 75003

IMG_8322While I attend lots of cocktail and spirits events, I often avoid bar openings or their press launches and, instead, try to visit on normal nights for a better perspective. But, last week, I did join a group of bloggers, writers and social media types to test out the offerings from a new bar just off Republique. Shake N’Smash had been on my ‘to try’ list since they opened a few weeks ago and I just hadn’t made it yet. Perhaps this occasion would finally lock it into my to do list. On the evening of the private party, I really wanted to stay home and put my feet up with a nice cup of tea and a good book. But, I don’t like to flake on RSVP’s, so off I went to taste test new cocktails. And, I’m really glad I did!

IMG_8366In creating Shake N’Smash along with Sephora and Raphaël Cohen, Jerôme Susini, has injected new life into the building that his family has owned since 1923. What used to be a Corsican restaurant is now a small sexy and fun cabaret-like cocktail bar and lounge. Dark green walls and wooden accents provide a classic backdrop for lighthearted feather covered lamps and sleek leopard print armchairs. Plenty of mirrors allow the small space to retain its intimate ambiance without feeling too enclosed and also romantically reflect candlelight around the room allowing them to substantially dim the lights without leaving clients in the dark. This mix of modern edge and elegant simplicity creates a dreamy little hideaway of a bar.

IMG_8393With the cocktail menu, both owner Jerome and bar manager Kevin (previously of le Fouquet and the 114) strive for a selection of drinks that appeal to a range of tastes. As such, their 15 house creations at 12 Euros incorporate a variety of base spirits from vodka to mescal, some interesting homemade syrups and Alain Milliat juices. Their creations include a convivial and practical Punch option that serves up to 4 and two warm cocktails with their take on an Irish Coffee and a Grog.

We sampled six different cocktails from their best seller, the Dernier Metro, (raspberry purée, vodka, ginger and citrus) to the more interesting In Bacchus We Trust with its cognac base and just enough wine syrup and barbecue bitters to give it a tart and spicy little spine.

They plan on changing the menu every six months or so, which is a good call. While many places change more frequently, letting a drink live a little while in the bar gives sufficient opportunity to tweak and perfect it based on bartenders’ experience and customer feedback. For example, the El Guacaquila, made with tequila, avocado, and Tabasco syrup is sweet, cool, spicy and refreshing but thick. I think it might work better in the miniature szie we sampled rather than an entire cocktail. And, I wonder if it could serve as a fun shot alongside a beer. This is the kind of experimenting you might be able to better do in the bar when the menu sticks around longer than a fortnight. I think, overall, there may be a lack of subtlety that you might find in other menus which is made up for by bold and unabashed choices that will work well in this neighborhood, as well as the possibility to go off menu and work with bar staff to find something to satisfy all palates.

IMG_8379In addition to tasting the creations, Kevin also kindly stirred up a martini for me: 1 to 5, Tanqueray with a twist. This was stiff sip compared to the sweeter and easier drinks I had just been sampling, but it’s just the way I like it. With his high-end hotel background, Kevin can handle classic requests. His hotel background may also be reflected in the thoughtful (and sometimes precious) presentation of the cocktails; the sake-based Love Hina is served on a Manga page while the l’Education Sentimentale is served on a page from a Flaubert novel. I’ll avoid any further cocktail spoilers on the drinks and rather encourage you to explore them on your own.

IMG_8389Also of note, the menu offers their cocktails in a flask to go at 15 Euros and the possibility cocktail courses. The entire space or – conveniently – smaller sections can be privatized. Regular DJ’s spin some great sets and plans for themed nights with a focus on a particular spirit, cocktail, bar or idea are underway.

Along with the drinks, we sampled several items off the food menu. The homemade foie gras served on gingerbread was a good start. And, the perfectly cooked beef filet boccadillos and the flavorful – without being fatty – duck sauccison were some of the best bites I’ve had lately. It’s a nice selection of cocktail-appropriate food that can easily be shared or make for a mini-meal for one.

I chatted with some of the other guests: Damien from Sound Shaker, the ladies behind Muze Events, Jenna from Paris Cheapskate and the boys behind Cocktail Molotav. It was enjoyable to rub elbows with a different group than I usually run into at press events (which are mainly cocktails/spirits writers) and to see what some of the city’s of bloggers and personalities are covering.

This variety of guests reflects the intention to provide a little something for everyone, which we also saw in the cocktail selection. This intention is also seen in the set up of the space: a heavy curtain can be drawn to divide the lounge in two leaving one side a little louder and more club like and the other a bit quieter and more conversation-conducive. Although it’s not easy to please everyone, it’s a commendable (albeit challenging) approach.

Joshua explained that they aim to bring something new, welcoming, intimate and special. And, with that, they succeeded on the night were there. Shake N’Smash was a very nice surprise indeed.

Friday Five: Paris Experts and their Favorite Bars

On occasional Fridays, I turn over 52 Martinis to five other Paris personalities to get their take on the city’s best bars.  This week, some of my favorite Paris Experts share their preferred spots.

david-lebovitz

Previously a professional pastry chef, currently a celebrated author and always a fun cocktail companion, David Lebovitz tells us “Le Mary Celeste is my favorite bar because all the bartenders seem to know exactly what I want, so I always leave it up to them to make me whatever they feel like. And I’m never disappointed.”

elEverybody loves the Yelp Paris Community Manager, Elodie Fagan – and not just for her charisma, but for her insight into Paris places-to-be.  And she’s currently loving: “Dirty Dick, a Tiki Bar in SoPi managed by Scotty, an LA native. Their Pain Killer and homemade almond syrup are insane and the atmosphere is so unpretentious, unique and off-beat”

UnknownWhen Mathilde Dewilde isn’t multitasking with her blog (Mathilde’s Cuisine) her book (Foodista) and her many other activities, she’s finding great spots to eat and drink in Paris.  Her favorite bar of the moment is Epure because “‘There is a friendly atmosphere in that bar which brings me there again, again and again. The master of the venue, David Rougier, always has an amazing bottle to make you try while having such an ability to make you feel at home. The shape of the bar, which look like a boat, is a true invitation to start chatting with your neighboors and share amazing times with them.”

rachel-khoo-about-image

 

Between finishing My Little French Cookbook (her fourth cookbook), filming for her BBC TV show, and her recipe column with the London Evening StandardRachel Khoo still manages to find a little time to go out for drinks and when she does, it’s just might be at the Candelaria because, as she explains, “I have bit of thing for tiny spots. Just because it’s a small space doesn’t mean this place doesn’t pack punches with some mean cocktails.”

 

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As the mastermind behind the Secrets of Paris website, author of Naughty Paris (one of my absolute favorite guide books), and professional Paris tour guide, Heather Stimmler-Hall knows what she’s talking about when she tells us “I love the bar at the George V Four Seasons because it has a cozy, intimate atmosphere instead of blaring music like most bars. And the cocktails are worth the (admittedly high) price!”

Raising the Bastille Bar Paris Cocktail Adventures: Cafe Moderne

IMG_7815Café Moderne
19 Rue Keller
75011 Paris

The streets around Bastille are bursting with bars serving cheap drinks that pull in a young, lively crowd.  And while there is no shortage of options, there aren’t many that manage to stand out from the crowd. However, I stopped in at the Café Moderne with Caroline recently, and found they’re well on their way.

IMG_7820While the majority of this bright and busy establishment is taken up by diners, thirsty clients can pull up a stool at the long wooden bar. Red walls add some warmth and the black and white tiles bring some class to the front room, which feels a bit more art deco in style.  In the back area, light walls, exposed brick, and quirky signage lend a NYC vibe.

Behind the bar, Mido offers up a chalkboard listing of 9 house creations at 10 Euros that lend an air of ‘mixology’ to the mix without overwhelming. I started with a Beefeater 24 martini, which was not on the menu but nicely done.  Caroline went for the Caribean Shephard (spiced rum, lemon, brown sugar and amaretto foam).  While it was a little sweet for my taste, it’s a prime example of IMG_7826what makes Café Moderne stand out from the neighbors: it’s introducing different drinking possibilities that are a step above the usual without throwing the Bastille bar crowd totally off base. And considering this client base, he’s handling a range of base spirits and ingredients judiciously. I also had a Panchovilla, which is topped with a special selection of seasonings and follows the trend of a tequila based tipple that packs some heat. Caroline finished with the Monkey Julep (as the name would imply, a julep made with Monkey Shoulder)

IMG_7837While the drinks menu might be more accessible than what you’ll find in other dedicated cocktail bars, Mido has the skills to create a classic or go in a different direction for those who want something beyond the basic offerings. And, he seems to have made an impact on the neighboring establishments.  While we were there, another bartender came in, cocktail in hand, which he passed to Mido for a taste test and, apparently, some advice.  After a brief discussion and a suggestion to amp up the citrus, he left, presumably to continue working on his own cocktail creations at whichever bar he came from.

As I come to know more and more of the city’s bar staff through industry events and generally getting about town, I must admit that it becomes increasingly difficult to judge service from the perspective of an unknown customer.  Mido has always struck me as a friendly, curious and enthusiastic barman; qualities that should serve him well in his profession. And, because of my profession, I hear a lot of complaints from consumers about various places. In fact, I’ve been hearing quite a few complaints recently about a relatively new spot, which I will resist calling out for the moment in hopes that it’s just learning how to deal with quick popularity.  But, that is why I’m specifically happy to report that Mido is one barman about whom I’ve heard some rather nice things from other visitors to the bar. So I’ll assume he treats all of his customers equally well.

IMG_7839We also tried a quartet of their mini cupcakes. While, I’m not much of a sweet tooth, the frosting was pretty fab.  On the food side, the restaurant does burgers and meatballs.  For the meatballs you can choose from four different types made in house that you then mix and match with four different sauces.  I didn’t try them, so I can’t comment on the taste yet, but sounds kinda fun, no?  Considering the crowd that clamored in during my visit, I’d guess I’m not the only one who thinks it seems like a bit of fun.

Overall, Café Moderne is a great gateway bar for Bastille: A place turning out better drinks but staying with the relatively low prices to which neighborhood habitués have become accustomed. And, tonight they celebrate their one year anniversary, so I’d say it’s a formula that’s working for them. so, Happy Anniversary, Café Moderne.

Clandestine Paris Cocktail Adventures: Castor Club

perso 683Castor Club
14 Rue Hautefeuille
75006 Paris

perso 698Considering it’s been around for a year or so, I have no idea why it took me so long to get to the Castor Club. And once I did, I also have no idea why more people aren’t talking about it.

These days it’s nothing unusual to have an minimally marked entrance without flash. And, given the ‘clandestine’ nature of the Castor Club, I expected a bit of attitude at the door. Not so. I popped in at opening to a welcoming and friendly staff and installed myself at the bar to wait for Laurence and Laetitia.

perso 700First impression: the decor delivers something totally different and difficult to describe. When I wrote about Castor Club for WBB, I called it “colonial hunting lodge meets English gentlemen’s club.” Since then, I’ve seen it referred to as a lodge in Iceland, a Norwegian village tavern, something from Twin Peaks, and a Siberian chalet. And somehow all of these are appropriate. With it’s dim lighting, dark tones, wooden slats, green velour benches built into the wall, curious lampshades it feels somehow dark, frightening, exotic and comforting. It’s disconcerting sex appeal.

And the appeal isn’t lacking from the menu either. The typical boxes are ticked with fresh ingredients, a nice range of spirits and a few surprises like sage essence or seawater concentrate. The Chirac 95 incorporates a homemade apple shrub. It’s nice to see shrubs, which have been getting lots of cocktail play elsewhere, more in Paris. Cocktails ring it at a very reasonable (for the space and quality) price of 11 to 13 Euros. For those looking for something else, there are a few interesting beers at around 6, white wine and a glass of Pieper at 7.50.

perso 682My Broker’s martini also ticked all the boxes: chilled glass, stirred, good proportions, appropriate garnish, nice glass. The gin selection has some nice options including Brokers, Hendricks, Aviation, Citadelle, Old Raj, Junipero and Blackwood’s. Between the three of us, we had the opportunity to sample a few – all of which were well done. I sampled an off menu suggestion that included a carrot and Combier Kummel, which I also don’t often see around town. The Moscow Mule is served up in a nice copper cup. Rather than detail each drink, I’d much rather recommend that you get in there and try them for yourself.

perso 702The upstairs is small and intimate and for those who want something more, the downstairs 18th century stone basement offers cozy wall nooks, more music and dancing. If I understand correctly there may also be options for privatizing or reserving this space.

In short, I am particularly glad to have finally made it here. While I’d love to keep the address hush-hush, we know that’s just not possible in Paris. And, not only do these boys deserve a nice shout out, you, dear readers, also deserve to know about the city’s better drinks. So get yourself to this surreal space for some sipping.