Convivial Cocktail Adventures: l’Eclair

photo credit: l'Eclair FB page

photo credit: l’Eclair FB page

l’Eclair
32 rue Cler
75007 Paris

Remember when I mentioned that 52 Martinis was going to be available soon in French over at Alambic? It took a bit of time to find someone who was up to translating “forest-speak” into French speak.  And when they did, Sebastian and I got together at l’Eclair for (what else?) a cocktail and to meet my 52 Martinis French counterpart, Sophie.

IMG_2281Late last year, l’Eclair popped up on the cute cobblestone street, rue Cler, which is better known for its markets than mixology. On first glance, it appears to be just another typical Paris cafe, with a busy terrace, strategically distressed decor and a lively crowd of young frenchies chatting over cheap glasses of wine.  But, there’s more to this spot than initially meets the eye.

Firstly, the gin selection hints at something a bit more ambitious than the usual with Beefeater, Beefeater 24, Plymouth, Plymouth Navy and Hendricks.  While that might not be enough to endlessly entertain serious ginhounds, it’s surely a step beyond the typical terrace offerings.

The menu, as well, offers something a bit more than you might expect with a dozen cocktails for a tenner of enough variety to please a range of patrons from the easily accessible Basil Power (apple aromatized vodka, fresh basil, strawberry puree & syrup) to something that takes a bit more of an acquired taste like the house negroni.  Additionally they feature four Havana rum based tiki drinks and three “Decadence Martinis” such as the Porn Star Martini and its accompanying shooter of champagne.

IMG_2284While I would have liked a choice of garnish and possibly a colder glass, my Beefeater martini with olives was well-made and a nice surprise in such unassuming circumstances – and further proof that a better kind of cocktail continues to infiltrate more mainstream bar culture.  Sebastian’s 666 (Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, Saint Germain, honey citrus) and Sophie’s tiki drink were nicely presented and well enough made. The tiki felt light in alcohol, but these kinds of drinks can tend to be sneaky in this way.

They feature a fun selection of food like big burgers alongside crispy fries wrapped in newspaper print or croque monsieur’s made with bread from organic bakery, Moisan.  We opted for a platter Viande de Grisons from Davoli as we moved onto our next round, which showcased where the interest really lies….

IMG_2298L’Eclair offers four different shareable cocktails in 1 litre batches, which of course we had to try.  Our Kentucky Lemonade Pitcher (Maker’s Mark, fresh mint, syrup, lemon and ginger ale) arrived in a heavy metal Maker’s Mark branded pitcher with matching julep tins packed with plenty of crushed ice and fresh mint. The drink could have easily served a table of six, making it a good deal at 30 Euros. Other options include the Pernod Green Beast, served in a special Pernod cage or the more pedestrian Sangria.

Overall, the selection at l’Eclair is above average. While cocktillians might not find any surprises on the menu, customers will find that they are serving some atypically fun fair for a fairly typical café. If you’re looking to share some sips and nibbles with good company as we were, it’s a very handy address to have.

And since our visit a few months ago, Sophie has translated a ton of my posts and now moved on to continue her studies. So, a big thanks to her for all her hard work – she’ll be a tough translation act to follow!

 

 

Club Sandwich Cocktail Adventures: The Club


24 rue Sourcouff
75007 Paris

One of the fun aspects of writing a cocktail blog is getting invites for launch parties and the like. Last night, I made a stop into an event organized for press and interested parties by newly opened The Club. Antoni Pascual and Stephane Bilard have paired cocktails with club sandwiches in this ‘chaotic chic’ two floor space designed by master milliner turned shoe maker, Philippe Model.

Two specific cocktails were planned for the event, so I forwent my usual martini order and let Stephane (who previously has worked such big names as Pershing Hall, le Meurice and Plaza Athenee) mix me up The Club (42 Below vodka, lime, Fever Tree ginger beer and Angostura bitters) With its vodka base, this wouldn’t be a typical order for me, but it does highlight something they’re doing right: fresh and well chosen, good quality ingredients. [I’m a fan of Fever Tree] Downstairs, Stephane Verga of la Maison du Whisky was mixing up a St Germain cocktail (St Germain, Bottle Green cordial & champagne) which is an interesting choice considering St Germain is not in any of their cocktails listed on the menu. But, I’m a St Germain fan as well, so I shan’t complain.

Reasonably priced at 10 Euros a drink, their regular cocktail menu features 14 choices based on a range of spirits, only three of which are vodka based, which is a good sign that they are avoiding the lazy route of a mainly vodka menu. I predict that their more easily accessible options like the Red Mojito or the Berrie Breeze will be their biggest sellers – which is a shame because they’ve got some respectably better options on offer like manhattans, old fashioneds or a white lady with egg white.

As for the stock, they’re working with la Maison du Whisky, and take pride in the fact that it’s a small but well thought out selection. Hendrick’s and Tanqueray are the listed gins and seem to be good choices if you’re going with just two. And, although not listed on the menu, I also saw a bottle of Bombay Sapphire on the shelves.

While cocktails were being shaken and stirred, plates of grilled cheese and club sandwiches were circulating. Their 9 clubs on offer (15 to 18 Euros and served with veggies or potatoes) range from the classic to the luxe (roast beef, foie gras maison, roquette and piment d’Espelette) I tried their salmon (from Petrossian) version and also the magret de canard/dried tomato sandwich. And for the Berko fans, that’s who’s providing the cheesecakes on their menu.

While cocktal bars like the ECC trio, la Conserverie and le Forum are now Paris standards in superior cocktails, the Club belongs to what I consider Paris’ second wave of noteable cocktail activity. After a taste for a better crafted cocktail has been instilled by the forerunners on the cocktail scene, we’re beginning to see existing or new bars who are reaching for something more than just a basic mojito and giving more thought to ingredients and methods. No bones about it: the Club is not another craft cocktail lounge or haven for hardcore cocktail geeks – but they’re not trying to be. Their aim seems to be a focus on a smaller and simpler selection and injecting a bit of fun with food and cocktails into an area that is a notorious cocktail dead zone. If the service remains as accommodating and friendly as it was last night and they maintain the quality of their ingredients, I’d say this will be a valid option for a decent drink in the area with a good price/quality ratio.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to objectively review a place when you attend an event that removes you from the normal customer experience. So, readers, I encourage you to report back on your own experiences there. And that reminds me of another fun aspect of writing a cocktail blog: great readers. You ask good questions, give good information and are generally just pleasant to interact with. So, I’ll take this opportunity to say “Thank you, Readers. You’re a good lot!”