Prohibition Cocktail Adventures: Moonshiner

IMG_5460 2Moonshiner
5 rue Sedaine
75011Paris

When it comes to cocktails, I get around. Pre-batched, on tap, carbonated, bottled, aged, shrubs, smoked, frozen, jellified, high octane, low octane, molecular, bitters, gin, whisky, mescal, pisco, house-made syrups, and infusions. I’m familiar. Same goes for hidden entrances and speakeasy styles.  So, sometimes I must remind myself that just because something’s not new to me, doesn’t mean it’s not new to a larger drinking population or that it’s not good.  Case in point: Moonshiner, our latest prohibition themed bar with a hidden entrance.

IMG_5459Over the past few years, each of this group’s new openings has a unique personality. The UFO is a good, gritty,  local; the Kremlin rocks ruskie fun; Rock’n’Roll circus is a hipster hideout for good music and cheap bears; and Dirty Dick does tiki time. Given their propensity to go for different styles, I was surprised to find that their latest bar was employing a somewhat shopworn theme.  Pleasantly surprised once I checked it out.

The girls and I met at a lively pizza joint last month and, after finding the hidden entrance within, made our way back to the city’s most recent modern day speakeasy.  The décor is very nicely done and what you would expect given the theme: dim lighting, lounge like vibe, chesterfields, vintage turntable, era appropriate wall paper and lovely metal ceiling tiles.  Also of note: Smokers will appreciate the fumoir (inside of which there seems to be a safe and the lucky client to guess the combination wins a prize)

IMG_5437The menu features just under 20 options with a mix of creations and classics ranging from 6 to 14 Euros. Creations include some fun with a few twists on standards like the  Smoky Island, with its ice tea inspired mix of Havana 3 year, Vodka, Beefeater Gin, Mescal, Luxardo  house made smoked tea syrup and honey with a coke topper. The page of classics sticks with brown and bitter choices like old fashioned, blood and sand, manhattan.

IMG_5440I had a well made martini which was not on the menu, so the crew here can handle their cocktails. Their kicky little bottled vieux carre comes in a flask, hidden within in a book. You can pour it over ice in the accompanying glass or sip it straight from the flask if you fancy. Between us, we tried a fair few off the menu and enjoyed them all.  On a return visit, I tried the Safron Julep, which was not bad, but a bit heavy on the saffron and sweet for my taste so that it felt a little cloying (surprising considering the addition of over proof rum that I would have thought would cut through that pretty strongly).The Blood & Sand was well balanced and made with Laphroaig, which – while not my favorite choice for this classic – added an interesting element. I might call this version ‘Blood & Smoke.’ That said, overall the menu has a good range of choice and the staff are working their skills.

While I didn’t notice an exceptionally large selection of gins behind the bar, I imagine prohibition era drinkers didn’t have much of a selection either. So, I’m cool with that as it seems to go along with the theme. And while the bar does a good enough job to stand on its own without the prohibition prop, the theme is what really sets them apart from Paris’ growing selection of superior bars.  Moonshiner is currently the best bet in town for celebrating the era of the Noble Experiment. While some bars incorporate aspects of the speakeasy trend, the Moonshiner is the only place in town that is maximizing them all at once with its truly hidden entrance, Gatzby-like decor and drinks secreted away in old books. So, while this trend may not be new, this group is attacking it with vigor and working it successfully.

Salacious-glam Cocktail Adventures: le 29 – CLOSED

le 29

29 rue Vineuse
Paris 75016
06 18 40 89 93

I’ve said it before, but I have a fascination with the seedier side of Paris. I live near Pigalle, so I get daily doses of kinky sex shops, working ladies in action and the famous museum of erotica. So when i heard that Greg (formerly of Costes, le Secret and Royal Monceau) was opening a spot in a former girlie-type club in the relatively quiet neighborhood near Trocadero, I was clearly intrigued.

Still sporting the sign of the prior establishment, le 29 is somewhat sketchy (in a good way) and unassuming from the outside. With no windows, red lights to signal they’re open and an imposing heavy closed door, you’ve little idea what you’re in for when you buzz for entry. But when I slipped into this modern day den of sin, I was completely enamoured by the decor. I’d heard that they’d done little in terms of remodel when taking the place over and fortunately

that’s true. Instead of having eradicated all traces of its prior existence, they play it up. It retains a slightly naughty and underground feel with its red walls and cushy red armchairs and lounges and the remaining shiny dance poles (check it out – you can see one in the pic). Yet elegant touches like the silver bar accessories, cocktails picks and gorgeous mixing glasses elevate it to something more luxurious and classy. I’d call it glamorous salacious boudoir chic at its best.

I stopped in early evening around 19:30 when mellow jazz and soul music played and I was joined by one of my usual cohorts, Matt, as well as Susie and visiting Seattle LUPEC ladies Courtney and Tracy. Similar to a few other spots like le Carmen and un Dimanche a Paris, le 29 doesn’t have a printed cocktail menu. Options vary depending on what’s fresh and what kind of new syrups are lined up behind the bar. So, Greg chatted with us to get an idea of what we might want to get in our gullets. I started with my usual and had a very nice No. 3/Noilly Prat martini, stirred with olives. Matt started with a side car variation that included lemon grass and the girls had some well-made Manhattans.

Thus began a couple of hours of tasting and sampling and general conviviality. My next drink was a margarita with thyme and salt infused syrup. I lost track of what everyone else was sampling and sipping for each one. But I do recall an Armagnac, red vermouth and bitters combo as well as another with gin, Thai basil, green chartreuse, absinthe and syrup. The booze selection, while not huge, is very respectable. Gins available were Tanqueray, Monkey 47, Junipero, Gordons, No. 3 and Hendrick’s.
I’ve also said before, I think it can be intimidating for customers faced with no cocktail menu to order without knowing the prices. In this case, they run about 14 Euros a cocktail (similar to any other bar in Paris going sans carte) which are prices I’d be happy to pay here.

I love seeing a worthwhile bar arrive in this area, which previously had nothing cocktail-worthy to boast. Other things of note: For night owls, this is a spot that stays open until 4am (sometimes as late as 6am). It looks like they’ll hopefully be bringing in some finger foods come October or so. Smokers will appreciate the discrete and comfortable fumoir in the back with more cushy red armchairs and elegant lamps. Also, for the moment they don’t have a card machine, so take cash. Lots of it, because you can easily get sucked into the underbelly elegance of the place and not want to give up your bar stool for awhile.

Spodie Cocktail Adventures: Speakeasy


Speakeasy
25 Rue Jean Giraudoux
75016 Paris, France
01 47 23 47 22

Articles abound on the ‘speakeasy’ bar trend; some proclaimings it’s in, others proclaiming it’s over. I think it’s over. That’s not to say I don’t highly enjoy many of the places touted as modern day speakeasies. But, a little variety is good and I don’t think a bar need necessarily employ faux-prohibition tactics to prove their cocktail cred. However, a bar with the name ‘Speakeasy’ is going to catch my attention.


With red velour stools, dark leather sofas, nightly jazz and a discreet fumoir, the Speakeasy attempts to transport clients back in time to the smoky, jazz-filled Chicagoan dens of iniquity of the twenties. The menu features over 20 cocktails, including the usuals like margaritas and mojitos and more unique house creations at 14 Euros each. Nothing looked exceptional and some were hovering suspiciously close to spodie territory such as the Gin Imperial (Bombay, Malibu, grenadine, pineapple juice, mandarin imperial, raspberry juice and tonic water.) Although what was exceptional for this generally expensive area was a happy hour (17h30 – 19h30, all cocktails 8 Euros)

I was very early and set off solo for my first drink. Cheerful besuited staff set out dishes of chips and jarred salsa. I don’t like jarred salsa. It simply does’t taste good. I ate some anyway and washed it down with the glass of ice water the barman had thoughtfully put in front of me. I’ve been living here long enough to know better. It wasn’t water. This was my martini: sweet vermouth over ice with a big lemon chunk in it. I think he may have dropped in a few drops of gin because I had asked for a ‘dry gin martini.’ It’s is a shame because there are more than a few gins I would happily put in my mouth from those listed on their menu (Gordon’s, Tanqueray, Beefeater, Tanqueray 10, Bombay Sapphire, Pink 47 and Hendricks.) However there is one gin they list which has me a baffled. I have never heard of (and find no information on) “Cavendish” which they also have listed on the menu as a gin. [note: Paul-Eric of Sipeasy just notified me that this is the private label gin of France Boisson]

Mel and Vio arrived and took two drinks whose names and don’t recall and which left them nonplussed. Unable to find anything imbibe-inspiring on the menu I went the when-in-Rome route with the amicably votre, a crazy concoction of whisky, light rum, Malibu, pineapple juice, blue curacao & strawberry juice. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t. And the color. Anyone ever see the modern day freak show that is the Jim rose circus? The color recalls Matt “The Tube” Crowley’s act. I’ll leave you to look the description of that one up at your leisure in case you’re having lunch right now.

A fellow blogger Cat - who hits some nice bars – reported a very good experience there. And with the friendly staff, good tunes and relaxed atmoshphere, I have no doubt that one could pass an enjoyable evening here with the right drink orders. (wine? Whisky?) So perhaps it’s hit and miss here.

And, I imagine speakeasies during prohibition had that same range in quality. In some cases, the liquor restrictions forced a flourish of creativity as bartenders invented new recipes with limited resources. But those with less cash or connections were unlikely to be celebrating this new bout of cocktail creativity and probably ended up in sketchy speakeasies with even sketchier spirits. At this Speakeasy: Cat had a good experience and I had a bad one. At Prohibition era speakeasies: Sometimes you get a legendary Last Word cocktail. But then sometimes you get bathtub gin related deaths. So perhaps this place – with its bads as well as goods – is actually more representative of real speakeasies than I initially thought.

Rooftop Cocktail Adventures: le 7th

le 7th, Terrass Hotel

12-14 rue Joseph-de-Maistre
75018 Paris
Tél. : +33 1.46.06.72.85

I think it’s important to (at least try to) be aware of our faults and to correct them. One of my current personal fault projects: I’m a little bit of a grudge holder. So, when the restaurant atop the Terrass Hotel started fluctuating too much in service and quality for the price, I stopped indulging in their rooftop dining and mentally crossed them off my list of possible eats. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t longing for a bit of terrace time with them, but I was loath to pay full whack for a meal or talk my way into one of the very few spots for a drink to get it. And, then like an ex strolling back into my life with promise of change, they came up with their latest summer scheme.

No longer are reservations or long meal commitments necessary to enjoy the expansive view. The Terrass Hotel was now teasing me back with its latest rooftop transformation: le 7th. All summer, the rooftop terrace serves exclusively as a no reservations cocktail bar and lounge with the option of finger foods, burgers, salads and pasta should you feel peckish. Maybe we could get back together after all? I met up there with Wednesday regulars Matt, Vio and Mel as well as visiting style-meister cocktillians (and more) Howie and Tawny, to find out.

Once I made it past the multiple lobby staff and onto the roof, I immediately remembered what brought us together in the first place. The view is special. The faux-grass green matting gives the impression of stepping onto a healthy (but well manicured) lawn and the space is open, airy and relaxed. And, clearly this place has caught more than just my eye. The night of our reunion was a busy one with an abundance of the suit and earpiece crowd.

The drinks menu features 17 classics such as martini, manhattan and negroni and 9 house creations including three mojito riffs, all at 14 Euros each. My usual first order was a disappointment of proportions. While, I like a bit of vermouth in my martini, this was too much. Of the three gins on offer (Bombay, Gordon’s and Tanqueray) my guess is they’re using Gordon’s for the martinis. Opinions varied on the other drinks. In the surprisingly good category were the gin fizz, manhattan and strawberry basil mojito. The caipi was another overly sweet disappointment and the planter’s punch tasted of spiked juicebox.

Like many places, pretty garnishes can initially distract from the actual quality of the drink. The attention to visual details and fluctuation in cocktail quality says to me that there are some good intentions behind the bar, but maybe a lack of range and/or knowledge when it comes to serious cocktail skills. Warm weather clients looking for a bit of summer fun without high end cocktail expectations, will enjoy perching above Paris with something cold in hand. But, I would personally love to see a bit more consistency and attention to some of the mixers.

A flute of Lanson Black Label champagne goes for 15 (white) or 16 (Rose), and wines by the glass at 5 to 7 Euros seem a steal when you take into account the view. But, if you want to stick with the cocktails, I’d recommend either a Basil Strawberry Mojito when warm summer evenings call for something with plenty of refreshing crushed ice or a Manhattan once the temp drops with the setting sun.

Opinions on service fluctuated as well. I found the servers helpful in getting us all situated around the table with everyone arriving at different times and attentive about taking orders. However, there were a couple of glitches with Matt’s final beer order and everyone found the pseudo-seriousness of the downstairs staff a bit daunting. Fluctuations aside, we had – as usual – a great time together testing and tasting. And, while I snapped the usual pics, Howie captured the moments on paper.

So, Hotel Terrace, I’m no longer holding a grudge. You seem to be making an effort to change. And, while I don’t know what our future together holds, I could maybe be down with a summer fling.

Wednesday Cocktail Adventures: le Pompon

Le Pompon
39 Rue des Petites Ecuries
Paris 75010
Tel: 01 53 34 60 85

I’d heard rumors about reputable bar and design talent either potentially, marginally, temporarily or fully involved in le Pompon for some time before its opening a few months ago. So, I was looking forward to checking up on it with Matt, Vio and Kim.

When we arrived at this up and coming newbie in the 10th, it was quickly filling up with a motley after-work crowd. Kim noted that it’s a nightspot which can easily draw a varied customer base. I agree and like that aspect. But, perhaps they’re drawing crowds too successfully as it took quite a bit of time to actually place a drink order while standing directly at the bar.

Your first impression of le Pompon is the relatively spacious main room, packed with lively tables of patrons, large windows, high wooden walls and impressive chandeliers: cosy and updated pub-chic.

When I finally got a chance to order, I asked for a dry gin martini (not on the menu). When the barman grabbed a bottle of sweet vermouth from the shelf, I prepared to address the usual French martini dilemma (i.e. I wanted a dry gin martini not a glass of Martini sweet vermouth.) But, he explained that he knew what I wanted, but they were out of dry vermouth so he was using sweet instead.

I’m laughing to myself in an ‘are you kidding?’ kind of way. It’s basically a case of “We don’t really have what you want, but we’re just going to make what we feel like and give it to you anyway.” I got a highball of gin and sweet vermouth with a straw. Mine wasn’t the only adlib-recipe. I’m still working on my backlog of bars for which I lost photos and notes, but if I remember correctly, Kim ordered something without tonic that arrived blatantly boasting tonic. I believe this lack of attention to detail will set you back about 10 Euros a drink. The barman did show follow-through in coming over to ask how I liked my drink and was sincerely curious and non-defensive when I explained how I would have done it differently.

After our first round, we went for a quick peak at the lower level before leaving. Slipping through the somewhat discreet door at the foot of the stairs, provides a completely different level of ambiance where a small bar oversees a dim dance floor with DJ. I love the juxtaposition of these two rooms and wish Paris would offer up more varied venues like this. Happy with this discovery, we settled in for an impromptu second round. In the basement, drink options are limited to a handful of spirits and mixers for basic well drinks. I had a rum and coke. No comment.

Overall, the place is fun, nicely designed and promises to be a sure-thing address for a majority of both the after-work and night-crawling crowd. While not every bar in town is obligated to make a decent martini, that’s my thing. So even if I really like the space, I gotta call them out on their cocktails. With the vague rumors I continue to hear about behind the scene decisions here, I believe it will take a little time before le Pompon works out the drink kinks and hits full stride as either a place serving really good cocktails or your basic beer and well drinks. In the meantime, they’re worth a visit for a pint and some good music.

PHOTO NOTE: I finally replaced my camera, so this is my second to last post without my usual photos. Kim gets credit for those on today’s post and you can check out even more on her Pompon post at I Heart Paris.

Soviet Cocktail Adventures: le Molotov

4 rue du Port Mahon
75002 Paris
Tel.: 01 73 70 98 46

Russian sounds irresistibly sexy to me. I’ve always been fascinated by the language and its unfamiliar alphabet. I took a Russian class once, but never got much further than learning the meaning of babushka. Contrary to its appealing sound, I discovered it’s not necessarily a word I want whispered in my ear. Many years ago, we went to St Petersburg for our annual NYE trip and stopped into Zov Ilicha, a Soviet-themed bar/resto jam-packed with Lenin busts, quasi-porn, and wait staff in scanty communist era inspired uniforms. I’m American and I’m old enough to remember the whole ‘Tear Down the Wall’ business. But even though I recall it, I’m young enough that at the time I wasn’t totally clued in and found it all vaguely frightening, appealing, exciting and confusing. So I begrudgingly own up to my fascination with CCCP kitsch at various points in my life. But, as a theme, it’s a bit passé now, no?

This week, Kim, Heather and I decided to lift the fanciful iron curtain that separates the recently opened le Molotov from modern day Paris and find out. Beyond the barely marked entrance and blacked-out windows, lies a small, dark and somewhat claustrophobic bar space decked out in typical retro-Ruskie decor. A steep, skinny, candlelit staircase in the corner leads to a small restaurant area where ‘clandestine’ law breakers are smoking in public spaces.

A Communist theme is reflected in menu procurement as well. I believe there is only one in the whole building and we had to wait for the restaurant to finish with it first. When it came, I realized why our upstairs comrades may have taken so long with it. Incredibly dim lighting combined with a handwritten (in cursive) menu in fine ballpoint pin on grid paper takes a while to see clearly. From what I could decipher, various vodka based drinks are on offer.

I tried – unsuccessfully – for a martini and ended up with a ginger, basil, vodka combo. Kim & Heather ordered white and black Russians. By then I had given up on any serious cocktail recon and I don’t even ask what kind of vodka was in my mediocre mixture. Kim’s white Russian, was basically undrinkable. I’m not a white Russian fan myself, but even so, I can tell on tasting one if it’s decent or not. This tasted like powdered milk mixed with water and cheap coffee liqueur. (even though the bottle’s on the shelf, I really don’t think they’re using Kahlua)

We decided to call it good after that round and asked for the bill. For drinks and service of this quality we were shocked to pay 15 Euros each.

It’s no secret that I’m not averse to divey bars or sketchily run places and kind of get a certain kick out of them. But, I AM averse to paying cocktail prices way beyond what the experience merits. While the sneaky smoking area might pull in a certain clientele, the cocktails here will not. I can see it drawing a crowd of ironic hipster wanna-be’s and patrons who are impressed enough by a change of pace from the common Parisian bar decor to be fooled into thinking it’s something more than it is. But, for me, I’d rather have the Zov Ilicha in Russia. At least they had naughty pictures on the wall for entertainment!

(NOTE: I’m having camera issues, so recent post pics will be a bit off and on. The 1st picture used here of Molotov was on both Cityvox and Do it in Paris, so I’m not sure where to credit. And, the 2nd picture us at Zov Ilicha in St Petersburg)

Mojito Cocktail Adventures: Bacardi Mojito Lab

Bacardi Mojito Lab
28 rue Keller
75011 PARIS
Tel : (+33) 1 75 77 23 95

Forest fact: I should probably be ashamed to admit the following, but I’m kind of fascinated by living statue buskers. I always wonder what they do at the end of a shift. Do they take the metro home in full get-up? Do they sit still as a statue on the ride? It seems that I secretly like to watch these spectacles that everyone mocks. I get a kick out of mimes. I own contact juggling balls that I will learn to use some day and wow you with my skills. So, it might not surprise you to hear that I’m also a little fascinated by flair. But that’s between me and YouTube….in the privacy of my own home.

However, when it comes to cocktails, I don’t need or want living statues, mimes, flair or even contact juggling balls involved, so let’s chat a bit about the recently opened flair-o-rific Bacardi/Laurent Greco project: the Bacardi Mojito Lab. Allen and I popped in and found that Wednesdays are “afterworks.” From 19h00 to 21h00 it’s 25 Euros to get in the door, which gets you two drinks and buffet table grazing.

50 Euros lighter, in we go. Hello, circa 1980′s all-inclusive spring break destination dance club! Dim lighting, acid green touches, pumping dance music…you get the picture. The buffet tables were classed up (I use that lightly) with single red roses in tall vases and scattered petals. Flair videos loop on screens from wall to wall. While, I’ve been told flair bartending is still quite big in France, this is the first place I’ve actually seen it.

The food was nice little bite-sized nibblies for a buffet, but the set up was annoying. No plates, no napkins – so you either sat directly at the buffet table to pop bites in your mouth while others reached around you to grab said bites, or you reached around the people sitting at the buffet tables. For drinks, you go downstairs.

And downstairs it’s all Bacardi and all mojito, mojito or mojito, but with a bit of flair. Sexy barboys toss around shakers and take your order for one of the three mojito variations on offer during the afterworks. This is also a point of contention with me because when the doorman explained the Afterwork concept at 25 Euros, I specifically asked if it applied to the whole menu – because that’s what I was here to check out. He said ‘yes.’ But, no – you get classic, souped up or raspberry mojito. All the other gimmicky, tricked out mojitos are only on offer after the afterworks. On the normal menu, drinks range from 8 to 14 Euros and include things like cotton candy or caviar (cocktail kind, not fish kind)

In an attempt to not be a complete crank, there were a few things I liked. The staff – though a bit spacey – were friendly. I really liked the mint wall and the mint window. I think the boutique, which sells various types of mint and kaffir limes (although not the night we were there) was a fun touch. They also have a smoking room for those who don’t want to brave the cold winter months (although it was closed the night we were there.)

I’m not sure what kind of a crowd they expect to draw. They’re at Bastille with so many competing (and probably cheaper) bars nearby. You can’t spit without hitting a bar in Paris that serve mojitos, so I’m curious as to what they think the attraction will be. I’ve been told this is a popup – so perhaps they’re banking on their ephemeral status for interest. They also offer classes if you want to learn to flair up a mojito at home.

As for me, the only time I want a mojito is if it’s being made by old and stoic Felix at dodgy local Bar Castillo de Farnes in Havana where Che and Fidel toasted the revolution (true story – there he is in he picutre). And, he definitely doesn’t do flair. Otherwise, Paris, you can keep your mojito trend and I’ll stick with the martini search.

Wednesday Cocktail Adventures: Le Magnifique

Le Magnifique

25, Rue de Richelieu
75001 Paris
Tel: 01 40 60 70 80

Ages ago I went to NYC with a friend and we went to some new in spot – the kind of club where you stand outside and the doorman picks and chooses among the hopefuls, granting access to the lucky few. I won’t say just how many ages ago that was, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve stood outside a door waiting for someone else to decide if I was cool enough to give them money. When we buzzed at the locked door of le Magnifique and were told by the doorman that we could not come in, it momentarily took me back to those times. Fortunately they were not being intentionally exclusive. They changed their opening time from 7pm to 8pm, but didn’t update their website. So, an hour later, we had no problem gaining entry through the imposing big black door (still locked during opening hours) of this self-proclaimed Cocktail Club and Sushi Bar.

I don’t necessarily think of sushi bars and cocktails as going hand in hand (well, except for that one night in Japan….) However, with a cocktail menu created with input from Colin Field of Hemingway Bar fame, you know from the git-go that someone had some serious cocktail ambition. The menu is vast, including a section of classics at 16 Euros and a section of Colin Field inspired drinks at 20 Euros.

My Hendrick’s martini was spot on. The gin selection comprises Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks, Martin Miller’s (which I’ve not seen in Paris!), Bulldog and Tanqueray 10. Nicky’s Serindipity (Calvados, mint, apple juice, champagne) was refreshing. Wendy, visiting from Seattle, had a Merinquin Fiz (if I remember correctly?) which was topped off with thick egg whites and sprinkled with poppy seeds. A suspiciously hard-shake sounding ‘ticka-ticka-ticka” emanated from the bar area behind us. And, our server he told me they try and keep an eye on seasonal ingredients for the cocktails, which hopefully means fresher and better drinks.

Delicate looking glassware twinkles in the candlelight and dark corners and closed doors flirt suggestively with patrons leaving them to wonder just what this saucy little drinkery might offer. The extremely dim lighting, viewing box at the door, and the overall decor give this relatively large space a serious speakeasy feel. However, gaining entrance is easier than for elusive speakeasys. By simply filling out a form online you can become a “member” of le Magnifique. (which is not necessary to drop by, but apparently puts you on a mailing list for new information about the bar)

Another thing I noticed is that for such a large space, they’ve got the music at just the right level so that it doesn’t overpower conversations at your own table, but blocks out the buzz of those around you. I expected something more along the lines of a Costes like playlist, but instead the night we were there, solid classics were playing (think U2). Once a member via the online registration, you can listen to their playlist for yourself on Deezer.

A few final things of note: they have a fumoir (smoking area), which you find rarely now that France has gone no smoking and the service was pleasant and accommodating. However, we did wish they would have put out a few little bar snacks to nibble while sipping on 20 Euros cocktails!

Le Magnifique is a large and minimalistically plush hideaway for modern day hepcats with dosh to spare. Fortunately, while it seems to take its drinks seriously, it doesn’t take itself too seriously just yet. The only drawback here is that there’s nothing less expensive on the menu for those who might want to check out the space without spending. With softs at 10 Euros and a simple glass of wine at 16 Euros, coming here is a commitment. But as long as they maintain the laid-back attitude of this week’s visit and ‘exclusivity’ remains tongue in cheek, it’s a committment I’m willing to make from time to time.

Wednesday Cocktail Adventures Part II: 4 Elements

4 Elements

149, Rue Amelot
75011 Paris
Tel : 01 47 00 34 11

In search of something positive from last Wednesday’s Cocktail Adventures, I’m posting on our follow up bar to Hotel du Nord. After our hasty and coerced departure, we followed Jodie to a place recently opened by friends of hers.

Not surprisingly, considering one of our group knows the owners, the atmosphere at 4 Elements was more welcoming and the bar staff friendlier. Even better – they seemed to be upbeat and friendly with all of the clientele, friends or not. The deco at 4 Elements is affordable-modern stippled with brightly colored illuminated plastic bits and pieces & video screens. I had a potently drinkable ti punch. While not the best of the cocktails I’ve sampled in Paris, their drinks are acceptable and affordable at 8 – 9 Euros/drink. In addition to the drinks, 4 Elements has a few offerings which might be of interest to Parisian barflys.

The concept here is – not surprisingly – the four elements. We were given a tour of the place and shown each section corresponding with an element. “Fire” is represented by the main part of the bar, where DJ’s play different types of music each night, hot dogs are occasionally served (but not this night), and a small bar is lined with what appeared to be friendly regulars. Presumably things get hot here. Beyond the bar, you enter a calm, cool and quiet room with comfy chairs with a spot to rest your drink. This is the “Earth” space and serves as their “chill out” room. If this bar got a bit too hectic, I’d happily kick back in this space and enjoy the zen atmosphere. Water was represented by the restrooms, but the only really outstanding part about this “element” was the communal wash basin. And, finally, which may be of some interest to a few, we checked out “Air.” Since the smoking ban, 4 Elements is one of the few bars in Paris which has an actual authorized indoor smoking area. This small space is decorated in light blues and invokes a bit of a fairy tale feeling. For a smoking space, it wasn’t overwhelmingly smokey, however with only a handful of people in there, it was hard to know what it’s like when it gets busier.

Overall, the drinks were average at around 8 – 9 Euros a piece. However, the chill out space & the smoking area do give 4 Elements a bit of a something extra over the average Paris bar. If you’re thinking about stopping by, you might want to check out what music night it is beforehand. I probably wouldn’t make a trip back here for just the drinks, but I think this nice bunch deserves a shout out for their interesting concept and friendly vibe.

It all began on a Wednesday…

A few months back, I embarked on a personal project to find the best cocktails in Paris. Every Wednesday, I visit a different cocktail bar early evening and order two drinks. I start with a Martini and then follow with something different (the house ”specialty” if there is one). I’ve been posting reviews on my Wednesday Cocktail Adventures over on eGullet (where you can find my comments on Harry’s, Experimental Cocktail Club, Flute, Murano, & le Fumoir). Expanding on that, I’ve created “52 Martinis” to document my Parisian tipples and sips on Wednesdays and occassionally other days, if motivated!