Nautical Cocktail Adventures: Copper Bay

copper bay cocktail bar parisCopper Bay
5 Rue Bouchardon
75010 Paris

copper bay cocktail bar parisI asked someone recently at a spirits event about their favorite cocktails. They told me they liked the ‘classics’, like ‘Long Island Iced-Teas.’ Say something like this to the wrong bartender and it will incite at the very least a snigger or quite possibly stern lecture. But, for me, it just gave me pause to think.

The current climate of craft cocktails and mixology is a hot trend. I spend a lot of time in this world, which is interesting, engaging and fun. At times, it’s also a world in which bartenders steer clients to new more sophisticated drinks, mixologists flat out refuse to make mojitos and cocktails like the Long Island are “laid to rest.” There can be some strong opinions on how the thirsty masses should consume their booze (and I’m not completely innocent in this regard.) Considering all of this enthusiasm for the craft cocktail movement, it’s often easy to forget that it’s still somewhat of a niche. The majority of the drinking public will not roll up to your bar and order a Corpse Reviver 2 or debate the merits of rye versus cognac in their Sazerac. And it’s for that reason that some of the latest bars are offering something a little easier to swallow alongside their more advanced options. The most current example: Copper Bay.

copper bay cocktails parisCopper Bay first hit the scene last September with a soft opening. Given the reputations of the trio involved (Elfi, Aurélie and Julien), a fair number of people slipped in to check things out. Everyone appreciated the fresh take on décor with its nautical theme and bright brass touches. After a short closure they opened back up in December with their full menu of drinks and food.

So, I stopped back in during Paris Cocktails Week to see how things were shaking out and chatted with them about their cocktail approach. Their menu of 12 cocktails at 10 Euros each is designed to be approachable with 3 sours, 3 collins and some custom cocktails that lean a little more to the sweet side than many of my cocktail contemporaries or I would normally go for. Sweet, but very well made. This makes the drinks not only more accessible to cocktail newbies but I believe it will be a mini-trend: less eschewing of the sugar in a search of even better balance. And they do find balance. In fact, they seem to really shine when it comes to sours, achieving the right equilibrium between tart and sweet. Case in point: their Lizzy Sour created for PCW.

IMG_6748However, don’t think the team just turns out a selection of sips designed for the un-initiated cocktail drinker. They are also doing interesting things on the more savory side with one of the better bloody’s I’ve had in awhile (tequila based) as well as The Beast (a drink made with bourbon that’s been fat-washed with bacon grease from the nearby smokehouse of the same name.) On my last visit I was particularly interested in the rye based De La Bretagne, which is made to be served at room temperature. While that goes counter to most cocktail thinking, it’s a possibility worth exploring, and they are starting those explorations of nicely.

And finally, I feel comfortable putting myself in their hands when it comes to classics. Not of the Long Island variety, but of the Dry Martini variety which they most certainly know how to handle.

copper bay cocktail barFor the food menu, they’re focusing on local vendors and turning out a menu of munchies comprising rustic breads, cheeses, meats or My Crazy Pop popcorn with flavors like Roquefort & nuts or wasabi & sesame.

Overall, their cocktail philosophy allows cocktail newbies to easily make their way into the mixed drink world as well as affords opportunities for those with a more experienced palette to play. Maybe they’ll even introduce some of the latest generation of cocktail curious to a new idea of ‘classic.’ So, regardless of your cocktail style, stop in to visit this friendly bunch.

Lulu White: Big Easy Cocktail Adventures in Paris

Lulu White Cocktail Bar Paris
Lulu White
12 rue Frochot
75009 Paris

So, remember back in 2012 when I was writing about Pigalle’s increasing cool factor and its proliferation of better bars? Back then, I was living in the area, watching the progress and reporting as it went from cocktail dead zone to cocktail destination. Well, now it’s pretty much gone full-blown and mainstream with an impressive selection of serious cocktail stops.  And, the newest addition to the area is no exception. 

lulu white cocktail barWith a Parisian Belle Époque meets New Orleans’ Storyville vibe and named for one of NOLA’s notorious madams, Lulu White couldn’t have picked a better location than this neighborhood full of working girl bars and girlie-cum-cocktail bars.  Pass through the discrete entrance located just next door to Dirty Dick and escape into an elegant, art nouveaux world with a carrousel style bar reminiscent of New Orleans’ Hotel Montleone (a place near and dear to the cocktail lover’s heart).  Considering that the duo behind this drinking spot, Dotan Shalev et Timothée Prangé, made a name for themselves with the nicely designed Little Red Door, it’s no surprise that we like what we see here.

Le Carmen Miranda Cocktail Lulu White ParisBut, let’s move past her pretty face and check out the personality. In a nod to the Bohemian culture of Paris in the 20’s, the menu includes an absinthe flight, 7 absinthe-infused drinks at 11-12 Euros, one cocktail priced at 15 Euros, bottled beers, wine and Champagne.  Putting absinthe in every mixed drink on the menu is a ballsy move.  And one I raise my glass to.  The menu has been crafted so that the absinthe improves each cocktail without taking over. Even if you think you won’t get along with the Green Fairy, I encourage you to work through a few of their choices, which will at least challenge if not change that notion. And I hear that head barman, Matthew, is becoming a bit of an absinthe expert…

Frozen cocktail lulu white ParisOn my visit, the lovely Kelly started me off with Le Carmen Miranda: Four Roses Bourbon, Strawberry Cordial, and Pernod Absinthe, served slushy style in a coupe.  What?! Cordial + bourbon – that can be kind of too sweet, non? That’s what I thought and under other circumstances I may have shied away from it, but thankfully I let myself be led in this direction. Le Carmen Miranda is refreshing and well balanced. The Bourbon brings strength, and the cordial made with dried strawberries and tartaric acid (among other things) adds just the right one-two punch of sweet and sour to balance it out and leave you smacking your lips and salivating for the next sip.  Finally, a touch of absinthe adds some depth. (And for those of you who keep asking why it takes so long to make a cocktail…this is the one for you…no wait time!)  While not my usual go-to style, I really enjoyed starting the evening with one.  I moved onto something more in line with my personal tastes with the Beefeater based Lea d’Asco, which was equally good (but less surprising given my imbibing inclinations) So, there’s something to be said for stepping out of your comfort zone.

lulu white cocktail bar parisIt’s not just the interesting drinks, excellent service and appropriate place, that make Lulu White a worthwhile stop.  It’s surrounded by plenty of great cocktail choices.  And, word on the street is that soon we’ll also be seeing more cool new neighbors like the latest from the L’Entrée des Artistes team and the new hotel from the ECC boys.

So, although I no longer live in Pigalle, I still make regular visits to keep up with all the fun.  And, I’ll confess, I’m secretly hoping that now that I’ve moved to the 15th, I will be the catalyst for a new cocktail explosion to happen there.  Don’t laugh.  It could happen…

Mabel: Rum Cocktail Adventures in Paris

IMG_5508Mabel
58 Rue d’Aboukir
75002 Paris

In a country with historical ties to isles that have long distilled rhum agricole and a population of partygoers whose weekends are fueled by mojitos, Paris has still never managed to offer up much of interest for rum fanatics. Until recently, those looking for a more serious side of the spirit might stumble into La Rhumerie for some so-so cocktails or – more fortunately – find Dirty Dick and its healthy selection of stock. But with the newly opened Mabel, things are about to change.

IMG_5507Created by industry notable with a rum obsession, Joseph Akhavan, Mabel combines his talent with 106 (and counting….) rum references to create a menu of 15 cocktails (around 13 Euros) plus opportunities to taste some serious stuff straight. Previously of Mama Shelter (back when the cocktails were a bit more crankin’) and then of la Conserverie, Joseph has not only vitalized some cocktail programs but made impressive showings at contests, including taking the winning title at Nikka Perfect Serve.

IMG_5523Joseph’s style is polished and professional but it’s more than just his credible cocktail CV that makes him a favorite fixture on the local scene. He has a quiet, unassuming talent for creating exceptional cocktails with an appreciable subtlety. Case in point: the Sombre Detune that has a lot of things going on with Rhum Santa Teresa 1796, Compass Bay Flaming Heart, Yellow Chartreuse, Carpano Antica Formula and Dandelion & Burdock Bitters. Yet amongst all those competing personalities, there is a common thread that pulls everything together (richness, complexity, vanilla, orange notes, a spiciness) and provides a coherent background for few key characteristics to shine against – like a touch IMG_5525of smoke from the whisky or dryness from the Carpano that balances out the sweet side of the rum and chartreuse.

Nothing at Mabel is in-your-face or showy, including the décor which is simple, distressed, comfortable. Perhaps it’s this quiet concentration on quality without flashy distraction that makes this not just a good bar, but also a bartenders’ bar. On my recent visit, it was relatively quiet but taking up stool space was Tim from Monkey Shoulder (always a pleasure) and a couple of the lovely bartenders from Glass. On the menu, you’ll also find a little something from another well-known and world-travelling barman, Nicolas de Soto, who came up with the “Trader Who?” just for Mabel. On the last page of their cocktail menu, is a useful list of suggestions on other cocktail bars to visit. And just FYI, it’s named after Mabel Walker Willebrandt, named assistant attorney general of the US in ’21 and thus one of the political figures meant to uphold prohibition at the time.

IMG_5526While Mabel deserves plenty of patrons, it will never be uncomfortably overrun with them. There will be no overcrowding or drink jostling as they’ve instituting a sitting only policy and allowing for reservations. Hallelujah!

My hunch is that we’re going to hear a lot more about this spot in the New Year. Not just as the city’s drinkers discover its understated cool and develop a deeper respect for rum – but because in January they’ll be opening its adjoining Grilled Cheese shop. With Paris’ current love of all food fun, somewhat foreign and sufficiently comforting (meatballs, burgers, Mexican, etc.), I predict these little cheese sammies will not just be good, but go down a treat with the trendy crowd.

In short: This isn’t just the best rum bar in town with few rum choices. This is a great bar, full stop.

Le Syndicat: Frenchy Cocktail Adventures in Paris

IMG_5385 Le Syndicat
51 rue Faubourg Saint Denis
75010 Paris

IMG_5372French ingredients have always been a cornerstone of cocktail culture, lately, la belle France has really been looking inward for inspiration. Case in point: the newly opened le Syndicat.

Le Syndicat is the self-proclaimed “Organization in Defense of French Spirits” and, as such, focuses strictly on French ingredients.  The concept of its creators, Sullivan Doh and Romain Le Mouellic, is to stock the bar with bottles of gentian based beverages, French Gins, Cognacs, Armagnac, and other ingredients hailing from l’Hexagone.

This “Made in France” attitude carries through to the menu as well where you’ll find three distinct sections that give guests a better glimpse into the local liquids.

IMG_5387Tasting flights: For 15 to 20 Euros, clients can choose from a selection of tasting flights like the Armagnac Signature (3 Bas-Armagnac from different decades dating back as far as 1970). These trios of drinks are designed to help customers discover new tastes and better appreciate French spirits and ingredients.

Syndicat Classiques: Here, you’ll find a selection of five classic cocktails from 8 to 13 Euros that have been recreated Syndicat-style. For example, the Nevez Oldfashion incorporates whisky from Brittany, Chouchen syrup made onsite and Maquis bitters.

IMG_5379Insane St Denis Style: With talent behind the bar like Sullivan (previously of ECC and Sherry Butt) it’s no surprise that there is also a section dedicated to house creations, ranging from 9 to 13 Euros, and showcasing Corsican eau de vie, Byrrh, Calvados and the like.

The playlist centers on hip-hop in a very intentional nod towards the artists who helped create a resurgence of interest in a very national product: Cognac. And they’re located in an area that the Guardian has aptly called “Paris’s hottest new micro-quartier near Gare du Nord” so expect a mix of customers from curious residents of the corner to in-the-know cocktail hounds coming from across town.

Paris Cocktails & Food Pairings: Pasdeloup

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Pasdeloup
108, rue Amelot
75011 Paris

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All summer we were hearing about a handful of very promising openings to come. And, while we’re still waiting for most of them, Pasdeloup led the pack by opening doors a couple of months ago.

This casually chic spot boasts some of the city’s best bar talent thanks to Amanda Boucher, previously of Candelaria (which just took a spot on the worlds 50 top bars list – again). Amanda has displayed an enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and study over the past several years allowing her to hone her skills to impressive levels.

IMG_4911At Pasdeloup, she has created a menu of around 10 cocktails at 12 Euros each. There is no pandering to the masses with a simple fruit+vodka choice. Their vodka cocktail includes vinegar, as well as cocchi Americano and pisco which results in something refreshing, bracing and a little bit unexpected for the general drinking public. A look at the rest of the menu shows a competent and calculated sense of balance within individual cocktails as well as throughout the menu. Many of the cocktails are pre-batched, making for more consistency. Those looking for the classics will have no problem here, as confirmed with my usual martini order.

IMG_4908Additionally, they created a small selection of four cocktail and food pairings like a Spritz du moment paired with Shitake for 14 Euros. Of special note is the Chevreau complet (22 Euros), which comes with the “A” cocktail (otherwise, unavailable outside of the pairing). This dry, sparkling drink is not intended to be served alone, but only alongside the chevreau sandwich to offset its meaty richness. The results are rather lipsmackingly good.

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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.

 

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.

Swanky Cocktail Adventures: Bistrologist

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Bistrologist
16, avenue de Friedland
75008 Paris

With new and emerging cocktail scenes, it’s sometimes the bartender more than the bar itself that makes a place. At least a few Paris cocktail spots have shown a downhill slide after losing some star bar power (Mama Shelter, l’Hotel, to name a few…) So, it’s interesting to keep an eye on not just bars, but the staff movements too. I’ve seen Greg Hazac’s work as he’s gone through various positions at le Secret, Royal Monceau, le 29, and, most currently, the Bistrologist.

IMG_3757The Bistrologist is the new incarnation of le Secret after its temporary closure.  The same sexy and seductive décor remain with its dark wooden walls, soft chairs, and crisp white cloths on tables topped with a single flower. The airy, comfortable terrace also remains for sophisticated sipping with a side of pretty people watching.

While the deco may have stayed the same, there have been some positive tweaks to the original that improve the overall experience. Greg has successfully incorporated aspects of his own recent venture, le 29, with those of le Secret from the sleek silver picks to bespoke cocktails offered on the new menu “comme au 29.”

The menu offers just short of twenty house creations at 15 Euros each, based on a range IMG_3760of spirits and focusing on fresh herbs, house syrups, teas and a few surprises such as crème de marron (chestnut puree) or peanut butter. There’s enough range to please palates seeking something easygoing (think gins, vodkas, elderflower, cucumbers, etc.) to those wanting a more forceful flavor profile (think browns and bitters.) The one option that makes me laugh is the tic tac martini (vodka, citrus and tic tac syrup), which seems pretty much like a slightly more mature version of a Jet 27 drink.

For more convivial cocktail options, they do them in a larger format for sharing  (60 Euros.) For longer nights or larger crowds, you can also order them by the bottle at 190+ Euros, served in heavy cut-glass decanters with a side of ice for an indulgent DIY drinking experience.

IMG_3763On the night of my visit, there was no dry vermouth, so Greg made a variation of a smoky martini with No. 3, Laphroaig, Noilly Pratt Ambré, and syrup.  I know some bar folks who refuse to make smoky martinis on the grounds that gin and whisky shouldn’t mix.  But, I find it an interesting change from time to time as the gin makes for a cleaner delivery of the peat smoke up front (as opposed to it hiding in the back as it might with a straight glass of the Laphroaig in this case.) Next I tried the mescal-based Baiser d’Iki with tea syrup and bitters, which was a good follow up to a smoky martini.

Of course, I’m hoping for some dry behind bar soon to accompany the selection of gins on the menu: Bombay Sapphire, Broker’s, Tanqueray (TLD and 10), Beefeater, Hayman’s Old Tom, Hendrick’s, Sipsmith, No. 3, Plymouth Navy, Monkey 47 and Junipero.

IMG_3780They are looking to kick up the food quality a notch with more attentive sourcing and homemade dishes. I tried a burger which was oozing plenty of toppings and just messy enough to verify its made-on-site cred. For more bar snacking options, they’ve got caviar d’aubergine (8 Euros), caviar Osceittre (130 Euros) and plenty of choice in between (with most prices in the low teens).  For those seeking something beyond cocktails, as with many of the current new places, they are focusing on natural as well as biodynamic wines.

Overall, it’s a seductive spot with the potential to charm with its personalized cocktails. Given the location, ambiance and prices, I imagine that it could easily pull in a crowd of young professionals and in-the-know tourists off the Champs.

And, as for Greg, he’s an interesting barman to follow.  He’s content to march to the beat of his own drum and focusing on his bespoke creations rather than chasing too many cocktail trends.  He appreciates an element of elegance and class and strives to bring that to the customer drinking experience without snobbish affectations.  Basically, he’s just a really nice guy trying to make drinks that please his patrons, so I hope his re-installation in this space pull in an equally nice crowd who appreciate it.

 

 

Dirty Dick: Polynesian Cocktail Adventures in Paris

IMG_3126Dirty Dick
10 Rue Frochot
75009 Paris

IMG_3122Change is good. And, I’ve seen some especially good change when it comes to the Pigalle in the last few years.  Paris’ red-light district has gone from cocktail dead zone to cocktail destination thanks to the arrival of bars like Glass, Kremlin and Rock’n’Roll Circus.  And the latest place to bring a bit of kicky change to the area? The naughtily named Dirty Dick, which is giving Pigalle some Polynesian personality with its tiki themed bar and drinks. I can get down with a bit of South Seas style sipping, so I stopped in with one of my fav drinking partners to check things out.

IMG_3123With several busy bars already under their belts, the team behind the Dirty Dick went all out with their latest venture. While the typical touches like rattan furniture, palm tree wall paper, and tiki masks, give it the appropriate island feel, they’ve added some extras that knock the deco up a notch. Two tall totem poles – specially carved for the space and weighing a hefty 350 kilos each – frame a lush wall of tropical plants. American artist, David “Gonzo” Gonzalez created another kind of lush wall with his mural of a flirty bikini bottom-clad beach beauty. A sweet soundtrack of tropical bird tweets loops in the loos. And, the night we were there, the place was already packed with neighborhood locals enjoying the festive vibe and fun drinks.

IMG_2887The friendly team behind the bar – including Scotty (previously of the UFO) and Christina (of the Kremlin) – know how to do a good time as well as a good drink.  Before looking at the menu, I sheepishly ordered a dry martini. Being in a tiki joint, I “should” go for one of the rum creations… but, you know, the martini thing, it’s what I do. But guess what? There’s already one on the menu with their special grapefruit spin. Class. My Edinburgh martini was served with a twist and a shot of extra vermouth on the side at 10 Euros. Nice.

After that, I was ready to move onto the rum-based Cutback Conquest, which offers the satisfying balance of a well-made sour made more mature and interesting thanks to the Guinness reduction’s bitter beer bite, spiking through the otherwise easy-going cocktail for a pleasant surprise. The rest of the menu also reflects this element of the unexpected or a juxtaposition of sorts: An elegant un-refinedness, if you will (as opposed to an unrefined IMG_2888elegance). This classy kitsch works perfectly for a tiki bar. With its ass-kicking punches poured into over the top ceramic mugs, tiki, by nature is not a subtle cocktail culture. But a truly good tiki drink can celebrate both its fun factor as well as showcase something more interesting and complex – and that’s where Dirty Dick is going.

The menu features 17 cocktails with a good mix of classics and house creations, mainly based (of course) on rum, but with other options including vodka, tequila, whiskey, etc.  Lighthearted descriptions don’t divulge everything, but instead evoke a feeling or idea. Prices range from 6 to 14 Euros, based roughly on the amount of liquor in your libation; while the Ba-Tiki-Da at 6 Euros has about 5 centiliters of booze, the Slurricane at 14 Euros has close to 12 (watch out!).

IMG_3121Additionally, they offer up three convivial punch bowls for sharing that sound both fun and deadly like the Amazombie, based on the original Zombie, which promises to turn the “living into dead,” or the She Sells Sea Shells sold in a conch shell. And it just gets better with a selection of over 52 different rums on the shelf. Also of note, they are open 7/7 and have a well-ventilated smoking room in the back.

Dirty Dick shows that this group of bars and its associated staff have the know-how to put together a worthy watering hole and have managed to make a classy tiki joint without losing personality or credibility. Two thumbs up. The only problem is that now that another new great drinking destination has opened up in the area, I’ve just moved to a new neighborhood. So, I just keep reminding myself that “Change is good, right?” … and fortunately, my new place is on a direct metro line to Dirty Dick.

Shellfish Cocktail Adventures: the Mary Celeste

mc 005Mary Celeste
1 rue Commines
75003 Paris

mc 004I’ve been talking a lot lately about Paris turning a new cocktail page and coming out ahead of trends rather than bowing to them. And once again, the group behind the Candelaria provides a very fine example of just that with their third venture, a restaurant and bar, which showcases their ability to come up with fresh fare.

While I love a low-light lounge or a dark divey bar, the open, airy and light space that is the Mary Celeste brightens the bar scene with something new. Large windows let in plenty of light to the main floor, which features a friendly island bar. A downstairs area, where the tiny kitchen is located, handles the runoff from the main floor.

mc 011Owners, Josh, Adam & Carina, have put together a topnotch international team, including notable barman Carlos Madriz (previously of l’Hotel) and Chef Haan Palcu-Chang (previously of Le Verre Volé as well as Europe’s only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant.)   Palcu-Chang’s creative small plates -including offerings like homemade Kimchee which demonstrate his passion for Asian cuisine – are available from 7pm onwards.  But, from 5pm to 7pm, it’s “Oyster Happy Hour” with fresh terroir-focused oysters at a buck a bivalve! The oysters, served alongside tasty, crisp flat bread and Palcu-Chang’s mignonette, which incorporates coriander and a bit of heat, were delicious enough to convince me to indulge in them two nights in a row. I’m digging both the oyster concept and the fact that they open earlier than most bars.  But, we’re here to talk cocktails…

mc 007My first experience was an opening night event, and the place was packed with friends and fans of the group enjoying free Brooklyn pours, beer cocktails and oysters at happy hour prices.  My Oliver’s Twist exemplifies Carlos’ innate talent for creating well balanced cocktails with the Brooklyn lager, Rabarbaro, lemon and Tabasco bringing a successful combination of sweet, bitter, sour and heat that stands up to the oysters and their accompanying mignonette.  As I sipped and slurped, the sounds of the Steve Miller band on vinyl filled the air thanks to the vintage Lenco turntable. Sweet!

I returned the following night for Oyster Happy Hour to see how some of their cocktails stacked up to the tasty sea creatures. Carlos mc 012suggested a Dear Apollonia (grappa, Manzanilla sherry & crème de peche) as something that would please a martini-loving palette. Not only does that describe my palette, but a martini can be an ideal pairing with oysters. I know that just the mention of grappa can make the un-initiated tremble. However, the quality of the spirit and the addition of the crème de peche make for a lighter more approachable drink that works for newbies as well as more experienced cocktail drinkers. Plus, considering the mignonette, it’s a better pairing with these oysters than a straightforward martini.

I progressed to a Nord Sud, which was eliciting praise from a fellow drinker and shows off a nice balance of apple brandy, sherry fino, homemade grenadine and citrus.  I finished with the Dottore Cipriano, made with herby vermouth, mescal and enough amero to make it interesting without overpowering. And the smokey touch of the mescal made it a perfect and somehow comforting finish to this trio.

mc 015While plenty of people will go for the Single Ladies (Absolut, muscadet syrup and lemon), the menu of 10 or so cocktails at 12 Euros proves a nice vehicle for introducing customers to less common ingredients like ameros, vermouths and sherries. Carlos explained that they are going for more aperitif-style cocktails that veer more towards something delicate than in-your-face. They also feature beers from Brooklyn Brewery and a selection of natural wines. And I hear that Simon will be heading over to cover on Carlos’ days off, which means the Mary Celeste packs serious talent behind the stick seven nights a week.

I suspect that the combination of the more lighthearted approach to the decor and drinks and the trust-inspiring integrity of this group when it comes to scrutinizing the quality of ingredients, means this venture will appeal to a wider audience without compromising the quality that hardcore foodies and cocktillians demand. The Mary Celeste is a breath of fresh air, well worth a detour and I look forward to many more Happy Hours at the bar.