When I began my martini-fueled adventures there was no serious cocktail culture to speak of in Paris. Having long given up hope of finding a decent mixed drink, I subsisted on French wine when out and mixing my own when at home. My first recorded foray into serious spirits imbibing began – fittingly – with the Experimental Cocktail Club. Having recently opened at the time, these boys were at the forefront of the capital’s cocktail culture revival. Several years later, both 52 martinis and the Paris cocktail scene have evolved (for the better in both cases, I hope!)
Now, there are more worthy cocktail bars than I can visit on a regular basis. And I’m seeing additions that wouldn’t have been considered four years ago such as bars not only stocking but also showcasing spirits like gin. The Renaissance Paris Le Parc Trocadero Hotel has recently undergone a remodel and unveiled the first and only self-proclaimed gin bar in Paris. Of course I had to check it out.
The hotel reopened its doors last April after 4 months of renovation that resulted in the award of a fifth star. On entering the lobby bar, one does feel as if it’s just been revamped. It’s clean, modern and non-fussy but still manages to flirt with a bit of fun. Cheeky green armchairs and shiny surfaces offset more traditional paintings and low-key sofas. As with many hotel bars, lighting is bright. But, those looking for something more relaxed or romantic can move to the lovely leafy courtyard terrace year-round with its heat lamps and charming ambience.
I don’t know if it’s intentional, but the featured gin, G’Vine, reflects the décor with its green and grey tinged bottles of G’Vine Floraison and Nouassin. Oversized bottles of both sit center stage on the back bar and empties decorate various corners. A closer look at the other bottles at the bar indicates a definite bent towards the juniper with 20+ brands on offer. They’ve got the usual suspects (Gordon’s, Tanqueray, Bombay), the latest darlings (Monkey 47, Gin Mare) as well as one I don’t know (Topfergeist Peket.) Is that a gin or genever? The bottle looks like genever, but when I look it up it says gin. I’ll look into that more later. Anyway…
Prices range from 14 to 16 Euros. The standard cocktail menu features four classics based on a range of spirits and a suggested alternative for each. The classic dry martini has a recommended variation of the cucumber gin martini (Hendrick’s, cucumber juice and lemon juice.) I think this is a fun idea but I only got it from paying close attention to the cocktail list. I wonder if the regular costumer would even notice and might need more of a “If you like this, try this…” approach on the menu.
Next up are the ‘signature drinks’ which all feature French gins (either G’Vine, Citadelle or Magellan.) Teacher’s pet seems to be the Flower Power @ le Parc (jasmine infused G’Vine Flourison, Saint Germain, rose syrup and lemon.) Once again, I don’t know if this is intentional but the name is very similar to the already established Flower Power cocktail from Simon Difford (also gin and St Germain based).
In short, it’s a good start for a gin bar. However if I were really angling to corner the mothers’ ruin market, I’d put more gin-based drinks on the menu. But, the staff tells me there are plans to expand both the menu and the gin selection. It should be noted that bar manager, Axel Ginepro, was not in-house when I made my visit and I think that fact made some of the teething pains more evident.
For example, I ordered the Dry Martini (listed on the menu) and initially got a margarita (which was immediately changed when I pointed this out). Also, the dry martini on the menu is listed with “French gin” but no specification of brand. When asked which brand I wanted, I assumed it was made with the featured gin and requested G’Vine. I was then told there would be a supplement for this French gin in my martini. Considering my micro-management of the mixed drink, the bartender was exceedingly friendly. While most likely annoyed by my multiple questions, she never once showed it and gave me the G’Vine martini at the standard price. I was apologetic for being so persnickety and I meant it. I imagine most guests order drinks, take what they’re given and appreciate the attentive service
over dishes of truffled cashews. But from an admittedly attentive customer’s perspective: if you’re going to call yourself a gin bar, step up!
Notwithstanding, I do think this an interesting and exciting project. But in order to capitalize on that, more staff training and expansion are in order. Otherwise, it’s just a nice hotel bar with excellent service that just happens to have a lot of gin on hand. I get it. We all have to start somewhere. And, just as hopefully both this blog and the Paris cocktail scene have grown into something more substantial with time, so will le Parc’s gin bar.