58 Rue d’Aboukir
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.
Created 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.
Joseph’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 of 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.
While 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.