87 rue de Turbigo
While I attend lots of cocktail and spirits events, I often avoid bar openings or their press launches and, instead, try to visit on normal nights for a better perspective. But, last week, I did join a group of bloggers, writers and social media types to test out the offerings from a new bar just off Republique. Shake N’Smash had been on my ‘to try’ list since they opened a few weeks ago and I just hadn’t made it yet. Perhaps this occasion would finally lock it into my to do list. On the evening of the private party, I really wanted to stay home and put my feet up with a nice cup of tea and a good book. But, I don’t like to flake on RSVP’s, so off I went to taste test new cocktails. And, I’m really glad I did!
In creating Shake N’Smash along with Sephora and Raphaël Cohen, Jerôme Susini, has injected new life into the building that his family has owned since 1923. What used to be a Corsican restaurant is now a small sexy and fun cabaret-like cocktail bar and lounge. Dark green walls and wooden accents provide a classic backdrop for lighthearted feather covered lamps and sleek leopard print armchairs. Plenty of mirrors allow the small space to retain its intimate ambiance without feeling too enclosed and also romantically reflect candlelight around the room allowing them to substantially dim the lights without leaving clients in the dark. This mix of modern edge and elegant simplicity creates a dreamy little hideaway of a bar.
With the cocktail menu, both owner Jerome and bar manager Kevin (previously of le Fouquet and the 114) strive for a selection of drinks that appeal to a range of tastes. As such, their 15 house creations at 12 Euros incorporate a variety of base spirits from vodka to mescal, some interesting homemade syrups and Alain Milliat juices. Their creations include a convivial and practical Punch option that serves up to 4 and two warm cocktails with their take on an Irish Coffee and a Grog.
We sampled six different cocktails from their best seller, the Dernier Metro, (raspberry purée, vodka, ginger and citrus) to the more interesting In Bacchus We Trust with its cognac base and just enough wine syrup and barbecue bitters to give it a tart and spicy little spine.
They plan on changing the menu every six months or so, which is a good call. While many places change more frequently, letting a drink live a little while in the bar gives sufficient opportunity to tweak and perfect it based on bartenders’ experience and customer feedback. For example, the El Guacaquila, made with tequila, avocado, and Tabasco syrup is sweet, cool, spicy and refreshing but thick. I think it might work better in the miniature szie we sampled rather than an entire cocktail. And, I wonder if it could serve as a fun shot alongside a beer. This is the kind of experimenting you might be able to better do in the bar when the menu sticks around longer than a fortnight. I think, overall, there may be a lack of subtlety that you might find in other menus which is made up for by bold and unabashed choices that will work well in this neighborhood, as well as the possibility to go off menu and work with bar staff to find something to satisfy all palates.
In addition to tasting the creations, Kevin also kindly stirred up a martini for me: 1 to 5, Tanqueray with a twist. This was stiff sip compared to the sweeter and easier drinks I had just been sampling, but it’s just the way I like it. With his high-end hotel background, Kevin can handle classic requests. His hotel background may also be reflected in the thoughtful (and sometimes precious) presentation of the cocktails; the sake-based Love Hina is served on a Manga page while the l’Education Sentimentale is served on a page from a Flaubert novel. I’ll avoid any further cocktail spoilers on the drinks and rather encourage you to explore them on your own.
Also of note, the menu offers their cocktails in a flask to go at 15 Euros and the possibility cocktail courses. The entire space or – conveniently – smaller sections can be privatized. Regular DJ’s spin some great sets and plans for themed nights with a focus on a particular spirit, cocktail, bar or idea are underway.
Along with the drinks, we sampled several items off the food menu. The homemade foie gras served on gingerbread was a good start. And, the perfectly cooked beef filet boccadillos and the flavorful – without being fatty – duck sauccison were some of the best bites I’ve had lately. It’s a nice selection of cocktail-appropriate food that can easily be shared or make for a mini-meal for one.
I chatted with some of the other guests: Damien from Sound Shaker, the ladies behind Muze Events, Jenna from Paris Cheapskate and the boys behind Cocktail Molotav. It was enjoyable to rub elbows with a different group than I usually run into at press events (which are mainly cocktails/spirits writers) and to see what some of the city’s of bloggers and personalities are covering.
This variety of guests reflects the intention to provide a little something for everyone, which we also saw in the cocktail selection. This intention is also seen in the set up of the space: a heavy curtain can be drawn to divide the lounge in two leaving one side a little louder and more club like and the other a bit quieter and more conversation-conducive. Although it’s not easy to please everyone, it’s a commendable (albeit challenging) approach.