What We Learned and What We Loved at Paris Cocktail Week

Last month, Paris successfully pulled off its 3rd annual Paris Cocktail Week. From 21 through 28 January over fifty bars participated with brand specific drinks specials (one cocktail and one non-alcoholic cocktail) and various spirits related events were held all over the city.

My favorite moment from this year’s PCW was the “Revolutionary Italiens” dinner and cocktail pairing at Passerini where chef Giovanni Passerini created the menu with Ago Perrone, Master Mixologist for the Connaught Bar. This is the kind of event that stands out during a cocktail week in any city. Sure, it’s easy enough to visit either the Paris restaurant or the London bar individually, but to have these two well-known food and drink names working in a collaboration that results in a totally unique and expressive dinner is a one-time-only experience. And the bonus negroni and pasta served up after the entire meal was kind of epic.I’m hoping next year brings more cross cultural and country collaborations like this, which not only feed the creativity of the local cocktail scene, but give the general consumer a taste of the wider cocktail world.

My best discovery this year was Mio Posto. As always, cocktail week inspires participants to try out something different than their usual haunts. Mio Posto put out an impressive Campari-based cocktail special and proved to be a light, bright, tasty and friendly spot worth further exploration.

But, I wasn’t the only cocktaillian combing the streets in search of sippable fun. In the wake of PCW, I spoke to a few fellow cocktail enthusiasts and favorite drinking partners to get their takeaways for the week. Cocktail journalist Laurance Marot, cocktails enthusiast Manon, food and drink fanatic Kinou Nguyen, and Production Manager at Distillerie de Paris as well as Editor-in-Chief at DistilZine Frederic Roginska all took the time to answer three questions about their PCW experience this year.

Best Moment of Paris Cocktail Week 2017?

Frederic: “Producing the bottled negroni at Distillerie de Paris, from the preps of the different ingredients, to the distillation, macerations and maturation processes. Such a nice adventure! And furthermore, the best part of it all: stirring the whole thing in a 100 liters and then a 200 liters tank… (just imagine how big a bar spoon it requires!)”

Kinou’s favorite moment was an evening at Les Justes with the Combawhaaat ?! cocktail. She explains “I love mezcal and I had already had occasion to try cocktails with it like The Roof is on Fire cocktail at the Calbar. . . I really appreciated the pairing of the lime and kaffir lime . . . and the herbed and flaming half kaffir lime garnish was the final touch that made it for me.” But it wasn’t just the cocktail for Kinou. She further explains that the welcome was excellent and that they know how to work their small space to create an intimate and cozy ambience. Finally, the bartender promised Kinou that the Combawhaaat could be recreated anytime in the future. So if you missed it on your Paris Cocktail Week crawl, you’ve still got a chance…

Laurence loved “the evening of meat and cocktail pairings at Viandes & Chef by the head butcher Benjamin Darnaud and head barman Frédéric Le Bordays.” They “discovered cocktails in a completely different context, a butcher, and also made a cocktail-version of a saucisse (flavored with bourbon and lemon) all accompanied by Benjamin’s great conversation and the delicious drinks from Fred – especially the excellent IPA sour.”

Manon was a big fan of this year’s workshops. She tells us “I always did the bar circuit for the first two cocktail weeks, but this was the first time I tried the workshops. I started with the Beefeater Gin workshop at Candelaria on the first Saturday and it was such a good experience that I signed up for the Punch workshop at La Commune the following Sunday.” She “loved the playful vibe, discovering new products, but also the chances to meet the bar and brand pros as well as other cocktail fans. It’s really a different way to experience the bars and see all the work that goes on behind them.”

What was your best discovery this year?

Frederic: “Rather a rediscovery, at Night Flight, where I haven’t been since about a year ago, before this new PCW edition. In such a context, I feel like It’s the kind of bar you first go because of the PCW incentive but then end up spending most of the night in, because you feel just great there. Loved to rediscover how great their drinks are, as well as their staff, and the overall atmosphere, simultaneously fast paced and cozy (if such a thing is possible!). Also good to mention: Mabel’s “Electric Hay”, its PCW 2017 warm cocktail prescription. Since I’m the kind of cocktail enthusiast that enjoys big and clear ice cubes, having me drinking and, in addition, appreciating a warm cocktail is not an easy task. So all I can say is ‘Well done Joseph!’ (once again 🙂 )”

Kinou: “The Tea Biscuit and the Ronin at Sherry Butt. The first one was a PCW special with Nikka whisky, gingerbread syrup, genmaicha tea, lemon and egg white. The texture was perfect, the spices lightly present without overpowering, but reinforced thanks do tiny gingerbread crumbs on the surface of the cocktail. Magnificent!” She describes the place as “warm, with two separate spaces, a cozy entrance, with large armchairs and sofas where you can spend time chatting with friends. Even more convivial is the bar side with its high stools and cocktail list on the chalkboard behind the bar – and plenty of bottles.” Kinou is still torn between Sherry Butt and Les Justes for her favorite bar, but Sherry Butt is closer to home for her, so…. She finishes her thoughts on best discoveries with a little shout out to La Tete dans les Olives and their tasting event.

Laurence: “A cocktail attached to a balloon and sprinkled with gold glitter, called the Andy in Wonderland and created by Kaled Derouich at Andy Wahloo. A Zacappa 24 rum old fashioned.”

Manon: “The punch at La Commune. For the earlier PCW’s I usually went to places that I already knew. However, this year’s edition helped me to discover new bars, especially the unusual la Commune. I almost didn’t test this bar because they only propose punches, and in my experience, punches are generally not as well made as individual cocktails. But, this place is top, bold and full of talent: I really (re)discovered punch, learning that it originates from India. The barman also shared his secret recipe for making a perfectly balanced punch at home. In short, I’ll cross town to visit here again.”

What would you like to see at next year’s Paris Cocktail Week?

Frederic: “I have full trust in PCW’s team to bring an even more epic event, year after year. They tend to exceed my expectations every time so all I wish is them to keep it that way”

Kinou: “New places, new creations and new tastings! I have confidence in Thierry and Eric, they have tons of great ideas. That said, I really want to see more left bank bars. There is Castor Club and a few other addresses I still have to test…but still not a whole lot in the 13th and 14th arrondissements. The Fanfan by la Tulipe in the Butte aux Cailles was promising, but didn’t last long. Sure, some of these neighborhoods aren’t quite as lively as places like the Marais, Bastille or Pigalle, but I’d still like to see some bars appearing on this side of the river offering good cocktails, like around Montparnasse or Place d’Italie.

Laurence: “More guest bartending with barmen coming from cities with strong cocktail cultures in Europe or elsewhere.”

Manon: More left bank bars! (and also in the west of Paris). Sure, they have to choose from what’s available, but I find the chosen bars are a little too concentrated around Chatelet and République.

Finally, I also caught up with another member of my cocktail crew, Karim Dubois. Karim is not only an active food and drink enthusiast and local influencer, but he also created the Facebook group Cocktail Geek France, where the French community can exchange ideas and information. He reflected further on the week:

“Overall, the proposed cocktails for the week were varied and the number of bars participant was relatively large.” He did remark that the prices seem to have risen from an average of about 9 Euros in the past years to over 10 Euros this year. He continues “For me, the best cocktail on offer that I had the chance to test was “La Mauny qui dirige le monde” from Le Syndiact, fresh, balanced, simple and effective. Especially interesting is the fact that the taste really reflects the place. Even tasting it blind, you would know this cocktail came from le Syndicat. In addition, it was one of the more affordable cocktails in terms of price at 8 Euros.”

Karim also noted the Baton Rouge cocktail as another good cocktail that was also accessible and easy for the larger public to appreciate (which is a big part of the idea behind Paris Cocktail Week, after all!)

And finally, he tells us “as usual, Mabel, Dirty Dick and CopperBay offered the most impressive drinks in terms of prep work and ingredients, to great success.” And finally, with the cold weather he appreciated hot cocktail offers from Pasdeloup and Mabel.

Thanks Karim, Laurence, Kinou, Manon and Frederic for taking time to share your thoughts with us. We already look forward to seeing what PCW 2018 brings.