Everyone has their own ideas of Paris, from girly posters of the Eiffel Tower, to dirty streets and rude waiters. Having spent a lot of time their over the last few years, I can safely say it’s a combination of the two, and a lot more. Now you can expect me to say ‘it’s the hidden treasures of the city that make it unique’, or ‘it’s the people’, and although I think Paris holds a lot more than first meets the eye, I actually think it’s the blatant beauty of it that draws us in. Unlike many cities, it’s built on very strict rules. It didn’t just build up over time, like the jigsaw puzzle that is London. It was a controlled and incredibly engineered project, with uniformity like no other, in which every building of the era must be built of the same size, height and cream coloured stone; even choreographed so that the roads are wide enough for major landmarks to be viewed from all angles. Maybe I’m a bit of a geek on this, but I do find it fascinating.
Above and beyond this, the culture’s not bad either. We’re talking two hour lunch breaks, cake for breakfast and wine for everything else. They enjoy the ‘finer’ things. And recently they’re getting into the finest of all things, cocktails. Cocktail bars have always had a presence, but now they’re getting cool. Ten years ago it was either pre-mixed Mojitos in a touristy ‘Brasserie’, or sell your house and buy a martini on the Champs Elysee. But there’s a new movement and it seems to be catching on.
To quote ‘Le Blue’ a club/bar at the foot of Montmartre/Chateau Rouge ‘Today Parisians are looking for authenticity and novelty’. http://leblueclub.com/ Le Blue has decided not to have a cocktail menu, and despite being a buzzing weekend venue, will work individually with each customer to create a cocktail to their taste. A very interesting concept and one I didn’t get the chance to try out. Despite my curiosity I was at a birthday party and it wasn’t mine, so holding up a group of thirsty Frenchmen wasn’t an appealing option.
In terms of Mixology, Parisians weren’t exactly speedy on the uptake. But they are making up for it, with world famous bars such as the Experimental Cocktail Club, in the central Les Halles. Perhaps the pioneers of the new scene, they offer an ever changing menu along with ‘off-menu classics’ – but you can go with pretty much anything the bar tenders recommend, they know their stuff. http://www.partyearth.com/paris/bars/experimental-cocktail-club-2/
So maybe they aren’t the rule driven, vintage drinkers that we imagine. Just maybe, the fact that the city isn’t saturated, makes it all the more special when you finally get that Jamaican rum Appleton VX, cream, organic floral honey and crushed Indonesian pepper cocktail that you’ve been searching for in hand.
But never fear, I will continue to visit and keep a very close eye on the Parisian cocktail scene, because we all have our responsibilities, right?