City Guide to Paris

22 September, 2014

An afficionado of the French capital’s top hangouts, Forest Collinsof website, reports on the hot bars of the moment

From corner cafes to high-end wine bars, Paris has no shortage of great spots to partake in the grape. But for cocktail lovers things have always been a little more challenging. 

In recent decades, choices have been scarce and those wanting something a bit stiffer would have had to head to Hemingway bar at the Ritz for a budget-busting drink or an obligatory Bloody Mary at Harry’s. 

The Mojito is the go-to mixed drink in Paris bars, and it’s rarely a well-made one. In a country with such a strong gastronomic identity, cocktails were severely lacking.

Finally in 2007, things began to look up with the opening of the Experimental Cocktail Club. And it didn’t take long for the city’s trendsetters to develop a taste for well-crafted tipples and kick off a new craze for cocktails. The city’s cocktail cred got a further boost with the introduction of the Cocktail Spirits salon, now in its seventh year and attracting industry folk from near and far to check out the latest fads in French bars.

Following in the Experimental’s footsteps, a new breed of bar began showing up on the city’s scene and incorporating prevalent trends such as cocktail ageing, cocktails on tap and bottled cocktails. Even better, in some cases they put their own spin on sippables with a focus on forgotten French ingredients.  

The Experimental group has subsequently put its French touch on the international scene by exporting its own brand of bar from the beaches of Ibiza to cocktail capitals such as New York and London.  

And, with a handful of new local venues slated to open soon from credible names and with a focus on French cocktails, Paris’ influence on the international cocktail scene is set to grow.

My top 10 picks for Paris’s best bars:

Little Red Door, 60 Rue Charlot, 75003 Paris

The Little Red Door has seen a lot of success since opening with a hat-trick of great drinks, attentive service and seductive decor. But what sets it apart is a willingness to push further with an ambitious mission to create a state of “complete surrender, enthusiasm, enjoyment and creativity” in its guests.

Here, skilled staff handle classics with ease, but really excel at creating innovative cocktails from a range of specialised spirits that introduce customers to new and unique flavours. 

In developing its seasonal menu, it has worked with some of the city’s best talent as well as previously with an ‘aromaticien’ to achieve an ideal balance of flavours for each drink. 

The bar has collaborated with a team trained by legendary chef Paul Bocuse to create a food menu designed to complement the drinks with tasty tidbits such as the duck-topped waffle with shallot confit. 

The LRD regularly hosts masterclasses and industry events as well as an impressive list of guest bartenders from the likes of the American bar of the Savoy to the Zetter Townhouse.  

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