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Monday, September 22, 2008

Wednesday Cocktail Adventure: Pershing Hall Lounge

Pershing Hall
49, rue pierre charron
Tel : +33 (0) 158 365 800

The Pershing Hall lounge is a deliberately cool and fashionable space. High tables mix with low loungey sofas in a large and dimly lit room. Ambiance is mainly a result of (slightly overplayed) lighting effects: notably the red glass chandeliers and lamps and violet lighting at the bar. Unfortunately upon arrival I realized my camera batteries were dead so the pictures taken with Matt's phone don't do it justice or show the impressive vertical garden as seen from the mezzanine. At this early hour, the youngish crowd, attracted by the promise of ambient DJs, were not exactly the uber-beautiful people I would have expected to find in this place (but the staff all were).

Waiting for Matt, I ordered my martini with a choice of Tanqueray 10 or Bombay Sapphire. The bartender poured a good measure of Nouilly Pratt into the shaker without offering a "shaken or stirred" option. Then, sadly, he dumped out the vermouth, merely coating the shaker with it before pouring the Bombay Sapphire. My drink came decorated with a lime twist and a couple of drops of Angostura bitters added directly to the finished drink and sinking to the bottom to create a (presumably unintentional) pretty faded effect. But, they needed to be stirred in to avoid a progressively bitter sipping experience. Shaking was noncommittal and this rather hot martini was served in a warm glass.

A small square bowl of peppery potato chips joined my glass at the bar. The glass itself wobbled. At first I thought it might be the bar that was uneven, but after trying it in several spots I realized it was, in fact, the glass that swayed slightly no matter where it stood (much like one might do themselves with a bit too much martini in them).

Matt loved the decor and ordered a cosmopolitan, which he also really enjoyed. I followed my martini with a Fuzzy Frog (whiskey, peach schnapps, lime juice). Assuming the "Fuzzy" comes from the peach schnapps, I wondered where the "Frog" part came in. You'd think instead of whiskey they would have mixed it with some French if they call it a "Frog". It was fine, but didn't thrill me. The whiskey overwhelmed the other flavors instead of blending into a nice and new taste sensation.

The cocktails range from 18 Euros (the price of my martini) to 28 Euros. Their champagne menu is extensive, but slightly overpriced when compared to some other champagne bars in Paris. They've put a lot of thought into creating a cool design, but less thought into the cocktails - which are fine, but not good enough for me to make this a regular stop.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wednesday Cocktail Adventure: Thwarted!

Both Le Lup and the Coolin' may have good cocktails, but I may never know.

We stopped by Le Lup for our second unsuccessful attempt to have cocktails at this bar, which was recommended to Matt by someone in the Curio Parlor. Our first attempt, back in July, fell flat when we arrived to find a sign on the door saying "exceptional closing" this Wednesday. On our second try last Wednesday, we found that since their summer break, they have changed their opening days to Thurs, Friday and Saturday only. The doorman at a nearby bar who told us this (as there was no signage on the nearly unmarked door indicating the change in hours) said it was a good place to go for drinks. So, one of these days, I'll get myself out there on a non-Wednesday to try the drinks and report back. But, notwithstanding its changing and somewhat unclear hours, it is well-placed. It's close to Rue du Dragon with some nice shopping and interesting boutiques and right around the corner from Coco & Co restaurant, which I haven't tried, but looks appealing and has had a good write up in Elle.

At a loss for where to go, we headed for the Coolin. The Coolin is one of Paris' several Irish pubs and I wasn't particularly inspired by cocktails there as we squeezed into the only empty table on the packed terrace. However, their menu offers a long page of various cocktails at around 9.50 Euros, so I was prepared to go for my usual martini. Upon ordering we were informed "no cocktails tonight!" There was a game going on, so service was abominably slow, choice was limited and the place was packed. We stayed for some wine and beer, but didn't get a chance to sample anything else.

So, even though I didn't try a cocktail at either place: I've heard enough about Le Lup that I will definitely head back there to sample. But, the Coolin doesn't offer enough cocktail-promise to get me over there just for that.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wednesday Cocktail Adventure: La Bellevilloise

La Bellevilloise
19,21 rue Boyer
75020 Paris
T. 0146360707

La Bellevilloise is a fun address - not necessarily for cocktails - but a fun address nonetheless. Originally founded as a cooperative in 1877, it offered educational and cultural opportunities to the masses until the mid-20th century. In 2005, it was reopened as an independent artistic venue (comprising 5 different spaces) with an extensive program of movies, exhibitions and other interesting activities. Their airy restaurant offers a reasonably priced menu and the terrace cafe is a sweet, secluded little find.

But we went to La Bellevilloise to experience the cocktail bar at "La Grand Prairie." During the summer months, the loft - normally used for movie screenings, shows, etc - was transformed into an outdoor space indoors. Deck chairs, free-standing hammocks and plants were strewn about the plastic-grass covered floor giving the loft a beachy/picnic feel. The temporary bar, following this ambiance, was stocked with plastic cups and a very limited supply of booze. With no vermouth and no actual glassware, I skipped my usual first order of a martini and went straight for the daily special (strawberry caipirinha) from the menu written in magic marker on the window behind the bar. Nothing was fresh, nothing was top shelf, nothing was particularly interesting about the bar offerings.

The cocktails were fine. However, at 6 - 8 Euros, I could probably find something better elsewhere. La Bellevilloise seems to be more about the funky space, than decent drinks, and probably pulls in a youngish artsy-hipster crowd. While I wouldn't go back there for a mixed drink, I'd definitely head back to check out a show or some of their other activities. Their current program which includes "A Night withQuestlove" and "Opero Aperos", piques my interest, and a non-cocktail drink on the terrace would make for a nice evening.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Wednesday Cocktail Adventure: Au Caveau Montpensier

Au Caveau Montpensier
15-17 rue de Montpensier
75001 Paris

I'm so easy. Give me a nice bartender with a cute Scottish accent, a handful of fun cocktails, and pleasant, friendly service and I'm much less critical. While not on par with a couple of craft bars in Paris, it's a damn good spot to stop for a cocktail.

Au Caveau Montpensier (affiliated with Suba tapas bar in New York) is tucked off on a bit of a side street with a clean, simple entrance. You descend a few steps into the small stone-wall room where you find one high table and a few barstools pressed up against the minimal bar. (You may have to step over a large, friendly dog while entering.) Off to the side is a larger room, with several tables and cozy cushions. On this visit and a subsequent one, I stayed at the bar, but this second room has a laid-back and comfortable feel which would make it a fun place to meet a handful of friends early in the evening for a quiet cocktail before the nighttime crowds converge there.

Upon my arrival, I asked Robert, the bartender, for a martini (specifying a good measure of vermouth.) I got Bombay Sapphire with a good splash of Nouilly Pratt shaken slowly a few times with a lemon twist. A couple of things I would have preferred: If the glass had been chilled first and if I'd been given a choice of shaken vs. stirred. (and had it either more vigorously shaken or stirred). However, Robert seemed genuinely concerned about whether or not I liked my martini & I have no doubt that had I specified these two things he would have done them.

With the arrival of Matt and Violaine, more drinks were ordered and between us, we sampled nearly all they offer on their specialty cocktail menu. And, I think this is the way to order: off the specialty menu. I had the strawberry-chili margarita, which was refreshing, not too sweet and with a good chili bite. (this reminded me a bit of the very tasty Experimental Bar's Death & Co Fresa Brava with - among other things - strawberry juice and jalapeno infused tequila) Other drinks ordered at our table included the Martini Framboise (our least favorite of the specialty cocktails), Tamarind & Cucumber (a favorite of mine, but less pleasing to the rest of the crowd who didn't like cucumber as much) & the Ginger Smash Mojito (also a favorite of the group).

Based on the bottles behind the bar, the selection of various liquors isn't huge. However, in addition, to the typical Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray, they also have Bulldog gin, which is a little more unusual for most of the bars I've been to around here.

While a few in my group were not wowed by the place (wanting either the impressive delivery of liquid nitrous inspired drinks at La Famille or the funky, loungey ambience of the Experimental), considering the location, the friendly service and the drinks, I would definitely stop back in (and did) for a very fairly priced cocktail (10 Euros) off their specialty menu.

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