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Friday, October 30, 2009

Quickie: Doudingue

24, Rue Durantin
75018 Paris
Tel : 01 42 54 88 08

Well, you can’t find the good spots without hitting a few downers. Recently, before heading to dinner with a couple of friends at Table d’Eugene (which I recommend!), we stopped into Doudingue for a pre-dinner drink. My friend had suggested the place and after a quick peek on the internet, I thought that it looked promising.

Their cocktail menu is divided into ‘martinis’ and classics (with the usual Paris fare) all at 9 Euros each. I ordered the Dean Martini (gin & vermouth – so pretty much a martini). My Gordon’s and Martini Dry (including a plastic straw and lime garnish) sat for too long on the bar while they attended to other things and then made my friend’s cocktail.

Neither of our cocktails tickled our fancy, so I won’t be heading back here for further “research”. But, I guess that’s to be expected from a bar pushing vodka and Red Bull at 13 Euros as one of their specialties.

The décor is laid back boho and it’s situated in a lively area of Montmartre. Perhaps it’s a better stop for a glass of wine or a coffee. But, as far as the cocktails go, empty promises.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mini-Shout Out: La Lucha Libre

La Lucha Libre
10 Rue de la montagne Sainte Geneviève
75005 Paris
Tel: 01 43 29 59 86

Sometimes in the course of my non-Wednesday life, I do visit new bars, and for various reasons, I know I won't return for an official Wednesday Cocktail Adventure. But, that doesn't mean all good, bad & ugly of 'em don't deserve a little mention on 52 Martinis. And, so we have the case of La Lucha Libre. This unusual night spot has been on my radar for awhile, but I just never got around to it. I got an additional nudge to try it by Paris food blogger, Adrian, via egullet.

Melanie and I stopped into the festively colorful La Lucha Libre a few weeks back on the hunt for some tastily-bad-for-you bar food and margaritas. The 8 - 10 Euros cocktail menu features about 20 choices - including 'bling bling' cocktails and an assortment of flavoured mojitos. I opted for a margarita and Melanie had the Kunilingus (yeah, I know, I rolled my eyes at the name of this fruity vodka concoction, too. But it was much more amusing to me when some guy offered to buy Melanie another drink & asked her what she was having). Our 17 Euros assorted tapas platter came bearing jalapeno poppers, chicken wings and various other deep fried tasties. And, the guys running the show here are extremely friendly.

While not bad, neither the drinks nor the food would get me across town for an official cocktail trial. But, as far as bars go, these guys have something going on that you won't find anywhere else in Paris. La Lucha Libre hosts nightly wrestling matches downstairs (televised in the upstairs bar) and their fun kitschy decor reflects this theme. Normally wrestling wouldn't get me across town, either. But, seriously, the hard-core fun of the "open to all" Thursday nights where combatants face off wearing giant padded sumo suits is worth at least one visit. Think about it: where else could you go that - no matter how many potent margaritas you knock back - you can still be fairly certain that someone else is going to do something sillier than you. (unless, of course, you decide to don the fat suit yourself and try your luck in the ring!)

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Random Cocktal Adventure: the Bottle Shop

The Bottle Shop

5, Rue Trousseau
75011 Paris
Tel: 01 43 14 28 04

I'm eating take-out Chinese for lunch right now. Take out Chinese is definitely not my favorite lunch, but occasionally it fits the bill: convenient, quick, cheap & filling. So while I wouldn't recommend this place to my culinarily-demanding foodie friends as a must-stop destination, sometimes it's exactly what I need at the moment. Which brings me to my blog (a bit of a reach, but I'm getting there...)

Some 52 Martinis readers have been sending mails asking why I don't hold a higher opinion of their favorite bars. And, here's the skinny: 52 martinis is about cocktail bars in Paris. Even if I don't rate the cocktails highly doesn't necessarily mean I don't like the bar, the bar staff or the clientele. I try to keep it positive and note if there are other aspects of the bar that would draw in friendly folks. As a result, I'm sometimes hesitant to rate popular and long-standing drinkeries like the Bottle Shop because I'll likely get a few more disappointed emails. So, let's try some preventative spin here: While I wouldn't send my cocktailian friends to the Bottle Shop for drinks, sometimes it, too, fits the bill.

A few weeks ago, I made my first visit to this lively little place. But, I'm very familiar with Stolly's & the Lizard Lounge, which along with the Bottle Shop form the CheapBLONDE trinity – a veritable Paris ex-pat institution. I've had many fun nights at these two busy spots filled with Anglos and Anglo-friendly clientele. All three have cracking personalities and a fair number of drinks on offer. The staff is lively and friendly & I'm a big fan of the club sandwich at the Lizard Lounge for a chilled out Saturday afternoon bar-food lunch.

At the Bottle Shop, I ordered a martini from the cute and friendly barman, Joe. He mentioned that he liked his martinis with a few drops of bitters in them. I, too, like this. "Do you have bitters?" I asked. "This is a serious bar!" he replied. (Ah, Joe, you had me at 'bitters') So, I ordered Wendy and myself each a martini and had him throw in a couple drops of Angostura. The finished product was two very pink martinis as a result of a bit more bitters action than I would have used myself. But, in general, they were decent martinis, in cold glasses, served with a smile. Cocktails go for 7 to 8 Euros, with a 4.80 Euros happy hour running from 17h00 to 20h00.

These boys are good fun behind the bar. They chill up the glasses with a bit of ice and build some decent drinks. Overall, I consider places like the Bottle Shop to be part of my “Category I” of cocktail bars. These are bars where you will leave neither overly impressed nor depressed by the drinks. While the menu doesn't feature anything truly inspired, I'm always pleasantly surprised to find mixed drinks that are above Parisian standards. I wouldn't make a special trip to tipple here. But, on the other hand I wouldn't be averse to stopping in for a drink with a good portion of fun on the side. In fact, the evening Wendy, Nicky & I were there, we stopped back in to cause some more mayhem after our dinner at a nearby restaurant.

So, just as Chinese take out's not my favorite haut gastronomy experience, sometimes for other reasons, it hits the mark. So, it is with the Bottle Shop.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Random Cocktail Adventures: Hotel Particulier Part II

Le Tres Particulier at Hôtel Particulier Montmartre

23, avenue Junot
75018 Paris

Tel. : 00 33 1 53 41 81 40

Round Two...onto more upbeat feedback. Go Team! Stay Positive! On our second night in a row at le Tres Particulier, Laure cordially re-welcomed us and personally introduced us to David, the resident cocktail artist. (note to readers: Please read the word "artist" in your head with a French accent, as it sounds funnier to me that way. If you can't mentally do a French accent, just fake it - no one's really listening)

On this visit things were looking up. I was still entirely smitten with the serene outdoor setting, which transports patrons from the usual Parisian chaos to something more refined, quiet and remote. They were debuting their recently revamped regular menu and it showed promise with a slew of potentially interesting cocktails. Guests can choose from several house creations or various well-known and classic cocktails. (although I've personally never heard of a Between the Sheets variation that swaps the brandy for gin - the rum, yes - but anyway, I'm trying not to veer from my path of Positivity today)

I took my usual Martini, which was made with Hendrick's and - as can be seen from the cloudy appearance in the photo - was shaken, not stirred. David gave me the choice of garnish: olives or capers, which Wendy thought was a fun alternative. But, I took the olives. However, my martini was good and I believe she enjoyed her drink as well.

We chatted with David about his background in cocktails. David's an artist and, prior to working here, had been out of the cocktail scene for 7 or so years. Previously, he worked behind the bar at various San Francisco and New York establishments. He's clearly no cocktail dummy, but those who are seeking friends in the sometimes insular international cocktail club scene, will find that he's a bit of a lone maverick. While he has kind words to say about places like the Experimental, he's clear that he's "not trying to do the same thing they are." He also mixed us up a sample drink to share, which was kind of him & refreshing.

While I took exception to a few points here (shaking versus stirring, recipes unfamiliar to me), it is clear that he takes his role behind the bar seriously. He's capable of making good drinks - I might even go so far as to say exceptional for Paris. I'm absolutely in love with the outdoor terrace set up and would go back again for that bit of quiet, hidden charm alone. As long as I'm not paying for enamel stripping drinks here, I can remain positive about this sweet 'secret' bar.

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Random Cocktail Adventures: Hotel Particulier Part I

Le Tres Particulier at Hôtel Particulier Montmartre

23, avenue Junot
75018 Paris

Tel. : 00 33 1 53 41 81 40

Here's a little secret about me. I can hold a grudge like no body's business. No need to tell me - I know this is a really immature quality and as I get older I try and work on that. But, due to this little personality trait, I almost didn't go back to the Hotel Particulier a second time.

The private bar at Hotel Particulier is closed on Wednesdays, so I took advantage of a Friday night during Wendy's recent visit to Paris to partake in what I'd heard was a beautiful terrace on which spectacular drinks were to be enjoyed. Do note: reservations are required in order to score a spot in this idyllic little hide-away on the quiet backside of Montmartre.

After finding the basically unmarked entry gate, patrons meander down a cobble path - and possibly (like us) unintentionally wander into the neighboring yard before being redirected to the Hotel Particulier. Having been buzzed through the second gate, a graciously unctuous overseer Laure, ushers clients to their private tables at the charming - and, yes, idyllic - open air bar.

So far, so good. Now, let's get down to business: the cocktails! Well, that took about 3 seconds. The menu featured a measly three house creations (one vodka based, one rum based, one gin based). When I asked the quixotically quirky waitress/bartender if she could make a dry martini, she enthusiastically answered "Yes! If you tell me what's in it!" Was I particularly edgy this evening? I don't know, but at this point, I found the enthusiasm more grating than appreciated and offered to just stick with the menu. She agreed that would be better. Wendy and I remarked that we had come specifically for what we understood was a long list of cocktails on offer. She explained that the usual bartender was unusually away for the evening so he had entrusted her with three recipes and strict instructions to follow them precisely.

Now, cocktails, at 15 Euros, aren't cheap here - but I was willing to forgive that for the dreamy space. And, interestingly, after the first round, prices drop to 10 Euros a drink (which I think is a bargain for a good cocktail here.) And here's where it got dicey. Not only were we not in the market for a second drink, but we weren't even able to finish our first ones. I took a Captain Hook (cognac, rum, cassis & lemon juice) and Wendy took an Eva (gin, lemon & rose liqueur). She got maybe halfway through hers and I - being more of a glutton for punishment...or booze - got about two-thirds through it. They were both so over-acidic that our teeth were screeching. When two clients - especially two who are clearly interested in cocktails - leave their 15 Euros drinks unfinished and get up to go, I think that sends a sign to the bar staff. A sign that it's a good time to ask if the drinks are okay, which didn't happen. We both felt a bit cheated that the usual "cocktail artist" was not in residence, yet we were still expected to pay the usual prices.

Someone told me recently that it's wrong to complain about things after the fact, when you could have said something directly at the moment. And, I think that's right. I (nicely) replied to Laure's question about our visit with the truth: that we were particularly disappointed with the cocktails since we had come on that reputation alone. She apologized and explained that she had recommended that the faux-barlady stick with beer and wine. (yet, no one recommended this to us). She offered to comp us a round of drinks on our next visit. (the next visit, not the current one...sneakily good business practice, a bit annoying for us.)

We left, disappointed and 30 Euros lighter. After a brief discussion, however, we decided to take her up on that offer. We had asked to see the normal cocktail menu and were curious and impressed by the possibilities. We immediately called our friend Laure and made reservations for the next night - which I'll try and post on quickly because things did get better.

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