Wednesday Cocktail Adventure: le Secret
16 avenue de Friedland
I think Aveze tastes a bit like dirty grass (in a good way). Now, I'm not a professional bartender - rather a professional customer - and I'm feeling pretty carefree today, so I'm going to let myself slide with that personal but not entirely accurate description.
But, if you were a professional bartender and I showed up on the other side of the counter with a bottle of Aveze and asked you to help me figure out how to serve it a half hour from now to people who might not like the bitter taste of this atypical french aperitif, what would you do? Well, if you were Greg at Le Secret, you'd take the bottle, taste it, test it and try and come up with something tasty. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Last night I stopped by this relatively new bar just off the Champs Elysees. As some of you know, this is not my preferred part of the city. But, this little find might motivate me to get there more often. I enjoyed le Magnifique, so I didn't really doubt I was going to find things that pleased at another of Olivier Demarle's establishments.
This cozy, intimate and discreet bar is staffed by knowledgeable and friendly servers who deliver excellent service without some of the off-putting obsequiousness I sometimes find in this overpriced area of Paris. Lights and music are dim and additional tables are nestled into the second floor loft above the bar. The sophisticated loungey decor and ambiance makes it feel like a bar for interesting & mysterious, cocktail drinking adults.
A row of several bottled bitters stood at attention as I ordered a martini made with Beefeater 24. Some of my friends aren't very enthusiastic about Beefeater's latest product, but I'm finding myself kind of liking it. Greg made up a proper martini in a chilled glass with a twist and served it to me alongside a bowl of nice potato chips.
I have a tendency to get overly enthusiastic about places I really like, so I am going to point out one small flaw with my martini: I think it might have been stirred too long or too vigorously. There were (just a few) very tiny ice chips in it & it was not hot at all. At 45%abv, Beefeater 24 is approaching Tanquery 10 or Bombay Sapphire strength, which is sometimes too hot for my taste. But, I do like a little kick, and I didn't get the strength I was expecting out of this martini. The vermouth was minimal, so I assume there was a lot of dilution from the ice going on here. That criticism aside, having watched him make several other drinks & interact with customers, I think Greg's outstanding bar skills make this a place worthy of a visit (or several.)
Matt was thrilled with his side car & Violaine took one of the house creations that was also winner. We tried Matt's pretty much perfect old fashioned. I ordered a 7 sins sour (the only drink on the menu that lists its ingredients only as 'le secret') was intriguingly delicious. If asked nicely, Greg will probably tell you what goes into this tasty combo.
The prices - a bit on the steep side - range from 14 - 16 Euros for a cocktail and drinks are categorized as Feminine, Masculine and Plurals - each with about 7 or so cocktails. The girls must drink more vodka because the majority of their drinks were made with it. The boys get a more interesting selection of drinks based on aperol, rye, jack daniels & gin. The third category was a good mix and is where my 7 sins sour fell.
Yes, Greg knows his stuff & is personable as well. I can only assume the rest of the staff members - having come from some nice Paris cocktail destinations in their own right - are on par with Greg. In short: this bar is making some fine cocktails! And, while we all know I've got a cocktail crush on the ECC boys, it's really nice to see someone else in town involved in some worthy pursuits. I was also very interested in the food menu which includes some basic but appealing bar comfort food like club sandwiches, cheeseburgers and nems at around 18 to 20 Euros.
When I was leaving to go to some friends' for dinner, I asked Greg what he suggested for the Aveze. He made up a couple of fun cocktails that worked with it. Unfortunately, I didn't have all the ingredients on hand to recreate them once at their place, so we all drank our "dirty grass"aperos with a bit of soda...and fortunately there was champagne on hand for those who needed a chaser.