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Thursday, June 17, 2010

First Customer Cocktail Adventures: Wildrik

20 rue de Picardie
75003 Paris

I hold more stock in being right than being first. Even so, I was (unintentionally) the very first costumer to hit Minibar, the newly opened venture from Bakhtiar/España duo who both already have several well-known night spots under their belts. I was later joined by Matt, Vio and Alannah.

The (as of yet?) unmarked entrance was easy to miss and the smell of fresh paint still lingered in the air of this industrial chic little space. Shiny silver animal cages serve as tables, artsy metal lamps provide ambient light, and interestingly off beat touches adorn the walls (horns, suit jackets, a framed collage of actual toy cars...) In the small seating area with high ceilings, each wall is painted a different rich color.

The friendly staff informed me that they couldn't do a dry martini because they hadn't yet received their dry vermouth. Minibar offers "classic cocktails" and a selection of house creations. Prices range from 10 to 15 Euros, with 12 Euros the most common. I ran through the fruit, sweet and vodka heavy list and settled on a Black Label Sour (Black Label, egg white, grapefruit juice, Angostura and lime juice.) The drink arrived with a tiny leaf full of piment d'Espelette, the addition of which upped the interest factor for me.

Violaine had the Best Mojito - a bartender's creation that was voted best mojito (by whom I didn't ask). I found it heavy on vanilla and she found it too sweet. Alannah had a Bourbon New Fashioned which masked the bourbon (in this case Jack Daniels) with heavy red fruits. A Tomato Blitz (tequila, cherry tomatoes, passionfruit juice and peppercorns) was the only other option that didn't seem like it would be too sweet, so I gave it a try and found it my preferred drink of the evening.

Basically, this is a menu that will satisfy a certain portion of the drinking public. Pleasing presentation with 'exotic' fruit garnishes and easily quaffable drinks that tend to taste more pretty than high-proof will pull in patrons who like their drink to look nice but not necessarily pack a potent punch. I do like that some of them featured the piment d'Espelette, giving a kick as well as a French touch. I think they could easily drop the prices by a few Euros, considering I can find bars in the same range with a more serious selection of ingredients and more interesting cocktails.

As a side note: while they didn't have any dry vermouth, they did have Dolce & Gabbana Martini Gold. Cointreau may have Dita, but Martini has hottie Monica Bellucci to push the newest addition to their collection, which seems to target a more (wanna be perceived as?) lux market.

And, there definitely seems to be a market. Soon, the comfy cowhide covered stools and love seats spilled over with chatty patrons. Lots of low-riding designer jeans exposed boxer briefs and a tight white tanks hugged well-toned arms. As the crowd grew, so did the noise level. This is a space that amplifies the din, so don't head here for a quiet conversation during the busy hours.

Overall, my initial reaction upon entering was smitten. After settling in, I realized it wasn't really working it on a cocktail level for my personal tastes. But, I think they will garner a loyal crowd of locals looking for this particular brand of nightlife - especially if they drop the prices slightly or institute a happy hour. So, am I right on this one? Hard to say. First impressions can be deceiving.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday Cocktail Adventures: E7

Hotel Edouard
39, av de l’Opéra
75002 PARIS
Tél: +33 (0)1 42 61 56 90

I'm behind in my blogging. And, I didn't even know where to begin again until someone asked me for bandaid. Looking through my handbag in search of one, I noticed what a mess it was & decided to clean it out right then. I dumped its contents and surveyed the result. Those of you who know me well will, of course, think it was full lots of practical, useful things like hand sanitizer, chap stick, dental floss and little packets of tissues, right? (Ha. ha.) No. It was my phone, an (empty) wallet, breath mints and....a handful of business cards from bars, a few dozen cards from various wine & spirits industry folks, a couple of invitations to drink & cocktails thingies, an envelope stuffed with postcards featuring recipes for limited edition Beefeater Summer gin and a stack of napkins covered with notes about drinking. Yes, people, that boozey bag debris tells you WHY I'm behind. Sometimes my social life gets in the way of blogging about... my social life!

One of aforementioned cards belonged to Régis Célabe, head barman at the E7 bar in the Hotel Edouard which I visited a few weeks back. With well-respected Sandrine Houdré-Grégoire (formerly of Murano) at the helm as Beverage Manager, the E7 has been on my list of spots to try for awhile. I liked Régis. He seems an amiable guy who not only knows what he's doing but enjoys being behind the bar. I wouldn't want to let my positive personal feelings about someone color my review. Fortunately I need not worry about having to knock the friendly Mr Célabe or his smooth running bar in this somewhat quiet and stylishly modern hotel where cocktails ring in at around 18 Euros.

That evening's bartender, Nicolas, stirred me a lovely Geranium/NP martini with a twist, which was served with barsnacks of nut and jellied candies. This may be the first Paris bar I've seen that stocks Geranium. Matt and Violaine arrived and ordered a first round of...something that unfortunately I can't remember. And, see, dear readers, this is why you should get your blog posts done in a timely manner. For the second round Nicolas mixed up a few surprises. I got a simple but sexy looking ginger-infused vodka, St Germain, lemon juice & tonic garnished with sparkly gold flakes and a hefty ice stick. While we know it's not usually my first choice in spirits, I'll take your wrath on this one, vodka-haters, and fully own up to enjoying Nicolas' twinkly cocktail. Violaine also got a vodka based concoction that involved lemongrass and ginger liqueur, bean & rose mousse and some form of green peas.

The place was rather empty save a few older anglophone tourists. Régis tells me that they have monthly 'after works' which would bump up the interest level for drinks at this price. Régis brought out a bottle of their Licit absinthe to offer a taste. On a side (but potentially interesting) note, he'll be mixing up special cocktails with this Absinthe at the next Blablabla & Co's "Cook Me Drink Me" I would definitely hit this event if I were in town - so if you're interested in cool people and fun drinks, check them out.

In short the E7 is putting admirable thought into their drinks and making sure the bar is stocked with some interesting product. And, apologies again for my lag time and lack of detail. But you can blame some of it on the following friends and folks who kept me busy over the last few weeks: Cocktails Spirits, Paris by Mouth, La Cuisine de Paris & GVine. I can enthusiastically plug all of them without feeling like a sellout because if you like yummy consumables and don't already know who they are, you are missing out!

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