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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mojito Cocktail Adventures: Bacardi Mojito Lab

Bacardi Mojito Lab
28 rue Keller
75011 PARIS
Tel : (+33) 1 75 77 23 95

Forest fact: I should probably be ashamed to admit the following, but I'm kind of fascinated by living statue buskers. I always wonder what they do at the end of a shift. Do they take the metro home in full get-up? Do they sit still as a statue on the ride? It seems that I secretly like to watch these spectacles that everyone mocks. I get a kick out of mimes. I own contact juggling balls that I will learn to use some day and wow you with my skills. So, it might not surprise you to hear that I'm also a little fascinated by flair. But that's between me and YouTube....in the privacy of my own home.

However, when it comes to cocktails, I don't need or want living statues, mimes, flair or even contact juggling balls involved, so let's chat a bit about the recently opened flair-o-rific Bacardi/Laurent Greco project: the Bacardi Mojito Lab. Allen and I popped in and found that Wednesdays are "afterworks." From 19h00 to 21h00 it's 25 Euros to get in the door, which gets you two drinks and buffet table grazing.

50 Euros lighter, in we go. Hello, circa 1980's all-inclusive spring break destination dance club! Dim lighting, acid green touches, pumping dance music...you get the picture. The buffet tables were classed up (I use that lightly) with single red roses in tall vases and scattered petals. Flair videos loop on screens from wall to wall. While, I've been told flair bartending is still quite big in France, this is the first place I've actually seen it.

The food was nice little bite-sized nibblies for a buffet, but the set up was annoying. No plates, no napkins - so you either sat directly at the buffet table to pop bites in your mouth while others reached around you to grab said bites, or you reached around the people sitting at the buffet tables. For drinks, you go downstairs.

And downstairs it's all Bacardi and all mojito, mojito or mojito, but with a bit of flair. Sexy barboys toss around shakers and take your order for one of the three mojito variations on offer during the afterworks. This is also a point of contention with me because when the doorman explained the Afterwork concept at 25 Euros, I specifically asked if it applied to the whole menu - because that's what I was here to check out. He said 'yes.' But, no - you get classic, souped up or raspberry mojito. All the other gimmicky, tricked out mojitos are only on offer after the afterworks. On the normal menu, drinks range from 8 to 14 Euros and include things like cotton candy or caviar (cocktail kind, not fish kind)

In an attempt to not be a complete crank, there were a few things I liked. The staff - though a bit spacey - were friendly. I really liked the mint wall and the mint window. I think the boutique, which sells various types of mint and kaffir limes (although not the night we were there) was a fun touch. They also have a smoking room for those who don't want to brave the cold winter months (although it was closed the night we were there.)

I'm not sure what kind of a crowd they expect to draw. They're at Bastille with so many competing (and probably cheaper) bars nearby. You can't spit without hitting a bar in Paris that serve mojitos, so I'm curious as to what they think the attraction will be. I've been told this is a popup - so perhaps they're banking on their ephemeral status for interest. They also offer classes if you want to learn to flair up a mojito at home.

As for me, the only time I want a mojito is if it's being made by old and stoic Felix at dodgy local Bar Castillo de Farnes in Havana where Che and Fidel toasted the revolution (true story - there he is in he picutre). And, he definitely doesn't do flair. Otherwise, Paris, you can keep your mojito trend and I'll stick with the martini search.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Friday Five

Because sometimes you want to hear someone besides, me, me me! Every Friday, 52martinis gets the scoop on the best cocktail stops from five in-the-know Parisians and cocktail aficionados.

Kim Laidlaw-Adrey, fab girl about town of both I Heart Paris and GoGo Paris says: My favourite place for cocktails in Paris right now is the Prescription Cocktail Club on the left bank. There's a chic yet laid-back vibe, it's an in-the-know place without being pretentious and the cocktails are expertly made and absolutely delicious. Perfect.

Gentry de Paris, tenacious, tempting and all around tantalizing burlesque queen says: I like Fabrice at La Villa because he makes the best Manhattan in town with my favorite difficult-to-find Van Winkle Rye.

Xavier Padovani, global brand ambassador for Hendrick’s and simply one of the coolest cocktail guys I know : This up and coming winter when visiting Paris one will start the night at the George V with a Hot George Punch and may probably somehow end up seeking L'Experience at Montorgueil’s best kept secret Experimental Cocktail Club.

Joseph Biolatto one of the masterminds behind the Forvm as well as one of my fav bartenders in Paris says: Mon bar préféré à Paris est le bar du Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme pour la qualité des produits sélectionnés et pour le service impeccable de Yann Daniel et de son équipe.

Doni Belau of Girls' Guide to Paris (keep an eye out for the new Girls' Guide launching in a few days!) says: One of the Girls’ Guide’s favorite places for cocktails in Paris remains L’Alimentation General on rue Jean Pierre Timbaud in the 11th arr. The bar/café sports a fabulous French blue exterior and décor reminiscent of a General Store and the crowd is of course young and hip. This wine/beer and cocktail bar serves up spectacular drinks as well as an eclectic mix of music ranging from hip-hop to jazz. No matter how great the drinks are – the atmosphere is king here. This is an excellent place to start a pub crawl as there are several more trés kool places on the same street and of course you can sneak around the corner to Oberkampf if you are in for the long haul.

A special thanks to friends and fellow cocktail enthusiasts who agreed to do the first Friday Five....because sometimes first is scary!

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday Cocktail Adventures: La Cigale

Cafe La Cigale
124, boulevard Rochechouart
Paris 75018
+33. 1 55 79 10 10

I love my neighborhood: a few steps to the left of my front door is the perpetually white Sacre Coeur and a few steps to the right lies the seedy strip of Pigalle. While this juxtaposition sates my craving for both typically touristy Paris as well a bit of city-underbelly, it's not the finest area for cocktailing. So, I was looking forward to trying the nearby and relatively new Café Cigale with Kim of I Heart Paris and usual Wednesday company, Matt, Vio & Mel.

I was curious to see how formidable Paris names such as Starck and Costes would handle this NoPi venture. (still not sure I'm on board with the trend of NY-style naming of Parisian neighborhoods, but anyway....) This self-proclaimed rock pub is flanked by music venue la Cigale and the lively and well-established cafe, La Fourmi.

I didn't immediately warm to the space. The high ceilings made it feel empty, the post-industrial decor made it feel cold, the chalked-up walls made it feel wannabe-edgy and the hard wooden chairs made it feel uncomfortable. I am, however, a sucker for the dining nooks along the wall, which were a warm respite in an otherwise, hard and cool environment.

Café Cigale is unwilling to stray off menu for drinks, leaving clients with a choice of 13 or so mainly vodka based house creations at 10 to 12 Euros each. Without my option of the usual martini, I took one of two gin-based drinks on offer, the Mr (rum, raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants and ginger ale.) While I can see how it would appeal to a certain crowd, it lacked the finesse of a finely tuned cocktail. These drinks will appeal to a crowd that likes their mixed drinks fruit forward and spirit subtle (and if that's your stick - and I won't hold it against you if it is- go give 'em a sip) Mel had an Amour (vodka, ginger, apple juice and red fruits) which came with the shaker alongside for top ups.

They seem to excel at those little touches meant to impress. I followed my Mr with a rum and coke which was delivered 'deconstructed' with the coke in a pretty glass pitcher. Amongst us we only tried a few of the cocktails and agreed that they were only impressive in terms of size and strength by Paris standards. Spirits seems to be limited with 1 - 3 choices in each category (e.g. Gordon's and Tanqueray Gin) No one ventured the eponymous Cigale with energy drink as one of the ingredients. (energy drink cocktail….sigh....)

One sure thing they have going on is the large terrace. Maybe the best way to enjoy this space is to hit it in sunny weather for a beer and a bite from their small but nice-looking brunch, light snack or full course menu.

We, on the other hand, decided to move on to SoPi for beer and wine consumption at the nearby Sans Souci where a heaving mass of regulars spills out onto the streets and doesn’t bother with cocktails at this neighborhood bar lacking airs and pretention. And, that’s basically the type of bar that I find works in my neighborhood: laid-back locals. Yet I won’t give up the search for excellent cocktails on my doorstep!

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ephemeral Cocktail Adventures: Cointreau Prive

Popup bar at Hotel Particulier
23 avenue Junot
75018 Paris

Earlier this week I received a small sleek black envelope in the mail containing a bracelet of delicately thin purple ribbon with a simple silver key - the 'key' to the ephemeral Cointreau Prive, hosted for the next month or so in the lovely Hotel Particulier. Cointreau made a savvy marketing move in creating a Dita Von Teese buzz around the latest 'exclusive' Paris popup bar. In addition to having the bracelet, clients must also be on the guest list to enter.

Jodie, Justine and I stopped in on the first evening of this fleeting bar to check out the vibe and drinks. While I'm sure they'll work out the kinks, the opening night was a tad disorganized. They opened later than the stated time and staff seemed to be a bit confused. However, I was very happy to see some solid manpower behind the bar with Maxime from Forum mixing drinks from the menu of 8 choices. (Singapore sling, side car, storck club, sweet manhatten and four cointreau inspired drinks). With no vermouth on hand for a martini, I went for a sweet manhatten and the girls tried a Singapore Sling and a Cointreau Prive (vodka, cointreau, ginger beer and chambord). Cocktails were well-made, but Maxime is working with a limited stock. Drinks range from 10 to 12 Euros.

The later it got, the busier it got, so we decided perhaps a bottle of bubbly was the way to go to avoid lines and waiting. Piper by the bottle can be had for an even 100 Euros (16 Euros by the glass). A tapas menu offers munchies at 5 to 10 Euros.

The decor is predictably bordellogant (that is my new term for bordello-elegant) but I love the fact that it's spread over three floors with lots of naughty little nooks and crannies. Curtains, plush chairs and sofas and sexy lamps all vie for space in this very red environment. Even the bathrooms weren't spared in the attempt at creating seating, mingling and sipping space, with a makeshift seat over one of the bathtubs.

The bar is open for the next couple of months. All reservations are currently taken, but they will periodically open up spaces over the next few weeks. For those of you not already booked in for an evening, I'll try and announce on either my Twitter or FB feed when new dates open.

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