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Saturday, December 18, 2010

St Germain Cocktail Adventures

Popup St Germain Cocktail Corner at LMDW Fine Spirits

6 carrefour de l'Odeon

75006 Paris

Tel: 01 46 34 70 20

I've mentioned before that one of the fun parts of writing a cocktail blog is meeting other interesting cocktail-minded people when they pass through Paris. Another upside is getting to take part in various cocktail related events. Earlier this month I made a stop into La Maison du Whiskey's new boutique (LMDW Fine Spirits) for the Women’s Spirit Society St Germain tasting.

I'm admittedly a bit reserved when it comes to brand sponsored events and bars. But, if I like the brand, I'm more than happy to get on board. And, I do like St Germain. Although it's made in France (from hand-picked elderflower blossoms), when it hit the scene and became a bit of a darling in the cocktail world, it was nearly impossible to find here. I'm happy to see it being featured in Paris now - as are my friends in the U.S. who no longer have to lug bottles over for me.

The nice people of LMDW and St Germain made it an enjoyable evening with munchies, an informative tasting and the "St Germain Cocktail Corner" upstairs. I was happy to see Carina (formerly of the Experimental Cocktail Club) behind the bar and even happier after she mixed me up a delicious Amaro Sour. Towards the end of the evening, her fellow barman, Stan, impressed with a fire-y display of St Germain Blazers.

Sounds fun, no? Well, you don’t have to write a cocktail blog to try these tasty concoctions. During December the Cocktail Corner has been open to the public on Thursday and Friday evenings. I passed by last night and had a Traditional Elderfashion (St Germain, Elijah Craig 12 year Bourbon, bitters).

So, stop into the store, ogle the many pretty bottles lining the shelves on the main floor and then head upstairs to the pop-up bar. But, time’s running out. The Cocktail Corner is only open one more night: 23 December from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. So make a point to pass through and try one of those yummy Amaro sours or the featured drink of the night the Sake Blossom.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Wednesday Cocktail Adventures: le Pompon

Le Pompon
39 Rue des Petites Ecuries
Paris 75010
Tel: 01 53 34 60 85

I'd heard rumors about reputable bar and design talent either potentially, marginally, temporarily or fully involved in le Pompon for some time before its opening a few months ago. So, I was looking forward to checking up on it with Matt, Vio and Kim.

When we arrived at this up and coming newbie in the 10th, it was quickly filling up with a motley after-work crowd. Kim noted that it's a nightspot which can easily draw a varied customer base. I agree and like that aspect. But, perhaps they're drawing crowds too successfully as it took quite a bit of time to actually place a drink order while standing directly at the bar.

Your first impression of le Pompon is the relatively spacious main room, packed with lively tables of patrons, large windows, high wooden walls and impressive chandeliers: cosy and updated pub-chic.

When I finally got a chance to order, I asked for a dry gin martini (not on the menu). When the barman grabbed a bottle of sweet vermouth from the shelf, I prepared to address the usual French martini dilemma (i.e. I wanted a dry gin martini not a glass of Martini sweet vermouth.) But, he explained that he knew what I wanted, but they were out of dry vermouth so he was using sweet instead.

I'm laughing to myself in an 'are you kidding?' kind of way. It's basically a case of "We don't really have what you want, but we're just going to make what we feel like and give it to you anyway." I got a highball of gin and sweet vermouth with a straw. Mine wasn't the only adlib-recipe. I'm still working on my backlog of bars for which I lost photos and notes, but if I remember correctly, Kim ordered something without tonic that arrived blatantly boasting tonic. I believe this lack of attention to detail will set you back about 10 Euros a drink. The barman did show follow-through in coming over to ask how I liked my drink and was sincerely curious and non-defensive when I explained how I would have done it differently.

After our first round, we went for a quick peak at the lower level before leaving. Slipping through the somewhat discreet door at the foot of the stairs, provides a completely different level of ambiance where a small bar oversees a dim dance floor with DJ. I love the juxtaposition of these two rooms and wish Paris would offer up more varied venues like this. Happy with this discovery, we settled in for an impromptu second round. In the basement, drink options are limited to a handful of spirits and mixers for basic well drinks. I had a rum and coke. No comment.

Overall, the place is fun, nicely designed and promises to be a sure-thing address for a majority of both the after-work and night-crawling crowd. While not every bar in town is obligated to make a decent martini, that's my thing. So even if I really like the space, I gotta call them out on their cocktails. With the vague rumors I continue to hear about behind the scene decisions here, I believe it will take a little time before le Pompon works out the drink kinks and hits full stride as either a place serving really good cocktails or your basic beer and well drinks. In the meantime, they're worth a visit for a pint and some good music.

PHOTO NOTE: I finally replaced my camera, so this is my second to last post without my usual photos. Kim gets credit for those on today's post and you can check out even more on her Pompon post at I Heart Paris.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Starck-y Cocktail Adventures: Royal Monceau

Royal Monceau
37 Avenue Hoche
75008 Paris
01 42 99 88 00

Wedding syndrome: Unrealistically high expectations unattainable in reality. Only One day. Only one chance. Everything. Must. Be. Perfect. I was recently in London for a wedding where the bride suffered none of that and as a result it was one of the most enjoyable and lovely weddings I've attended. However, I think I personally may have experienced a bit of wedding syndrome on one of my latest bar visits.

I'd been hearing über-buzz about the prestigious Royal Monceau bar since long before its Starckified recent reopening. With all the hype, perhaps I was expecting too much: cocktails made from joyful unicorn tears of gin that would transport me to faraway places on cotton candy clouds. But what I got instead was simply really well made cocktails.

The over-all hotel revamping has been met with both positive and negative criticism. For such an enormous redesign undertaking, Matt and I found the bar to be surprisingly understated. I dig the long, glowing counter and the pretty multi-colored glass displays. The space feels open and airy without sacrificing a warm and welcoming ambience.

Highly competent Greg, formerly of le Secret, manages the tight bar team and knocks out some damn fine drinks. I had a Beefeater 24 martini, which was excellent and Matt had a Sidecar, which in our opinion was the best Sidecar we've had anywhere, ever. Drinks were accompanied by bar snacks of classed up breadsticks and nuts or olives. (I can't remember which one)

Spirit selection is impressive and the prices - at around 20 Euros a drink - are entirely reasonable for a hotel of this caliber. However, I was slightly less impressed with our second round of drinks, which were house creations. Unfortunately, I am very behind on my blog posts, so I can't remember which ones we took - I only remember not being as wowed by them as I'd hoped. So, excellent marks for the classics and I’m staying open minded about the house concoctions.

The unfortunate reason for my slowness and lack of notes is that I lost my camera at the wedding in London. So, I'm working from my brain only without drink and menu pictures as back up. I pilfered the pics for this post off Adrian and you can read his review of the bar here. You’ll also find some picture on this site.

Overall, I'm happy with the price, quality, selection and service at the RM bar. I think any kinks I might have experienced are teething pains and that Greg & Co will do an outstanding job of it. And, I will happily go back to make sure.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Soviet Cocktail Adventures: le Molotov

4 rue du Port Mahon
75002 Paris
Tel.: 01 73 70 98 46

Russian sounds irresistibly sexy to me. I've always been fascinated by the language and its unfamiliar alphabet. I took a Russian class once, but never got much further than learning the meaning of babushka. Contrary to its appealing sound, I discovered it's not necessarily a word I want whispered in my ear. Many years ago, we went to St Petersburg for our annual NYE trip and stopped into Zov Ilicha, a Soviet-themed bar/resto jam-packed with Lenin busts, quasi-porn, and wait staff in scanty communist era inspired uniforms. I'm American and I'm old enough to remember the whole 'Tear Down the Wall' business. But even though I recall it, I'm young enough that at the time I wasn't totally clued in and found it all vaguely frightening, appealing, exciting and confusing. So I begrudgingly own up to my fascination with CCCP kitsch at various points in my life. But, as a theme, it's a bit passé now, no?

This week, Kim, Heather and I decided to lift the fanciful iron curtain that separates the recently opened le Molotov from modern day Paris and find out. Beyond the barely marked entrance and blacked-out windows, lies a small, dark and somewhat claustrophobic bar space decked out in typical retro-Ruskie decor. A steep, skinny, candlelit staircase in the corner leads to a small restaurant area where 'clandestine' law breakers are smoking in public spaces.

A Communist theme is reflected in menu procurement as well. I believe there is only one in the whole building and we had to wait for the restaurant to finish with it first. When it came, I realized why our upstairs comrades may have taken so long with it. Incredibly dim lighting combined with a handwritten (in cursive) menu in fine ballpoint pin on grid paper takes a while to see clearly. From what I could decipher, various vodka based drinks are on offer.

I tried - unsuccessfully - for a martini and ended up with a ginger, basil, vodka combo. Kim & Heather ordered white and black Russians. By then I had given up on any serious cocktail recon and I don't even ask what kind of vodka was in my mediocre mixture. Kim's white Russian, was basically undrinkable. I'm not a white Russian fan myself, but even so, I can tell on tasting one if it's decent or not. This tasted like powdered milk mixed with water and cheap coffee liqueur. (even though the bottle's on the shelf, I really don't think they're using Kahlua)

We decided to call it good after that round and asked for the bill. For drinks and service of this quality we were shocked to pay 15 Euros each.

It's no secret that I'm not averse to divey bars or sketchily run places and kind of get a certain kick out of them. But, I AM averse to paying cocktail prices way beyond what the experience merits. While the sneaky smoking area might pull in a certain clientele, the cocktails here will not. I can see it drawing a crowd of ironic hipster wanna-be's and patrons who are impressed enough by a change of pace from the common Parisian bar decor to be fooled into thinking it's something more than it is. But, for me, I'd rather have the Zov Ilicha in Russia. At least they had naughty pictures on the wall for entertainment!

(NOTE: I'm having camera issues, so recent post pics will be a bit off and on. The 1st picture used here of Molotov was on both Cityvox and Do it in Paris, so I'm not sure where to credit. And, the 2nd picture us at Zov Ilicha in St Petersburg)

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