Napoleonic post-Egyptian Cocktail Adventures: Shangri La
10 Avenue d'Iéna
75116 Paris, France
01 53 67 19 98
I know can be demanding. And, I can be especially demanding when it comes to high end hotel bars with their promises of perfection and accompanying pumped up prices. Expensive doesn’t always mean better – but I do like to indulge in a bit of lux from time to time. So, I’m always up for a taste test at the latest of swank spots.
Opening its doors early this year, the Shangri La is the most recent of highly anticipated hotel revamps to hit Paris. I stopped in with Wednesday usuals, Matt, Vio and Mel to see if the cocktails live up to the buzz. We began the evening in one of the relaxed front lounges of calm sophistication where artfully mismatched furniture arrangements lure couples and confidents into whispered conversation.
The lengthy menu includes house creations and classics for shorts, longs and champagne cocktails. Classics include Horse’s Neck, Bellini and Bloody Mary. An “Asian Touch” section proposes drinks with coriander, wasabi, ginger or soy sauce. The martini selection – while not including a classic dry – suggests libations like the Garden Martini (Gin, Scallion and Roquefort). But the headliner is the glamorous Pink Lady and her variations.
The Pink Lady, created in 1932 and named after song from a Broadway play popular at the time, was purportedly inspired by Lady Mendl, avant garde actress, socialite and former resident of the Shangri La property back when it was the home of Prince Roland, Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew. If you’re unfamiliar with this cocktail, watch one of my classy cocktail cohorts the Pink Lady herself, Kirsten Amann of LUPEC Boston, shake one up.
Back to the lounge….while discretely attentive staff replenished bowls of olives, and seasoned nuts, we sipped our first round: Dry Martini, Exotic (a Pink Lady variation), Red Flag, and a mojito. In this area, you don’t see drink preparation, but we were all satisfied with our cocktails. My martini seemed to have been stirred. My only (personal) issue was that I thought it was made with Bombay Sapphire which wouldn’t have been my first choice of gin from their selection of Plymouth, Hendricks, Tanqueray Ten, Brokers, Hayman’s Sloe and Hayman’s Old Tom.
Mel and I stayed on for a second round and made our way through the delightfully fragrant lobby (where a signature scent is pumped into the air) to Le Bar in back where we could watch the cocktail work from a closer perspective. The bar decor diverges from that in the front lounges to what I would describe as Ralph Lauren does British colonial. But I guess I would be mistaken, as the press packet calls it Napoleonic post-Egyptian.
Mel asked the affable bar manager for suggestions and his drinks of choice were whiskey and Coke or Campari and soda. With a bit more pressing we got a vodka/pear based suggestion out of him, which turned out to be really enjoyable and much more interesting than I had expected.
The Pink Lady is listed on their menu with Plymouth, but when I ordered, he asked “With Bombay Sapphire?” From a cocktail perspective this seemingly random ingredient swap gives me pause. However, I believe this is indicative of 5 star service. I had previously asked if there was Bombay Sapphire in my martini. My hunch is that - based on my recognition of the brand - the staff assumed it was my preference. As high end hotel staff should, they were anticipating needs and preferences, which is the level of service that normally sets them apart from lesser hotels.
However, even with Plymouth, the Lady disappointed. She was one dimensional, flat. Their original recipe is missing a crucial ingredient of Applejack. Additionally, my guess is that the there was no egg white in the mix (or if so, poorly shaken) and that the grenadine isn’t fresh. Homemade grenadine is relatively easy to make and produces a drink so much richer in flavor and feel that it’s worth the extra effort. While I can’t really forgive, I’m coming to begrudgingly acknowledge the fact that most hotels use bottled syrups and sweeteners. But, when your signature drink depends on grenadine, I can’t really justify using bottled – especially at 25 € a cocktail.
I love the understated grandeur of the Shangri La’s drinking areas, so I’ll be back to try out their extensive green tea selection in the laidback front lounge or sample one of the Asian influenced cocktails in the bar.
And, in the meantime, buzz is already building for the next hot hotel openings, which I will surely be tempted to try…