Drugstore Cocktail Adventures: Drugstore Publicis
133 avenue des Champs-Elysées
75008 ParisThis ain't your granny's drugstore. The shiny Drugstore Publicis sits in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe and serves as a one-stop upscale shop for books, food (both sit down and to go), drinks, cigarettes, movies, magazines and more. I’ve passed this place countless times and never been moved to try any of its offerings, assuming – given the locale - it would be overpriced and pretentious. Recently, Kim and I found ourselves stumped for a nightcap spot in the area and stopped onto their airy terrace expecting nothing more than a mediocre drink and a bit of girlie gossip.
Once we looked at the menu, we realized that this might be an unexpected hidden cocktail gem. First off, they have a long list of martinis on offer – including a classic dry. Cocktails, at 14 Euros each, fall under several categories: shorts, longs, champagne based, and after or before dinners. Alongside the typical bloody mary’s and ti punch, some in particular that caught my eye as more unusual for Paris were the negroni, Pimm’s cups, mint juleps and a pink gin, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen on a Paris cocktail menu. Finally, their list of 15 different gins (including a genever and without a Gordon’s in sight) sealed the deal and we decamped from the terrace and headed in for a front row seat at the bar.
While the outdoor area is nice, in a rather nondescript way, the inside is brightly lit, clean and modern with its sleek white counter tops, neon light touches and flashing screens. Surprisingly it feels slightly dated even though it was remodeled not long ago. But I’m cool to ironically do the 80’s deal if it comes with a good drink. And, it did.
My Bombay Sapphire (although not my preferred it is the house gin) martini was stirred and served in a chilled glass with an olive. More attention to cocktail detail followed. Kim’s French martini came with freshly crushed pineapple, all glasses were chilled and double straining was happening. As we watched them make others’ drinks it was clear that a lot of consideration was going into each one. Although one thing I'm unsure on is that he uses a milkshake blender instead of shaking. I think this might work well for certain cocktails to really whip them up to a froth, but for others, I'm not sure it's appropriate.
We were both taken by the approachable barman who chatted with us without being overly intrusive. In between building drinks, he refilled our water glasses and offered up bowls of salty crisps.
The clientele is a mixed bag of tourists taking in a rowdy meal, awkward dates sharing fishbowl-sized Movenpick ice cream dishes and even more awkward business associates (?) who stare blankly into the center of the room neither speaking to each other nor appearing to enjoy themselves as their large servings of ice-cream melt away. But, to offset the somewhat odd vibe, they had yet more surprises in store for us. They are open 365 days a year. So, if you need a cocktail on Christmas day, this is your stop. And, unlike so many bars in this area, they have a happy hour. From 6 to 8, cocktails are a reasonable 9 Euros. Glasses of wine range from 6 to 13 Euros, which is also a decent pricetag for the Champs.
However, I’d personally save the wine sipping for the terrace since the place isn’t busting with dimly lit vino-inspiring ambience. But mostly, I’d either hit this place for a nooner cocktail or keep it up my sleeve as an unexpectedly good spot for a happy hour cocktail after a day of shopping (or more realistically, in this area, window-shopping). So, I was wrong. It’s not just about watery, overpriced Champs-Elysees tourist trap cocktails here. They’re actually putting some TLC into their drinks and at a pocket-friendly price. And, I’m okay with being wrong.... because it’s a lot easier to eat crow when you can wash it down with a decent drink.