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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tiki Cocktail Adventures: Tiki Lounge

Le Tiki Lounge
26 bis rue de la Fontaine au Roi
75011 Paris

Since 1931 when Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt aka Don the Beachcomber set up the first tiny tiki joint in Hollywood, this kitschy culture has been injecting a bit of South Pacific fun into cocktails and given birth to some of world’s most notorious rum based drinks like the mai tai and the Zombie. Tiki style bars and drinks have experienced a resurgence over the past several years with hotspots like PKNY (New York) and - my favorite - Smugglers Cove (San Francisco) garnering international attention for their transcendent tiki drinks. This month Paris has finally taken to the trend with its first dedicated tiki bar: Tiki Lounge.

Tiki Lounge is kitted out with all the appropriate decor details: masks and carvings, creaky rattan furniture, and ceramic mugs. Blowfish lamps hang from the ceiling alongside glass floats. On the night of my visit, a few customers sat at the small thatched bar chatting with the friendly owners while south seas sounding music - with a bit of Tom Waits thrown into the mix - played in the background.

Thanks to the tiki theme, the menu diverges from the usual multiple vodka-based choices and features mainly rum. While they do offer a few things like caipis, mojitos and cosmos, the nine tiki options are front and center. All but two are rum-based, with the exceptions being a Waikiki Breeze with tequila and an Eastern Sour with whisky. Most of their classic tiki cocktails like the mai tai, missionary's downfall and pina colada mainly adhere to simplified standard recipes. Drink prices are 8 Euros and drop to 5.5 Euros during the 18h - 20h30 happy hour.

I started with one of tiki's most familiar and debated drinks: the mai tai (theirs contains two types of rum, orgeat and 'citrus.') While this isn't the exact recipe I might use, I was pleasantly surprised. Based on experience I was preparing for an overly sweet alcohol masking mix. But, you could taste the rum through the light touch of orgeat and citrus and I enjoyed it (espeically at happy hour price). They also offer their own "Tiki Lounge Mai Tai" which includes pineapple juice and grenadine. I was less impressed with the tequila based Waikiki Breeze and I was really hoping one of my drinks would have come in a coconut shell or tiki mug. While we were sampling, the crowd was growing and an hour or so later, the place was busy with a hipstamatic young crowd who were probably grooving on the themed vibe as much as (or more than?) the drinks.

Thanks to the friendly atmosphere and novel (to Paris) ambience, I enjoyed my visit. However, I think there are some areas where they could amp things up the drinks front. I'd like to see their current offering of 5 rums bumped up. I think a more extensive offering of tiki drinks diverging from just the most popular ones could be interesting. And, just for fun, I’d like to see their bar munchies move from crisps, carrots and dip to something more theme-appropriate.

From a strictly drinks perspective, the Tiki Lounge can't compete with some of the internationally known big boys of tikidom or even some of the bars in town like Prescription or Curio who occasionally feature a tiki option on menu and have the range of rums and necessary ingredients to pull them off with aplomb. But for nightcrawlers seeking the whole tiki experience – deco and all - this is currently the only place in town to get it. It may be just baby steps, but it is a valid start to the tiki trend in Paris.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Gentlemen's Club Cocktail Adventures: Jefrey's

14, Rue St Sauveur
75002 Paris

Even though Jefrey’s was freshly opened when I stopped in, I’ve been sitting on the post for awhile because I wasn’t immediately inspired. Since I've written about it for other sites it’s time to get inspired to give the full rundown with the nit-picking reign that only having my own blog allows.

Boldly placed just steps away from the well-established Experimental Cocktail Club, Jefrey’s touts itself as a speakeasy type gentlemen’s club. The interior looks promising: dim and sexy, small and intimate with deep purple velour sofas, comfortable arm chairs and elegant touches like the vintage seltzer bottles and cut-glass decanters. However, it does seem to be a gentlemen’s club that wants no fatties at the bar as the bar chairs are the tightest I’ve ever squeezed my bum into. An inch more ass and I would have needed the assistance of the pretty hostess plus a barman or two to pry my butt out of it.

At the time of my visit the menu featured a selection of cocktails in the mid-teens price range, including standards like the obligatory cosmo and house creations that feature a lot of fresh fruit and flavored syrups. Some are divided into ‘for him’ and those ‘for her.’ My martini was competently made, yet slightly warm, and came with simple savory cracker bites. I followed up with a margarita, which if memory serves, was nice enough. The spirits selection is somewhat small but with a few nice choices. While I take issue with the vodka heavy selection, I have no real gripe with the way the drinks are made.

My main issue is that the whole operation feels a bit superficial. My understanding is that the owner(s) is a finance guy from London who wanted to open a ‘speakeasy’ in Paris. An external agency was brought in to temporarily staff the bar and get things running. And, I think that shows through. They’re doing business as usual with nice enough drinks that will appeal to a wider audience who are looking for ‘classy’ cocktails rather than more challenging fare. They’re not going any deeper than making accessible drinks cleverly disguised as something more innovative.

This is the type of bar where you can buy your booze by the bottle. One thing I really like is the gorgeous display case where customers can store their purchased bottles. These little touches dress the place up and it will definitely appeal to a large portion of the drinking population in Paris looking for a sexy stop to sip. If you’re not a highly demanding quaffer, you’ll enjoy a visit. But, I personally find it a little soulless.

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