Forget about wine, it’s cocktails that are taking over Paris, as the city continues to transform its food and drink landscape, pushing the boundaries beyond what used to be the French norm. What started back 2007 with a small handful of bars has now spread right across this city, making it one of the world’s top places to sip on expertly crafted alcoholic beverages. From thoughtful, curated drink menus to more experimental spots, fun themed bars to sophisticated lounges for the cool kids, here are the top places to choose for the best shaken, stirred or straight up drink options.
Dirty Dick, 9th Arrondissement
This fun, funky, neo Tiki bar is for those who love a little dash of cool kitsch and a splash of retro heaven in their cocktails. Located in South Pigalle (or SoPi, in the 9th arrondissement) Dirty Dick is part of a hip revival of this area (along with Glass bar). In keeping with the Polynesian Tiki theme, the decor is all about bamboo accents, lanterns, palm tree wallpaper (custom, of course), taxidermy animal heads and two looming carved wooden totem poles leftover from the days this hotspot was a hostess club—along with the bar’s name. The bartenders wear flowered Hawaiian-style shirts, the boozy, fruity cocktails are served in all sorts of kitschy glasses like giant shells or mini volcanoes and the specialty here is free-flowing rum, with 55 different options to choose from. Try their very popular Mai Tai (rum, orange zest, grilled almonds) a Zombie (a super strong mix of rums) or a Pain Killer (rum, coconut, pineapple, orange). Slightly bonkers but super fun, this is definitely a spot to let the sights, sounds (the bathroom has a chirping bird soundtrack) and especially tropical tastes wash over you.
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Le Syndicat, 10th Arrondissement
This bar, located in the Gare du Nord area of the 10th arrondissement is a celebration of all things French. You just have to find it first. With its nondescript storefront windows papered up and covered in posters, it’s hard to tell if Le Syndicat is a hidden bar or simply an abandoned shop. But once inside you’ll quickly realize why this is one of the most popular new additions to the hot Parisian bar scene: Dark, moody, and impossibly chic, this bar is channelling that speakeasy vibe but keeps it contemporary with its hip-hop music, love of cognac and well-mixed cocktails, making it very hard to leave. But what really helps this place stand out amongst the other bars is that it only serves French spirits and gives a French twist to classic cocktails. Try a Dijon mustard-inspired drink with whiskey, Sauvignon, pineapple syrup, lemon, and mustard powder, or their take on a gin and tonic made with Gentiane de Pontarlier (a kind of Absinthe), Bonal aperitif and house-made tonic. Not only will you sample great drinks, you’ll learn a lot about French spirits, too!
Experimental Cocktail Club, 2nd Arrondissement
ECC was one of the first cocktail bars to spark the nouvelle drink vague that spread across Paris—and it is still one of the best. Located in the 2nd arrondissement and opened in 2007, Experimental Cocktail Club was the first speakeasy type bar of its kind in Paris that offered really well made, affordable drinks in a sophisticated atmosphere. With dim lighting, chandeliers, velour sofas, wood floors and stone walls, this place feels like a 1930s, American speakeasy with a distinct French energy. Part of a growing bar family that includes Prescription Cocktail Club and Ballroom amongst other restaurant and even hotel endeavors, they’ve even expanded to London, Ibiza and New York. With a list of fresh, expertly crafted, creative drinks, try the Tommy’s Marg with bourbon, vanilla and cloves or Tears and Vinegar, which mixes whiskey with balsamic vinegar.
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Candelaria, 3rd Arrondissement
This uber cool, popular bar—conveniently in the Marais district of the 3rd arrondissement—is a true hidden gem. That is, you have to go into a taqueria (which is notably very good for a meal pre- or post-drink) through an unmarked back door that literally feels like you’re going into a broom closet, pull back a thick curtain and voila! You’ve just made it to one of Paris’ hottest nightspots: the Mexican themed Candelaria. Dim, candle lit and decorated without much fuss, make your way to the often packed bar and watch as the well-trained bartenders hustle and bustle, mixing intricate drinks at a rapid pace. Try a Guêpe Verte made with tequila, cucumber, coriander, agave, lime and pepper to give you a bit of thirst quenching pep, an Al Son De La Batagna, a mixture of tequila, amaro, lime and, chinotto, or my personal Candelaria favourite, a classic margarita on the rocks with a Mexican beer on the side.
Le Sherry Butt, 4th Arrondissement
This classy bar in the 4th arrondissement is the perfect solution for those who are looking for an expertly made cocktail, minus the thumping music and the long line-ups of 20-something hipsters (although in the Parisian bar scene, late-night line-ups are the norm). Le Sherry Butt is made up of two long rooms with mirrors on the wall, leather couches and chairs, bare stone walls, a dark wooden bar, industrial barstools and the requisite dim bar lighting. Relaxed but classy, patrons are equally wearing suit jackets and nice dresses as well as jeans and T-shirts. A small, but handcrafted cocktail list has only 11 choices, but they also focus on a super curated selection of whiskies from all over the world. Expect to find all those little details here that make the drinks a cut above: chilled glasses, custom ice cubes to suit each drink, impressive ingredients and extremely creative flavour mixtures. For those who don’t like their cocktails sweet, the Shimbashi, made with Japanese whisky, Fino sherry and bitters is a must, or for something more bouncy and bubbly, a Belle en Bulle has pisco, pear syrup, lemon and Champagne. Whatever your cocktail whims desire, rest assured that the excellent staff will steer you in the right direction.