With a certain romantically-oriented holiday approaching, it seems appropriate that the final article in our five-part ‘Cru on the Town’ series ends in the City of Love, Paris. Not many place are more intrinsically linked to romance than the French capital and for centuries the city has inspired lovers from around the world and become a place of pilgrimage for amorous couples.
Soppiness aside, the city has seen some of history’s greatest personalities, possibly reaching its cultural zenith in the glittering Jazz-age; a period that would forever define its modern glory. This was the time when a golden age of art and literature spread around the world from its Parisian epicentre; like an earthquake shaking the conventions of the day. It was in the legendary bars of the city where many of the greatest minds congregated and inspired one another to ever loftier heights. As dusk falls over the French capital, the city truly comes into it's own with one of the world's top drinking scenes, both of the past and present.
For the perfect start to an evening enjoying the cocktails and nightlife of Paris, there’s nowhere more apt than the famous Le Select at number 99 on the Boulevard Montparnasse. This true Art Deco bistro sits at what may be considered the crossroads of the Jazz Age; every corner sports an institution frequented by the legends of the era.
This Hemingway favourite has a solid menu of French classics that far outperforms the average tourist trap brasserie. A decent wine-list even has some Cru favourites including wines from Vins de Vienne. It’s a perfect spot to get yourself into the mind-set for a night out on the town. Follow up with a dram off their extensive list of Single Malts, or a well-crafted cocktail.
Harry's New York Bar and Ivories Piano Bar
Though the Dingo Bar, where Hemingway and Fitzgerald first shared a drink is gone, another mythical venue from the era still stands across the Seine. Harry’s Bar on the Rue Daunou is among the most famous drinking establishments in the world and the home of the Bloody Mary among other cocktails. It’s literary and artistic heritage is unmatched; James Bond began his own amorous career with a night at Harry’s, while historically George Gershwin composed ‘American in Paris’ in the basement piano bar, Ivories.
Through the ages, the bar has been run by the descendants of the original bartender, Harry MacElhoe, and the place’s style remains effusively original. The home of the Bloody Mary, the Sidecar and the White Lady, there is no shortage of inventiveness at Harry’s. While you listen to the jazz downstairs, go for a classic concoction; that way you’ll have the standard against which all others can be measured.
Experimental Cocktail Club
New York maybe the home of the cocktail, but this modern institution of the global mixology scene is a Parisian original. Leaping decidedly from the Jazz Age to the present, the Experimental Cocktail club in the Second Arrondissment is exactly what its name implies, offering some of the most innovative cocktails in Paris. Harry's may have the monopoly on the past and no one is likely to take that crown away, but this venue is the herald of the future.
"Harry's may have the monopoly on the past and no one is likely to take that crown away, but this venue is the herald of the future."
Turning Northwards, a favourite of South Pigalle is Le Glass, a brilliant bar by the same people as Candelaria. As you can come to expect from this crowd, the place is perfectly executed with decor that evokes Parisian chic and Brooklyn hipster almost simultaneously. Definitely go all-out on the whiskey selection. Some of the best novelty bottles of boutique bourbons and ryes are well-worth speding an entire night on, but you can be foriven for going off-piste.
If you're thirsting for a change of pace, they also have one of the best selections of craft beer in Paris; a luxury that is developing in this town, but still far from common. With all these and a lengthy list of cocktails to boot, you'l do well to indulge in one of the awesome hotdogs that have become one of the house specialties. This place is one of the modern classics of the Parisian drinking scene and as much as Harry's is a vestige of the 1920's, places such as le Glass and the next few venues epitomise the present day city.
Prescription Cocktail Club
If you’re doing any of the tourist stuff, naturally Notre Dame Cathedral will be on the list of must-sees. As your night comes to a close, you’ll find that this splendid edifice is at its best by night. En route to and from your final venue of the night, the speakeasy-style Prescription Cocktail Club you will be treated to the shimmering sight of Paris along the river and the beautifully illuminated cathedral as the centrepiece.
The club itself, just a stone’s throw from the Pont Neuf is a classic cocktail bar on the Rue Mazarine. The ambience here is perfect for the end of the night with well-selected music and a clearly fashionable crowd lining the bar until 4 a.m. on the weekends. A solid whisky line-up doesn’t hurt but the real focus here is a really adventurous cocktail programme. Turn yourself over to the bartender for guidance and you’ll never go wrong.
"There are few cities in the world which can claim to be the equal of Paris, and the Parisians know it."
This truly is a remarkable city to explore regardless of what you seek. There is an authenticity and a reluctance to conform about Paris that makes it so ineffably unique. It’s why the Jazz age found it’s home here and why a modern spirit of inventiveness and artistry continues to flourish. There are few cities in the world which can claim to be the equal of Paris, and the Parisians know it. For a night out it is difficult to rival the City of Lights, if not impossible.