Long gone are the days when the only options available to travelers and locals alike on a night out of bar hopping in Paris were “Vin rouge ou vin blanc ?” (Red or white wine?). Dark times indeed, particularly if red wine made you sleepy and if white wine was a fast track to drunken territory. Thankfully, Paris has stepped it up offering a plethora of cocktail bars staffed with award-winning mixologists, revamped hotel bars that have lost their stuffiness, and exotic restaurant bars that take you on a flavor escapade.
In the spirit of keeping it “cas”, I’ll spare you a detailed breakdown of every ingredient you’ll find in your cocktails and leave this task to the experts in situ – you know, the award-winning mixologists. Instead, let’s dive into an easy-to-navigate list of my favorite spots in the city. A perfectly balanced cocktail is only as good as the overall experience. It’s all about “the moment, dahling” (in the words of queen Mariah). Great visual appeal, yummy drinks, a chill vibe, and a good ol’ funky time is a winning combo. Plus – plot twist – the new generation of cocktail bars changes their drink menus twice to four times a year! And honestly, we love it.
Slowly sipping on a refreshing cocktail in the Paris spring air may sound nice, but doing so while enjoying an uninterrupted 360º view of the city at sunset on top of Hotel National des Arts et Métiers in the heart of le Marais is pure magic. Trust me. Make sure to show up early to this newly renovated and intimate rooftop terrace bar. Side note, don’t locate where you are when posting on social media, and see your DMs blow up with inquisitive messages.
If patiently waiting in line for a spot at the HNAM is way above your tolerance level, try La Perruche. The newly renovated space on top of the department store Printemps is home to a restaurant and a beautifully set up beach bar giving you all the St Tropez vibes you didn’t know you needed. Take in the breathtaking view of Opéra Garnier, the Louvre, the Madeleine church, and the Eiffel Tower. The restaurant side is equally gorgeous with a postcard view on Montmartre. What else did you expect?
Speaking of Butte Montmartre, you might want to brave the famous Parisian hill for a drink on the 7th floor of Terrass Hotel. The chic but not pretentious restaurant and bar designed in the style of an artist’s loft with large windows will give you all the feels with yet another plunging view on the capital.
Suffering from acrophobia? Don’t be alarmed. OFF Paris Seine is meant for those who wish to remain at sea level. The fairly new Parisian spot offers an unusual experience since this hotel bar sits literally on water. Comfortably seated on either side of the central rectangular pool, you’ll enjoy a stunning view of Austerlitz Bridge, Notre Dame, and the elegant ballet of boats gliding up and down the Seine.
Leave it to the pros!
When it comes to signature cocktails, Paris boasts an armada of talented bartenders who rival in mixing and matching alcoholic elixirs with unconventional ingredients, making you wonder, “What in the Project Runway is going on?” Props shall be given to the OG that made it all possible, Experimental Cocktail Club. The speakeasy-like cocktail bar introduced a new generation of Parisians to bespoke concoctions found nowhere else at the time.
One of Experimental Cocktail Club’s many offsprings, Little Red Door serves equally clever cocktails that might not be what they seem. “Conformity” is hardly conformist, but a rather “layered” drink. Hush though, you didn’t hear it from us.
Bisou is as fun and sexy as it sounds. The rosy façade and millennial pink neon lighting complement one-of-kind cocktails that a charming bartender will concoct just for you according to your mood and taste. I was suspicious at first with this no-menu cocktail joint. But after one sip of my drink, all that I could say was, “Bisou to you, bartender!”
Copperbay has to be the best-kept secret in Paris. Located on a side street off the bustling boulevard Saint Martin, this nautical-inspired cocktail bar makes you feel like you’ve stepped onto an elegant sailing boat heading to a far-away island inhabited by mermaids. On the way, enjoy seasonal cocktails that are to die for while the staff caters to your every need. Wait, did I forget to mention that this magic vessel does reach its destination—if you take a couple of steps downstairs to a pearly white sand-filled space resembling an uncharted beach? Now let yourself be carried away.
An escape is exactly what you’ll find when entering the Comptoir General just steps away from the trendy Canal Saint Martin. Part “ghetto museum”, part cabinet de curiosité, part time capsule to Sub-Saharan Africa in the ’70s, here you can savor an exotic drink at the newly renovated bar now in the shape of a pirate ship, taste some delicious snacks, and shimmy shake the night away.
Off the beaten touristy path, you might want to venture out to Parc des Buttes Chaumont to Pavillon Puebla. Surrounded by trees and covered in ivy, the Napoleon-style country house is equally a Moroccan-inspired get-away, a Mediterranean garden oasis, and a summer open-air dancing spot.
For those who enjoy a little treasure hunt, Lavomatic and Baranaan will make you work for it. First, try and find which washing machine is actually an entrance door to the fluorescent-light modern space that is Lavomatic. Or, push the back door of what looks like a tiny Indian street food joint and discover a whole train-inspired bar speeding through the Indian countryside! Seasonal and classic cocktails await at both locations to quench your thirst for tasty preparations and Instagrammable moments.
“We’ll always have Paris.”
In this tender age of Tinder, one might have to squeeze in a date with the dashing Frenchman they’ve swiped right for on what was supposed to be a weekend in Paris with friends. To contribute to the suggestion talk, recommend the red-velvet bar at hotel Le Très Particulier in picturesque Montmartre. Cocktails are delicious. And the glass atrium surrounded by lush vegetation makes the atmosphere just right.
Le Syndicat also provides some cheeky intimacy, if you succeed in spotting the graffiti-covered nondescript entrance. Even locals get confused. Once you’re in, the gold and quilted interior is as alluring to the eye as the signature cocktails are to the lips. If you’re lucky, you’ll be seated in the back room on the banquette, shoulder to shoulder with your date for the night.
Opting for a more casual encounter or to blend in with the locals? Mary Celeste is a great option. People flock to this neighborhood bar for the delicious cocktails and tasty food. Its location in the Haut Marais also makes bar hopping easy breezy.
Speaking of keeping it cool and fun, Deviant might be the only place in Paris where you can cheers with a refreshing drink, share delicious cod fritters, while standing at a marble counter and not feel awkward at all. Okay, you might find more wine than cocktail options here, but hey, ici c’est Paris (You’re in Paris after all!). Deviant in a nutshell is lots of laughs and lots of flirting. If all goes well, just head next door to Hotel Bourbon and let the ravishing Frenchman rock your boat… on the dance floor.
By PK Douglas