My First Time Hosting a Cocktail Party in Paris

We’ve settled into our new neighbourhood, near Jardin de Luxembourg in the 6e, and our new flat is large enough that we can finally host cocktail nights. Our last flat, while in a great area for going out, felt packed with more than 6 people. So, I organised a little thing for my upcoming birthday. With a head of fresh home-bartending advice from the Nighthawks Cocktail Course, I decided to try and create a night of my own.

Quickly Creating a Cocktail Menu

My favourite cocktail as most well know is the Negroni. So I based my birthday menu off of the classic. I started with its cousin, a drink that I’ve been wanting to master for awhile, the Boulevardier.

The Boulevardier is a Bourbon drink version of a Negroni that also uses Sweet Vermouth and Campari. So, I used the last two ingredients to brainstorm other drinks.

When creating a menu, choose two drinks that share similar ingredients, yet create something for two different types of people. That way you make sure everyone’s happy, and you don’t overextend your supply.

The French love Rum. And they might not know it yet, but they love Tiki drinks. So I turned to one of the classic tikis: The Jungle Bird, a Rum drink that uses Campari, Pineapple and Lime. While bitter, the drink can easily be sweetened up for those who n’aime pas d’amer Italien.

In researching, I stumbled on a third cocktail called ‘Endless Summer’ described as A Negroni on vacation. I already had the ingredients and the ‘vacation’ is Pineapple juice, an ingredient I was planning on purchasing for the Jungle Bird. Perfect.


Supplies and Preparation for the Night

When looking to do a big load of groceries, I normally head straight to Monoprix. The smaller ‘city’ markets do nothing but frustrate me to no end.

This Saturday morning I was very lucky. I happened across the Edgar Quinet farmer’s market. There I was able to stock up on fresh citrus, herbs, and food to go along with the cocktails. A green olive tapenade with Harissa and Piment D’esplanette from this bohemian dude with crescent shaped earrings was a hit with everyone.

At the farmer’s market, I was also able to get creative with garnishes, and I found good deals on figs and dried fruits. Alas, I still needed to go to Monoprix for non-regional items like Pineapple and Lime.

For my alcohols, I purchased my ‘commons’ (Campari, Sweet Vermouth) at Monoprix, and my ‘specialties’ (bourbon) at Nicolas. Everything else, I already had at home.

Over the week, I’d saved up ice, both large and small cubes. But I broke into my savings early by creating two test cocktails to try the Jungle Bird and the Endless Summer.


How to Make Cocktails for Guests

As my guests trickled in, it suddenly became showtime. My first order for a Jungle Bird came in (told you the French love Rum!!). But I know my friend well, and he doesn’t like Campari.

So I altered the recipe:

Jungle Bird/ L’Oiseau de la Jungle

Rum 1,5 oz / 1,5 oz

Campari ,75 oz / ,5 oz

Lime ,5 oz / ,75 oz

Simple Syrup ,33 oz / ,4 oz

Pineapple Juice 1,5 oz / 1,5 oz

Shake, strain on crushed ice. Garnish with a Cherry and Pineapple Chunk.

It might seem innocuous, but with this small adjustment, the taste becomes more fruity and less bitter. When another friend told me that he liked Campari, I switched back to the original recipe.

A few more orders came in and I already began to lose my organisation. Bottles ended up everywhere, toothpicks were nowhere to be found. I made myself a Boulevardier, wanting to relax for a second.

Boulevardier

Bourbon 1,0 oz

Campari 1,0 oz

Sweet Vermouth 1,0 oz

Build in mixing glass, stir, strain onto a large ice cube. Garnish with orange or lemon peel.

To be honest, 80 percent of what people wanted throughout the night were Jungle Birds. I could’ve made it easier on myself. But instead of doing two (or three) at a time, I kept cooking them out individually. This was the first area that I could’ve improved.

At the end of the night, some of my curious friends wanted Endless summers.

Endless Summer

Gin 1,0 oz

Campari ,75 oz

Sweet Vermouth ,75 oz

Pineapple Juice 1,0 oz

Build in a mixing glass, stir and strain. Garnish with a slice of fig.

Home Bartending Errors from my First Cocktail Party

Host or Bartender?

As with every party, some people show up early, and some late. So, should I greet people or start making drinks? This confusion can easily be solved with a set time for starting cocktails.

Ice, Ice Baby

So, I stocked up on ice all week long. Every time I thought of it, I would empty my tray into a bag, and refill it with water. But that was not even close to being enough. I found myself running low after about eight drinks :/. Filling the shaker, and then filling the glass with ice was too much. Next time, I’ll buy a bag of ice.

Stuck in the Kitchen

Several of my guests said that I spent too much time in the kitchen. With the messiness, with the panoply of supplies in my tiny kitchen, I lost valuable minutes on each drink, that’s for sure. Two quick fixes; ask the room what they want and make two or three drinks at a time; or set-up the drink in the kitchen and shake, stir and garnish in front of everyone.

Be a performer not a chemist. It’s a party after all.


Bises,

Alex

The Nighthawks Cours de Cocktails: Notes and Thoughts

Nighthaxks Cours de Cocktails at La Malicia

Cocktail courses are something of a head-scratcher. You pay quite a bit of money for learning an hour of something that you can ostensibly read online or better yet, in a book (there are hundreds), and then, you spend an hour making cocktails with judgemental classmates, to end up with one drink.

That being said, the cocktail course from Nighthawks was well worth it.

Hosted by Les Raffineurs and created by Nighthawks, the course takes place once a day in the back bar of the back bar of the 1k hotel. Yes, you read that right. There is a speakeasy (la Malicia) inside of another, better known speakeasy (la Mezcaleria) behind the cellar door of the 1k hotel.

Arriving that Saturday, it was almost comedic how casually they led our group past the hotel bar and kitchen into another bar, past a trap door, and into a small, ‘secret’ chamber.


El Proffesor

If you’ve seen Casa Del Papel, you’re familiar with this man. He’s a bit asocial and blunt, knowledgeable and even when explaining, he seems focussed on his craft. He rubs his beard when thinking, and doesn’t look directly at you when answering.

That was Sebastian, a true master and our professor for that day. I didn’t understand his full background, but he has a link with Candelaria and Le Mary Celeste–two of the best bars in Paris that I have yet to go to. If I somehow find him in the future, I’ll give you more on his bio, but from what I understood he was not only associated but an integral part to their respective successes. He responded to our researched questions with acumen and expertise. And if he didn’t know the answer he would turn out an irritated ‘I’ll think about it,’ and return to his lecture. I could tell he was truly dedicated to the game. And he shined as a bar-back, seamlessly guiding us through each step of mixing.


The Sour Family

We began our discussion with the Sour family.

  • 5 parts Alcohol
  • 2 parts Sour
  • 2 parts Sugar

If you follow this formula, you will inevitably find yourself with a sour. Gimlet, Whiskey Sour, Rum Sour–they’re all based here.

The first interesting thing he said was ‘products from the same region naturally complement each other.’ This is why you find for example lime(sour) and cane sugar(sweet) in a Rum based Daiquiri, but lime (sour) and agave syrup (sweet) in a Tequila or Mezcal based Margherita. In a Bee’s Knees, you have a London Gin based cocktail made with Lemon (Sour) and Honey (Sweet). Lemons are more commonly used in Europe than limes, because of their accessibility and price.

We inevitably went through each of the different kinds of the main alcohols, like the Dutch Yellow Gin, as compared to British Clear Gin, and the burgeoning French and Italian Gin producers, Citadel and Jerry Thomas.


Home Bartending Tips & Tricks

He laid out several rules for amateur bartenders:

  • Any brand that sells a hard alcohol under 40% ABV is null, and should not be considered in the creation of a cocktail.
  • Top shelf liquor, or bottles coming in at over 60-70 $, should never be used in cocktails, and should be taken straight. The price doesn’t necessarily determine its usefulness in the cocktail world.
  • One bottle of Alcohol makes about 14 cocktails.
  • Shakers should only be used for ingredients with different densities, for example gin, egg white, simple syrup and lime juice.
  • There is no ‘right’ way to build a cocktail, but he advised us to start with our cheapest ingredient in case you mess up.
  • When hosting an event choose 2 unique drinks for different tastes, therefore you can please everyone and not overextend your need for supplies.
  • Ten minutes is how long one cocktail maintains its optimum level.

He also confirmed the rumour that Bartenders love Negronis. In his circle, they frequently compare and try to improve on their respective recipes.


The Sidecar & The Tommy’s Margherita

Source: Brooklyn Supper

Then it was our turn. We stepped behind the bar, the entire room watching us. My gf and I were each asked a recipe that we want to make; she chose a Tommy’s Margherita, and after a moments hesitation, I chose the Sidecar!

The Sidecar is a drink that I’ve experienced only once or twice in my life, but I know that it’s a beautiful classic. And while I’ve found many variations online, I promise the following recipe he gave me made a great drink:

SideCar

4 parts Cognac

2 parts Chartreuse

1 part Citron Vert

Build on ice, shake and garnish with orange zest.

Tommy’s Margherita

5 parts Tequila

2 parts Agave

2 parts Lime

Build on Ice, shake and garnish with lime wedge, sprinkle Fleur du Sel to taste

How to Find Bartending Supplies in Paris

At the end he listed off a small litany of places to find certain items in Paris. This will be a small guide, which I’ll eventually turn into a big one as I gather more information.

For Bartending Supplies in Paris:

Maison du Barman

Oogy wawa

For Bartending Supplies Delivered to Paris:

Urban Bar

Cocktail Kingdom

For Specialty Alcohols

Maison du Whiskey

For Aromatics

Velan


Thanks for reading! I’m thinking about delving more into flat bartending as I gain more experience. I had the chance to receive this course as a gift from a very special friend, but you can find and reserve a course through Nighthawks here.

Bisous,

Alexander

The Definitive Cocktail Tier List

Warning: This post is for nerdy drinkers, not drink nerds. But we might be two in the same.

If you’ve ever played a video game, rpg, fighting or strategy, then you might be familiar with the term ‘tier list.’ It’s a list organised by tiers (voila) that ranks characters from the best or most effective to the worst or least effective. (Sometimes used for Waifus and Husbandos) Personally, I love these lists, and I wanted to create the first one (or first that I’ve seen) for cocktails.

So, I’ve taken the liberty to create a tier list for different types of cocktails. Each tier measures the potential of the drink.

That’s not to say that a bad Martini, for example, can’t be worse than a great Margherita or Piña Colada. In some circumstances, the latter is 1. more appropriate for the setting and 2. is made with higher quality ingredients, and therefore a better drink.

This post will be updated regularly.


Tier 8: The Well Drink

The Well Drink often gets spilled at the club. It also belongs in the bar you go to before you wait in line for the club. It normally doesn’t taste good. Like cheap liquor and sweetener. That’s because more often than not it is cheap liquor and sweetener. It’s a well drink for a reason, and it’s the cheapest cocktail you can find at any bar.

Examples: Screwdriver, Rum and Coke, Vodka and Tonic, GreyHound, Seven and Seven

Tier 7: The Craft Drink

Often dubbed ‘craft or ‘house’ drink. These are the drinks we learn about after Freshman year. Maybe there was that one bar who did Moscow Mules and pickle backs, or maybe the Generator hostel you were staying at in Barcelona labelled a strong rum and coke with a lime wedge the ‘exotic’ Cuba Libré. These drinks serve their purpose, whether it’s a Mojito on the beach or a Whiskey Smash at a Jockey themed party even though you’ve never been to the downs.

Examples: Moscow Mule, Mojito, Cuba Libré, Smash family (right), Piña Colada, The Lower Sour Family

Tier 6: The House Drink

The difference between a house drink and a craft drink normally lies in one ingredient. You can call it a Craft Drink + 1 or a slight departure, enough that bars feel they can name it themselves. Normally they are solid, and sweet with some kind of berry infusion and cost at least 2€ more than a ‘regular’ craft drink.

Examples: Rhubarb Sour (left) from Jameson distillery

Tier 5: The Specialty Drink

This drink is best reserved for cocktail connoisseurs. It belongs to a recently unearthed group of cocktails, which are making their way back into the heart of drinkers. Often simple to make, they require good ingredients and technique to make properly plus an overall knowledge of cocktail history.

Examples: The Rickey Family, The Higher Sour Family Bee’s Knees, Clover Club, Gin Fizz, Pisco Sour, Michelada (right), Paloma, the Jungle Bird

Tier 4: The Custom Drink

House-made syrups, local ingredients and top technique makes a one of a kind cocktail. You know you’ve stepped into a good bar when they have a small menu of 6-10 drinks that you can only find at that bar. Depending on whether it’s a rum bar or Mezcal, you’ll see that they use specific labels, a sign of experience and moxie.

Example: Des Chiffres et Des Autres from La Loutre in Paris (Gin infused with Thyme, Red Vermouth, Fig Syrup, Lime Juice, and Egg White)

Tier 3: The Classic Drink

These drinks shaped the world. They embody prestige and lineage, and should be taken seriously by any disciple.

Example: Draft Negroni from Danté in New York (Right), Martini, Manhattan, Sazerac, Gimlet

Tier 2: The Perfected Custom Drink

The Perfected Custom elevates itself in a bar of great renown as being either the best on the menu, or a drink of a distinguished excellence. I chose Fuubutsushi by the Little Red Door as an example, because not only is it fantastic drink, its composition is unique. The name, which expresses the change in seasons, parallels this meaning by creating a cocktail of seasonal produce and tea. It literally changes with the seasons.

Example: Fuubutsushi by the Little Red Door (Whiskey, Seasonal Tea, Rice Wine, Terroir)

Tier 1: The Perfected Classic Drink

The pinnacle of cocktails. When everything comes together–bartender expertise, ingredients, location–to somehow elevate a classic drink beyond it’s ceiling. This drink is a once in a lifetime creation, a distinct moment of time, separate from normal life.

Example: Sakura Martini from Bar GOTO

The Exceptions

Like everything in life, there are exceptions. Certain drinks do not fit into a particular tier because of either their cult status, their historical context, or a cultural phenomenon.

Gin & Tonic – The Gin and Tonic can be seen in the collins glass of London socialites and on the HH menu for $4. I’ve seen upscale bars approach it with love and tenderness. For example at Tiger Bar in Paris they have an entire menu dedicated to Gin & Tonics. I’ve also had it plopped in front of me, dripping over my napkin at the dive bar. They range from a Tier 8 Well drink to a Tier 3 Classic drink.

The Old Fashioned – The Old Fashioned on all cases should be a classic drink. It should, but it’s rise to fame through none other than Don Draper has muddled the true classic into a poorly guarded secret. I’ve had some terrible Old Fashioneds since it’s apotheosis, and what makes it all the worse is that it’s normally one of the more expensive drinks on the menu. I’m a bit confused on where to put it. Either a Tier 3 or Tier 7.

Margherita – The Margherita is technically Tequila with sweetened Lime Juice. Viola, a lowly well drink. Although ☝🏽I’d argue that most Margheritas rise above this formula in terms of complexity. Say Tequila, Fresh Lime and Agave nectar–already a better baseline, already in the sour family. Echoing the Gin Tonic, certain bars have perfected the Margherita, and certain bars have contorted it into Punch, a frozen drink or something available on draft. For the purposes of this list, I will place it in the High Sour Family, which I believe belongs in the Tier 5 Specialty drink.

These are just my thoughts. As I mentioned before, I’ll continue to modify and expand this list. Let me know your thoughts. If you have an argument for a specific cocktail, I’d love to hear it.

-Alex

Portrait: The 46 Bar in the 10th Arrondissement of Paris

The 46 Bar is a neighbourhood feel-good, casual cocktail bar between Strasbourg St. Denis and Republique. But unless you see it street-side at the exact right time of day, you might miss it.

They label themselves a true ‘New York’ cocktail bar. Now the 46 doesn’t resemble any bar in New York that I know, but they do make great cocktails and charge New York prices–I guess that’s close enough.

We wandered in on a Saturday afternoon just after opening. They were still shuffling around, setting up tables and cutting up garnishes, but they warmly welcomed us. An old moustached man, who must’ve been the pops of one of them was sitting idle at the end of the bar, beer in a hand as he gazed outdoors at a sunburst that struck the street.

A ‘jungle’ theme is clearly apparent when you walk inside the bar. One wall has faux vines crawling downwards, while the back wall has a painted mural of an exotic landscape. The furniture and lighting are eclectic; rustic lamps and colourful ottomans all fit into this realm of reimagined bohemia called New York.


The Classic Cocktails

I ordered off of their classics menu, which frankly consists of some of my least favourite ‘classics’–Mojito, Caipirihna, Ti Punch. (And I mean no disrespect to my Latino friends, but these drinks are best reserved for the beach and sunshine, not Paris of all places.)

I took a Whiskey Smash. And I sat back with my ‘masses of mint on mountains of ice.’

It was very well done.

The ice was freshly crushed, and the mint, whiskey and sugar were well balanced. And plus it was good-looking.


An Outstanding Happy Hour in Paris

After 6pm, people started trickling in. That’s because all ‘classic’ cocktails drop to 6 Euros, an incredible deal, even for a Mojito.

The crowd was unexpected. A guy with a ponytail and circular glasses passed with his crew of four; a small peppy woman around my age sat with two older women as they gleefully skimmed the menu; two white-haired old timers sat near the entrance.

This Happy Hour seems to be the focal point, and I say this because it’s fantastic. It’s a fantastic reduction. A price that’s so much happier than that of their normal hours. Some of their ‘Original’ drinks–which I’m sure are very good–range upwards to 14€. That’s the same price as some of the best bars of the world.

The atmosphere is cute. A poster advertised a live singer who would play that Sunday. The barmen keep shaking, dashing and garnishing as the day gives way to moonlight.


A New York Cocktail Bar in Paris

As an ex-inhabitant of New York, I love that France’s vision of New York is about as wonky as our vision of Paris. If I had a nickel for every crazy-looking Hamburger dubbed ‘New York style,’ Bernie Sanders would be very happy with all his new anecdotes containing the word nickel. Bright lights, bagels, and Subway (the sandwich chain) are associated with New York, and more recently ‘Williamsburg,’ which has become completely its own brand, a little vassal of France in Brooklyn. New York is seen for its hunks of metal and glass–in basically the same way we see the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre.

The 46 bar does serve hotdogs, unusual for Paris. I didn’t try them, and frankly, I don’t plan on trying them, or taking my New Yorker friends there and telling them, ‘it’s just like NYC,’

BUT I will definitely keep the 46 bar in mind for their great cocktails and even better Happy Hour.

Fin.

Portrait: The Little Red Door in the Haut Marais of Paris

Karim Merekhi

The Little Red Door is less of a speakeasy, and more of an idea. Whereas other speakeasies are hidden by facades–telephone booths, taquerias and dark alleys–this speakeasy rests behind a Ferrari Testarossa of a door. It calls the attention to all who pass.


Le Carreau De Temple – 3e

On a bright Saturday afternoon, I sat on an overcrowded, under-serviced terrace near le Carreau du Temple. The small triangle created by the tree-lined Rue Dupetit Thoars and the looping Rue de la Corderie is one of my favorite areas of Paris.

The day was breezy and fine for July in Paris. The awkward high season of a tourist peak, and a French pre-vacation was hitting Paris. Therefore, any Anglo-Saxon was dubbed a tourist, and every frenchman was ready to leave Paris, but, I guess that’s not particular to this time of year.

Cecile and I cut our losses and paid at the bar. Faked a smile, and said bonjournée. We stood with no plans, and a wide open afternoon. So, I suggested this little ‘speakeasy’ around the way.


A Way With Words by Little Red Door

I’d read online about the premise of the Little Red Door’s new menu ‘ A Way With Words.’ It’s a really nice concept.

The menu is created of words that 1. don’t translate to the English language 2. embody a visceral sensation.

Therefore the translation comes out through the flavours and composition of the cocktail.

When we located this little red door on Rue Charlot, the doorman, a gruff looking fella with a herringbone cap was chatting with a couple of Anglo-Saxons. On the website it reads ‘he often has tea.’ He checked inside for a moment, peeked out and waved them in. About 5 minutes later, he did the same for us.

Contrary to perceptions, you use a trap door located next to the red door. Allegedly, the red door is only used for VIPs.

The Little Red Door

The ambience was dark, lush, with a hodgepodge of fancy imported furniture, decorum and seating choices, which in all honesty, I found a bit incoherent. The layout, however; added a calm spaciousness between each party. Each party was well placed. It’s a nice place, but this city is home to the true interior design behemoths, and the space didn’t stand out to me.

At the bar, we melted into these decadent, gargantuan bar stool-lounge chair hybrids.

Next to me, however, was an obscenely loud man. He would have ruined my time if I were there for a quiet drink. But I’ll conclude that he was just really happy to be in Paris.


The barwoman was doing a fantastic job–she was relaxed, easy to talk to, yet professional, able to explain rare ingredients by heart.

She handed us two large menus.

As we began flipping through the chapbook, it became apparent that they’d dedicated each cocktail a page of its own. Half of the ingredients were out of my realm of knowledge, but I tried my best to ballpark what certain drinks would taste like.

My first pick was the rum-based Ubuntu, a South African word that means ‘I am because we are.’ The taste was a subtle fruity, earthy flavour that ultimately grew too sweet for me as I drank it.

The Little Red Door
Hygge (front) & Ubuntu (back)

Next, I chose a winner. The Fuubutsushi, a Japanese word that defines the sensation you have as seasons change. Stunning.

The Little Red Door
Fuubutsushi

The drink is built on Whiskey, but its creation is both poetic and fascinating. Each arrangement is unique and LRD uses a different bouquet of produce that corresponds with the season. Overall, it was a sensational drink and one of the more unique that I’ve had a chance to drink.


Where a Door Leads in Paris

The idea of the bar, the Little Red Door, plays with the mystery of this city. Paris is essentially a city of things hidden behind doors. Fountains, courtyards, entire streets rest behind grand doors. I’ve seen secret gardens, large murals, and shaded passages. Haussman buildings, which were largely regulated at the time of their construction to 6 floors with grey roofs and off-white facades, are very similar if not the same in look, except for small details in masonry. But things are more than what they seem from the street side.

The bright red door is meant to pique your interest.

For LRD, I have to say that when you enter, the interior doesn’t match the suspense created by that mystery. I found myself wondering what the point was of building that intrigue if the interior is just the transcendent, dark-and-elegant pub.

‘A Way with Words’ is a very very nice concept, and some of their past drink menus have been equally as profound. With the previous one playing on our core universal values.

Maybe that’s the point. The Little Red Door wants classic and transcendent, rather than a flashy interior that will go out of date with a passing season. Only the produce is seasonal, not the decor.

Nonetheless, the bar makes a great detour for any Parisian or tourist alike, and I think I speak for all of us when I say, that behind every closed door there should be a fantastic place to drink.

Fin. Alexander

What It’s Actually Like to Live on Canal Saint-Martin in Paris

An empty red and white cross-hatched bistro chair–if you’re lucky enough to find one on the first sunny weekend by the canal, you’d know how I felt that pristine Saturday in late February. For visitors, this can be an impossible task, however, I live upstairs. In the cave, my gf and I like to joke, a reference to how little daylight we receive.

That Saturday, the neighbourhood rejoiced, winter was over, and it seemed like the entire 10e joined us to relish in the sun. The banks were full. Hipsters and homeless and thugs and young families came together to sit and chat, drink beer and play music. A real Kumbaya moment.

Idyllic times such as these are why I love the city, and this city in particular. It makes the taxing montage of commutes, workdays, and alienating transactions worth a place in your life. And while there are many nose-pinching, ear-plugging, eye-shutting moments, I think, at the end of the day, it’s worth it.


In An Immoveable Feast, Hemmingway writes of the promise of Rive Gauche; Cardinal Lemoine, Saint Michel, the Latin Quarter, Saint Germain, and Montparnasse. But I’ll be the first to tell you, these quarters are dead. Unpopular opinion; I know. But have you been to Les Deux Magots, La Rotonde, or Shakespeare? It’s the same as going to a museum. And while I’m harsh, because I am omitting the exceptions to prove a point. The city has moved on.


My ❤️and I moved to the canal at the beginning of November. It was an exciting time, and technically our move into Paris. For the 6-months prior, we’d lived in a small town called Montrouge, a metro terminus and a 5-minute walk from the Southern border of Paris. Basically Paris, but, it wasn’t the postal 75, so for a Parisian, it isn’t Paris.

The canal was calm. A day muted by Parisian Grey. Sporadic runners threaded up and down the banks. The courageous sat on terraces in luxuriant coats lined with faux fur. Our move-in had showed promise from the neighbourhood; a reward from the investment that we’d put in, fighting a war just to submit a dossier to the agency. You need to have what it takes to be ‘accepted’ into this shitshow of a club called Paris.

Ironically it was the American style cafés and cocktail bars that charmed me. On our first night’s exploration of the neighbourhood, we settled in a little den called SAam for delicious Taiwanese Bao.

Our excitement, however, was quickly hampered by the apartment. Marred by filthy floors, a condescending attitude and exigent behaviour from the agency, we were handed two pairs of keys and a weeks worth of cleaning. I mean, there were dust bunnies the size of my fists behind the couch. We found a pair of dead moths behind the fridge, and popcorn cornels in bed (Yum). Mold in the bathroom, a large stain on the mattress…the list goes on.

This would be the beginning of our delusional one-sided legacy with this negligent agency.

With that aside, we began to get into the ebb and flow of the quarter. We found out which boulangeries were open on weekends, where to find juice and grain bowls Bob’s Juice, Sol Semilla, Le Bichat and RadioDays (turns out dozens of places), where the neighbourhood haunts were–newcomers like and old faithfuls.

The cool visitors post up at the legendary Chez Prune, La Marine; tourists pound pints at Cork and Cavan and queue at Comptoir General; the local chics gather at La Patache or Brigette; and the alternative side at Cinquante, Gorbi Palace. And then there’s Gravity, a cocktail bar in a realm of its own.

Even before this first sunny day in February, I noticed a difference in my outlook upon Paris. Small quality of life improvements. The subway lines are fruitful. The rest of Paris resembled a sibling instead of a distant cousin. Peanut butter is at the supermarket. Supermarkets are open on Sunday nights. So ostensibly, I can buy peanut butter on a whim now.

We found things that we couldn’t find before–St. Marcelin filled Naan at Marcel, Pulled Pork Tacos at El Guacamole, and chicken & waffles at Baba Zulu. Line 2 from Colonel Fabian took us to Pigalle, and the 11 from Goncourt took us up to Belleville, and down to the Marais. Is this happiness? Or is it misleading.


At some point in my life, I’ll have to question why innocuous things such as these have such a high importance in my life. Brunches, happy hours and private sales for plants, artisanal jewellery, beer, and ice cream. It’s like post-materialism; instead of materials, each experience has been reduced to a set of values. Packaged and presented by Instagram. In the end, they embody the same sets of adjectives as a clothing brand or car maker.

Grain bowls and vegan super foods #healthy #vegan / Eggs Benedict and chicken and waffles #indulgence. I give a lot of fucks, because I drink green smoothies with spiruline instead of four refills of drip coffee with brunch.


At home, our cour is small enough for awkward eye-contact with neighbours, and our walls are thin enough to hear unwanted arguments and sexual climaxes. During a rainstorm, we came home to find the stairwell flooding from a massive crack in the ceiling. We started banging on doors to find help. Immediately, The neighbours assembled to find a solution. Each person donated buckets. We set up a makeshift shoot, funnelling the water from the crack out a nearby window. No person acted ‘for themselves.’ A bond grew between us. We exchanged phone numbers, ideas, and now, more than just ‘bonjours.’ I had never experienced that in a building before.

Later that night, however, our roof partially caved in. Our kitchen flooded and consequently, we had to live without electricity for a week. Why? It took our lovely agency over a week to get back to us for an evaluation. We considered moving. Was the neighbourhood worth the living conditions? In New York, I had the chance to live in East Williamsburg for 4 months, but the Canal is the Canal.

Hopping over the water each day was a panacea.

On the canal I’d see photo shoots. I’d pass music videos being shot against the backdrop. The most stylish Brits, Spanish, Americans and Koreans flocked to our hood with cameras and dazzling fashion; beautiful, proud dogs trot down the promenades, they’re enough to make one self-conscious, to make one think twice about leaving the house in pjs for a croissant. It’s funny, but really, moving to a neighbourhood like this is intimidating.

The canal itself is very dirty. But only on second glance. On first glance, it’s glossy, pristine. My impression is that tourists pass through with this quick look, forgetting that it’s a breathing neighbourhood, not just an attraction or a postcard. In reality, Parisians adore the canal but abuse it, they hang around all day tossing beer bottles, cigarette butts and driving lime scooters into the murky waters.

Dive a little deeper into the quarter, into every unmarked road, alley and impasse and you’ll find the veins, Rue Bichat, Rue Marie et Louise and the magical Rue Sainte Marthe, the point of Eugene Varlin, Rue Juliette Dodu. Dozens of small abodes and packed terraces. Not a word of English.

I’m reminded everyday about how Parisian culture is different than that of New York. It’s not about loud signage, niche marketing, or incredulous hype. It’s also not about judgment or exclusion, which can often be the pervasive stereotype.

It’s about intimacy. In both definitions of the word.

Definition of intimacy

1: the state of being intimateFAMILIARITY

2: something of a personal or private nature

Dictionary

While this might seem like the romantic cliché of Paris, it has nothing at all to do with romance. It’s about proximity and knowledge, being close to and in the know.

On the 2nd of June, my gf and I found an ephemeral boat.

It docks across from the dog park and next to the basketball court, but only on sunny weekends. 200m up the canal from our apartment, this boat acts as a bar and music venue.

For hours, we sat under the sun, we called friends, and we listened to Cuban Jazz while drinking Europe’s Coors Light–Jupiler. It wouldn’t have happened without proximity or knowledge.

The atmosphere in Paris can be dream-like and refreshing. On the other hand, it can leave you distanced and put-off, like it did for me during my first several months. A large part of living here is learning the language, but another part is having a neighbourhood in Paris that allowed me to learn.

I plan to stay here, not because it’s Paris–whatever that packed statement means–or for the history of the quarter, which remains largely unwritten, but rather, because I like it.

The canal is a neighbourhood with a cosmopolitan glaze, but still retains its Parisian core. And just as Hemmingway found the Rive Gauche’s when he lived here, I find the canal’s image eternal.

Fin.

Alexander

The Funky Art of Mixing Drinks: The Gimlet

Your Gimlet should model that badass chick from junior year–never sweet, never dull, never limeade, never soda in that flask. A little edge is key; add the ingredients to a shaker with ice, rattle and strain into a cocktail glass. Gas it with a splash of sparkling water and give it wheels…of lime that is.

.5 Parts Simple Syrup

– 1 Part Lime Juice

– 4 Parts of Boodles Gin

adapted from The Fine Art of Mixing Cocktails

Above is the Godfather’s take, found in the essential book FAoMC, but I’ve decided to add some tang.

– .5 Parts Simple Syrup

– 1.5 Parts Lime Juice

– 4.5 Parts Bombay Sapphire Gin

🔥 take

Two alternatives are French or Italian Gimlets, the French with Citadelle Gin and Perrier, and the Italian with Madame Gin from Jerry Thomas Project and San Pellegrino.

What do you think? What’s the best ratio for a Gimlet? The Best Gin?

-Alex

Caché! The Secret and Wonderful Oddities of Paris: Passage du Pont aux Biches

On a black night, in the misery of a rainy Paris winter, I scamper past Place de La Republique into the upper east corner of Le Marais. Suddenly, I see a burst of color emanating from a narrow set of stairs.

This mysterious passage looks run-down, filthy even. On closer inspection one I see that it’s filled with a battery of enigmatic street-art and murals.

It’s curious, a bit eerys even. The wall reads like modern-day hieroglyphics.

A steep descension underneath several buildings.

The altitude drop is more curious–it reveals its age. In fact, Passage du Pont aux Biches is a remaining portal between medieval and modern Paris. It served as Rue du Pont Aux Biches, which led to the castle walls.

It dates back to 1550. The road below is stone-laden and narrow, and up above you have a modern road meant for thoroughfare.

As for the spectrum of colors at night, I haven’t found out the reason.

Not yet.

Tuesday 26 January

Chaque Detail Compte: The Bowtie’s Guide to a Weekend in Palermo

Palermo is a clash–a battleground of sorts where class, lifestyle and cultural identity impose on one another everyday. For me, it’s an enigma.

Sicilians are the warmest people you’ll meet, but then again, they have a legacy of tensions with North Africa, of racism and xenophobia. Palermo has a wealth of Baroque architecture, but their definitive style is Arab-Norman architecture, and now, a burgeoning street art scene. They embrace the slow-cooking movement, but have legendary street food. They are equal parts finger-snapping street vendors, as languid, sunshine dwellers.

700k reside in the capitol of Sicily, the largest city on the largest island in the Mediterranean.

Palermo’s landscape is so stark and vivid, one can’t compare it to ‘postcard’ Italy–Rome, Venice, or the ever trending Florence. Personally, I believe that these destinations verify the beauty we know exists in Italy; but in Sicily, something lies unknown, undiscovered.

The city has a rough reputation. Palermo of today seems to be falling to pieces. But in all honesty, they don’t seem too broken up about it.


Friday

Despite the reputation, you step off the plane onto the tarmac.

The first trick; how does one get to the city?

You have 3 options; a shared taxi (8€), a ticket from the bus company Prestia e Comandè (6€), or a ride on the brand new Metro station (6€).

A sweeping countryside with red, mountainous terrain out one window and a choppy sea outside the other, eventually your ride will reach the urban fringe.

Both commutes drop you near to the central walking street, Via Maqueda.


20h00 Dinner – Bisso Bistro

Via Maqueda, 172A, 90134 Palermo PA, Italy

Drop your bags at your AirBnb and head straight to this place. Sumptuous, yet inexpensive, Bisso Bistro looks like something your favorite joint in Brooklyn is trying to replicate. Exposed ceilings, beams, funky chandeliers, chatty intellectuals, a bartender with a moustache who speaks English with a thick accent; they’re all here.

There’s probably a wait-list. Tutto Bene. It’s all good. Drink a 2€ glass of Sicilian wine on the street corner and sink into the surroundings. Then, prepare for an excellent introduction to Sicilian food.

I have the theory ☝🏽that Sicilian food is the original fusion cuisine.

No, really. It starts from 2 distinct origins, Italy (duh), and North Africa. And when you surround yourself with the agricultural diversity that’s available in Sicily, you get one of the more complex culinary traditions in the world.
🧀🍕🍝The Italian base lends pastas, pizza, tomatoes, garlic, cheese, etc.
🍚🍆🍊Northern Africa brings oranges, mint, saffron, rice, semolina, tuna, aubergine.
🦑🐙Geography lends terre et mer, calamari, octopus, olives, capers, dates, pistachios.

It’d be wrong to restrict Sicilian food to ‘Italian.’


Drinks – Bonter Bar

Across from Teatro Massimo (we’ll stop here later), down the dark, narrow alley Via Orologio, young Sicilians and Erasmus gather at night.

Bonter Bar is the best on the street. This cocktail bar houses a cast of stuck-in-the-30’s hipsters with large suspenders, pinstripe trousers and hand-knit shirts. But hey, with cocktails, they don’t play around.

They use high quality products, have a good vibe, and were also friendly enough to introduce me to the Italian jewel, Madame And Monsieur Gin from the Jerry Thomas Project. A lifelong friendship was forged.


Saturday

10h00 – 11h00

Via Maqueda

Everything is at your disposal on this lovely, yet often hectic road. In the morning, however, it shows its calm side. Grab an espresso, cornets, and a table on a sunny terrace. Or check a couple of things off your list.

San Guiseppe dei Teatini (Baroque)

These landmarks are within a dozen steps from one another.

Fontana Pretoria & Santa Caterina Cathedral

11h00 – 12h00

Teatro Massimo

Al Pacino, Mr. Corleone, took his last seat here in Godfather 3. The theatre, 3rd Largest in Europe is well-kept, and renowned for its stellar acoustics. Its unique round structure should be worth the visit to Palermo by itself. 8€ for a 30-min tour of this spectacle.

Teatro Politeama

While Massimo was known as the theatre for the Sicilian bourgeois, the other, Politeama was for the Sicilian middle class. I toured Politeama, and while still very beautiful, it needs refurbishing. Palermo doesn’t have a plan to make this happen any time soon, but it’s still worth a visit.


12h00 – 14h30
Castellamare & Kalsa

Breezy neighbourhoods by the water stand still as postcards. Small, winding roads with weathered buildings and fresh-swept streets. Balconies reach like an outstretched hand, ushering you through these visually stunning quarters.

Terraces, Piazzas, and Bistros–it’s the Sicilian version of diners, drive-ins and dives. Stop for grilled octopus, fresh calamari and a glass of white wine, or indulge with fat slices of Focaccia, while posting up on the corner facing some ancient fountain.

Afterwards, I recommend a good amount of wandering.

Gagini Social Restaurant – 👨🏻‍🎨🍤An elegant Sicilian, slow-food restaurant with stone interior, and large contemporary paintings.

Restorante Quattro Mani -🍝🍋A modern Sicilian restaurant sourced by organic, sustainable and almost exclusively local traders.


13h30 -15h30

Albergheria

Flies buzz in summer heat; a motorbike leaves white pamphlets floating in its wake. An emptied Coca-Cola bottle lies strewn to the side of a black, empty alleyway.

This neighbourhood, a bit inland from the historical center of Palermo, hosts as a plethoric number of passageways, hidden landmarks, and the sprawling Ballaro market.

Turn the corner to yammering locals, and colors, vibrant colors. Green celery stalks, ruby tomatoes, and pink filets of swordfish. Fresh and local produce, seafood and street food, Ballaro Market is a reflection of the lush culture in Palermo.

Other Places of Interest:

Torri di San Nicolo di Bari – A tower open to the public with a view of the city.

Torre Dei Federic – Bed and Breakfast in a medieval building with Norman facade and baroque interior.

MoltiVolti -🍲🎨Coworking space/ colorful restaurant, ideal if you need to stop for a snack and wifi.


15h30 – 17h30

Palazzo dei Normanni

The pearl of Arab-Norman architecture, the Norman Palace. If you visit one thing in Palermo, this should be it.

The zenith of Palermo: origins tell that this area was initially a fortress during the Roman Empire. In the 9th century, North Africa invaded and conquered the Sicilian region. They prospered over a period of 200+ years in Sicily, and are believed to have begun the construction of this building. Then, the Normans arrived.

This gorgeous palace is actually a collaboration. The Normans hired Arabs to accomplish textile work to transform the fortified area into an ornate palace for the kings of Sicily.

The vivid golds and light blues from the North African region while the characters are painted in a Norman style.

Now, it also holds congress.

Nello Musumesci serves a five-year term as the President of Sicily, which is considered a region of Italy and has the power to establish its own laws.

18h00- 20h00 Apero

Mazzini 30 Taverna
A high end cocktail bar with elegant decor and an outside area. Sicilian charcuterie plates, among other delicious tapas.

Hic! La Folie Du Vin
Another option nearby with planchas accompanied by Sicilian wines instead of cocktails. A lively crowd in a small establishment.


Dinner – Frida

There is a pizzeria in Palermo that rivals any pie that I’ve had before, and its name is Frida.

Specializing in Roman and Neopolitan style pizza, this pizzeria leavens bread for 48 hours before using it. I have no idea what that does, but the pizza is excellent.

The secret is to forego the other two styles and order a Quadro, folded corners and stuffed crust. I’d heard of this only in legend.

Also; the place also seems to be a LGBTQ hub of Palermo. So, that’s cool.


Sunday

Cefalu

7h00 Palermo Central

What? You didn’t know you were going to get up so early? My bad. But trust me, it’s worth it.

Cefalu is a beautiful, picturesque town of stone buildings, steep terrain, and radiant waters. Spend the day here. Yes, the entire day.

Lay your towel on the sand and watch the waves roll, gregarious Sicilians surround you, and seagulls bounce upon the current. Open up that book you haven’t touched since the flight.

The beach is entirely unpretentious, one of my favorite things about Sicily. I’ve never felt classed out of a place. I never received that condescending glance from an old rich lady, or a guy who feels like he deserves priority.


13h00 Antica Foccaceria

Mouthwatering slices of focaccia, stuffed calzones, proscuitto sandwiches, this place is perfect for a brown bag lunch, either by the ocean or on an open piazza. It’s the embodiment of the Sicilian dream.

Also, the eggplant pomodoro was heavenly.


14h00 Cefalu Cathedral


A 10th century Cathedral, Norman architecture, very well-maintained and beautiful.


I’d recommend heading back before it gets too late. Grab a coffee or an Apero back in Palermo before you catch the bus to the Airport. Make sure to allow plenty of time–my commute was easy, but I’ve read horror stories about late buses and a slow airport. Tutto Bene. Enjoy yourself, and leave a comment if you enjoyed your stay.

-Alexander

All photos are originals.


Caché! The Secret and Wonderful Oddities of Paris: La Cité de Trévise


It’s a breezy, mid-spring Wednesday in Paris, the ninth Arrondissement. A fluffy white Samoyed pops out of a narrow road closely tailed by his athleisure fitted owner.


I stumble upon a moment of peace; a sudden gust of wind flows through the Sycamore trees. They encircle a small, neoclassical fountain. I approach. Pigeons bounce at the foot. Three mythic nymphs, holding hands, share an austere glare across the courtyard.

They stand guard over the Cité de Trévise, over the welfare of an elite who once lived in this quarter, when the quarter was gated, and the king still ruled. This was the final decade of a monarchy. 1840. 8 years later, after the outbreak of revolution, King Louis Phillipe fled into exile.

I continue my day, moved by the magic that lies in this city. The location is linked below.

Wednesday 24 April

-Alex

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