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

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

Published by AlexanderGittleman

Alexander Gittleman aka Mr. Cohiba is the writer, editor, and creator of the cocktail blog African Bowtie. He has lived in Seattle, New York, and currently lives in Paris where he covers the burgeoning cocktail scene.

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