1.3 The Blue Notes – Moonshiner

December 15th

Moonshiner—h2130

A rainy night. 

Near Place Des Vosges, on the outskirts of the Marais, the backstreets are slick and empty. The three of us scamper across the wide Boulevard Beaumarchais. Rain picks up. It’s near freezing. Street lights reflect in a violent orange hue.

My feet are damp, but my mouth tastes of a perfectly charred steak from Le Petit Marche

Around the corner lies a pizzeria. We’re not eating again.

We enter, greet ‘bonsoir’ and cut through to the back. To the cooler. My friend isn’t expecting it. We’re in the cooler now. Miscellaneous stock, barrels, boxes and cartons are stored behind a wired cage. I force him to wait an extra second.

On the far wall lies a trap door. I turn the handle. 

Here we are. A crowded, backlit bar aka the Moonshiner. 

Buena Sera. The bartender yells over the crowd. They’re wearing 30’s attire and listening to 70’s music.

I scour the room. A herd has formed, as sheep normally do, in the narrowest area of the bar, making it very difficult to pass. Every seat is occupied. Hype kids. Don’t step on anyone’s shoes.

.

Two Vodka Pomegranates and 1 Negroni. I direct us to the smoking lounge. Here, we’re able to procure a few stools, and schmooze without the imposing screeches and elbows of neighbors. 

Tucked behind candle-lit tables, tightly-knit couples line the other wall. 

My buddy flips through pictures of his two weeks in Morocco, vehemently explaining the scarcity of alcohol in the country, and how every bar was technically a real Speakeasy. His iPhone 8Plus captures the sublime light of the Sahara. Of the Atlas Mountains. Of the blue city, Chefchaouen

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1 Gin & Honey and Two Negronis this time. We switch to the political system in the US. ‘The Republicans play the game better.’ Brash, manipulative, insidious—in politics, these are all considered qualities. Democrats won seats in the house, but it’s not enough. 

We face two problems: their subordinates and their superiors.  

The US has become so bipartisan that if anyone is out of alignment, the system fails. This, to me, feels…outdated.

My eyes wander to others in the room. Darkness obscures their faces, and space obscures their voices. It’s my turn. I leave to get more drinks.

.

Near the bar, I recognise a man from the smoking room. A 90’s Leo lookalike in a well-cut white T-shirt. He’s short (I’m 195 cm. People are short.), and wears the smile of a young, yet already successful man, a person who knows exactly where he’s going next. His ravishing date joins him, and they exit in a cloud of sparkling dust. Merci, to the bartender in a beret and vest, and I head back to the smoking section.

1 Gin & Honey, 1 Gin-Campari and Vermouth (Negroni) and the piece de resistance a Gin, Cucumber and Yogurt cocktail. Frothy, refreshing, phenomenal.  

After the drink, we pack up, and stumble outside.  

Fin.

1.2 The Blue Notes – Le Cinquante

December 15th

Le Cinquante—h0030

Down Rue de Lancry we walk. A car passes. People hover outside of a bar. People always hover outside of this bar. We enter. Foggy. Cramped. Everyone’s dressed in black. Bunch of late to the party beatniks, Hip boys and girls, probably design majors, who now work at bars and coffee shops in newly gentrified neighbourhoods. I love it.

The bartender is a woman who doesn’t wear makeup, and she dresses in faded button down shirts like she’s in a rock band. 3 Caipis—the special—they’re terrible—but they’re strong af. 

 The whole neighbourhood is here. People bump every goddamn time they pass. I’m starting to feel it, feel the Caipi

I look to my girlfriend. She smiles back. 

My friend returns from the bathroom. 

We chat a bit more; about what? I can’t say.

We order another Caipi and two beers. My friend wants to smoke a cigarette. Two extremely large men with hoop earrings and black beanies look like they’d have some. 

“Want me to ask?”

“No thanks. My parents.”

He comments on my girlfriend’s coat, says it must weigh 20 pounds. Definitely doesn’t help the claustrophobia. It’s big, it’s green and it’s plushy. 

A man drunkenly bumps her. Her drink spills onto the coat. ‘Putain!’ she yells, wanting him to notice.

The guy looks over, blasé—casualties of war

My friend steps in—he speaks in English to the culprit.

The culprit doesn’t like that. They begin arguing in a comedic way. ‘We saved your asses in WW2. If it wasn’t for us, you’d be speaking German.’ ‘Il n’a pas de nuance.’ The insults fall flat. Neither can understand the other. Therefore, it’s a draw. 

The man buys us shots of brown liquid. As a sorry. We Shoot. Low-grade Whiskey, disgusting and unnecessary. 

We call it a night. Buzzed.

A terrible taste lingers.

Fin

1.1 The Blue Notes – La Patache

December 14th
La Patache—h2200

Across Canal Saint Martin we traverse. A bar by the water. La Patache. My friend, I see him through the front windows.

“A table for three.”
“Seat yourselves.”

I look around, disoriented from the cold. Great vibes. Bubbling. My girlfriend spots a table in the back. We sit.

2 Camden IPAs and a glass of red.

I’m here, thought I saw you, but now I don’t. A message displays on my phone. It’s from him. My friend. Sounds morbid. Or romantic even.

I laugh and show him.

Polite talk. Small talk. As the glass empties, the depth increases. I ask about people back home. All good, he says.
It’s always; ‘All good,’ or ‘Nothing much.’ Our friends and family are ageing and our cities are becoming unrecognisable. It’s true. While Seattle’s skyline grows higher, New York’s roots of gentrification stretch outward. Paris’s new ‘à la mode’ neighbourhood, in contrast, seems like something of a dart toss.

He asks about the situation in France. Pretty f***ed, we say. Stay away from Etoile tomorrow, I tell him.

2 Jupiler’s and 1 Camden IPA. The server makes a joke in French. My girlfriend laughs. I didn’t get it. They look at me, waiting for a response. ‘He’s really gotten better at French though,’ she says.

Means a lot . (*Love you*)

The adjacent table has finished their charcuterie plate.

Talk turns to heavier issues. My friend’s divorce. My friend’s life before his year around the world. He’s very open about it. He wonders why we’re not married yet. Many ask. Yet, I’ve never asked myself.

Talk shifts to his travels. Says it’s been great. Great times. He has photos. And he really liked Portugal, though his phone was stolen in Lisbon.

After that, I can’t remember. We finish our drinks. We pack up. We leave.

A cat sits, perched on a shelf, overlooking the bar. My friend and I step out. My girlfriend stays. She pets the cat. Outside he tells me how much he loves being single. How much he’s loved traveling while being single.

Paris, living in Paris is pretty cool still.

It’s the golden age for being single, my roommate in New York once told me. Now, he’s in a relationship.

World-Class Cocktails and a Landscape Redefined at CopperBay

Home to a battery of bars, street food, theaters, and bobo haunts, the flourishing 10th arrondissement of Paris is brimming with places. So much so, that its consistency could be its own downfall. Steps east and west of Chateau D’eau, citizens flood from the subway stop and pack nearby haunts. You’ll pass black trench coats, drug dealing, Doc Marten’s, Indian food, large hats, homelessness, handsome dogs, and litter. Oh, joie.

Copper Bay, however, is an outpost.

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via Copperbay.fr

On a small, unassuming street, lies this superb cocktail lounge that makes everything look easy.  Ambiance. Crowd. Modesty. Soul, check. Theme*? I think so, but it doesn’t need one. Cocktails? Yes, and they make them very, very well.

The bar front doesn’t announce itself with spangled lights or a flappy sign, but rather 1 or 2 Parisiennes out front, speaking in a hushed, sophisticated tone over cigarettes.

Dark blue and orange tones light a spacious room.  It’s filled with well-dressed people who don’t intrude on your agenda with theirs, but rather, set a convivial backdrop to a fantastic stop in your night.

Via CopperBay.fr

Cocktail bars of this caliber, succumb to their ego–I’ve had unpleasant experiences at many of the renowned bars in the LES, E. Village, and even (gasp) Pigalle.

CopperBay is modest.

The bar’s remote location and its authenticity to the owner, I believe, create this modesty.

Aurelie Panhelleux is busy; it’s Friday 00h30, but she still stops to chat with us a bit about their seasonal menus. She’s earnest in tone and speaks in English, even if I could have gotten the gist in French. (Ahem, maybe)

The menu rotates based on weather rather than date. She said to expect warm, lush ingredients for their upcoming release.

Several patrons enter and give daps, or coddle the bar as if they’re waiting for the bartenders to end their shift. It hits me. They all know each other. As a bar featured on World Best Bars, I assumed differently. Copper Bay should be a destination bar, but by definition, it’s actually a dive bar.

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Within the larger sphere of the 10th quarter’s nightlife, this bar carves a distinct sphere for itself. Copper Bay and it’s patrons consider something other than wine, food, or partying as the main attraction. A new dynamic is added.

The Parisienne scene is more mature and expansive than it was at first glance. Copper Bay isn’t a kitschy tiki bar or a faux speakeasy, like so many other a la mode cocktail bars, rather it’s an authentic refuge that’s amassed a loyal following and cultivated a scene of its own.

The bar transcends the realms of a neighborhood staple and a cocktail bar on the world’s stage. This could have only happened now, in our era. Social Media allows us to probe into other spheres of life, to discover what we wouldn’t have known in past lives.

Still, Paris is off the grid to Anglosaxons. Sifting through trashy tourist reviews and a wine-based palate of the French is like searching two different worlds. There are two Paris’s, one that’s wholly French and one that is a bit like a theme park. Copper Bay angles its way into an invisible space, creating something world-class yet not world renowned.

Sure, it’s documented. But only people who have both researched cocktails, and who are informed about Paris are who will find this establishment.


Aurelie hands us a menu. Thick like a textbook, each cocktail has its own page, a description and a colorful pie graph illustrating each ingredient’s dose.

We order

-Clear my Colada: a modern revisit to the Pina Colada is built with an aged Pineapple rum, emulsified banana, fig and Verjus for a tart finish.

-Mr. Seguin: creamy, purple and savory, the drink is composed of beet juice, chive vodka, and feta cream. 

Both drinks swim smooth and host edible garnishes with them.

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In Paris, I’ve experienced many false friends in the form of sugary, light cocktails. There are a time and place for that, but with the sun sliding further on the horizon each day, with winter coming, one needs to feel belonging, one needs a cozy den to settle in and I wouldn’t have settled anywhere else.

With Love,

Alexander

Copper Bay is nautical themed.

ps. Copper Bay is currently having a soft opening in Marseille! Congrats!

Copper Bay IG: @copperbay_paris

My IG: @african.bowtie

Letter from the Editor: Mental Health

October 2nd, 2018

Today, I had this thought.

It’s overcast, a glum, fall day in Paris, only the first like this, and I’d been pinned to my mattress by the weather and the suffocating sensation of depression. I fell into a 2-hour waking dream where I confessed to an old, random acquaintance of mine that despite all of my facades, and Instagram stories or whatever, I’m not feeling well.

And I need to be candid.

I’ve just finished writing a book, and am thoroughly exhausted from this experience, in the literal meaning, like an empty, discarded, rusting automobile. I’m tired of hiding this  side of me, and I’ve decided that I’ll take this blog a new, authentic direction, which doesn’t limit itself to drinks, bars, experiences, and ‘cool,’ but also confronts the situation of living abroad with depression, because it is in times of displacement where one can feel most vulnerable, and I’d like to write about it.

The two topics don’t inherently go together, in fact, they almost seem to oppose one another, but that’s life–we figure it out as we go.

Living abroad in regards to mental health.

Love you all, Alexander.

Très Chic, Très Zen Bars: Des Prés Tapas in Montrouge

Listen. Tapas are Spanish, but the Spanish don’t just eat Tapas. Got it?

One of my friends from Madrid reminded me of this cliché like…hmm..they only drink sangria, and dance Flamenca, and stay up gabbing until 4am, wait, no, that is a real thing. If anything, the Spanish rival the French in terms of tradition, but the French will forever be difficult to top in cuisine.

So, when the French make French tapas, believe that they are insane.

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Hol’ up. This site is about drinks though, correct? True, but while in Europe we have to get a few things straight. Each country in Europe has their own drinking ideology, and they are often very different from ours.

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That’s me.

The French believe in complements, not to be confused with compliments. Rather than balance, drinks build off of a meal and elevate the experience, creating uplifting, convivial atmosphere. A stark contrast from a moody dive bar banging Gang of Four, ironic leather vests, and empty rocks glasses. If the French sound uppity, they’re not, they are just raised this way. It’s instinctual. And it’s a little unfair to label instinct as uppityness (yes, it’s a word).

Anyways, back to the food, back to Des Pres Tapas. I’m almost done and I’ve hardly written about the restaurant!

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Their raison d’etre is their tapas, a spectrum of flavors, neatly divided on a menu as meat, fish, or vegetable. Gambas sauteed in Pastis, hand-made falafel, mini-croque monsieurs, and roasted veggies with thick wedges of Pecorino delight the table. Pair four or five plates with a cheap glass of Rosé, and you won’t be disappointed. Pair it with a bottle, and you’ll be feeling all types of jolly as you hobble out of the somewhat cramped, casual yet elegant spot.

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Opened just earlier this month, Des Pres is the laid back edition of their next-door neighbor, and the Montrouge culinary Juggernaut, Aubergine et Cie. I’d imagine that the owners have plans for the future.

They have draft beers from Brasserie Toussaint, a craft brewery from Louveciennes, (dare you to pronounce that) France. And a large list of wines as cheap as 3 Euro a glass.

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Me also

If you want a drink without all the fuss of eating involved, below I have a list of other bars in the area for a cocktail. Also, I’ll attach Des Pres info, if you want to do your own snooping.

Bise,

Alexander

Insta: @african.bowtie

Mapstr: @african.bowtie

Address: 38 Avenue Henri Ginoux, 92120 Montrouge

Website: des-pres.fr

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