There’s something inevitably alluring about the idea of sipping a cocktail in some heady, dimly lit and glamorous lounge, isn’t there? Nurse that Manhattan, kir royale or gin fizz in Paris and the act somehow seems to become exponentially more romantic and literary.
While for most Parisians, “going out for a drink” means ordering a glass of simple wine or beer in a corner brasserie, there are several excellent cocktail bars in the city worth checking spending an evening in.
Try ordering something new from the generally varied-- and sometimes impressively creative-- drinks menus. Here are 6 of our favorite cocktail-themed watering holes in the French capital, listed in no particular order of greatness.
Wait – did I just use the word “classy” above? This rowdy hole-in-the-wall is anything but, but that is precisely what makes it great. Stolly’s is a tiny, super-loud bar that has been entertaining expatriate residents of the city (mostly native English speakers) for years, and they also make a mean cocktail. Drinks are reasonably priced (at least for Paris) and have often been amusingly named, such as the “Kurt Nobrain” (vodka, cherry liqueur and Coke). The Gin Fizz is a must and there are also some great ten-year old scotches to try.
Address:16 rue Cloche-Perce, 4th arrondissement
Metro: Saint-Paul or Hotel de Ville
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 76 06 76
Harry’s New York Bar
Sink into one of the leather lounge chairs at this iconic bar near the Opera Garnier and the grands magasins (old department store district) and admire the many American university pennants lining the walls of this famous cocktail bar once frequented by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and F.
Scott Fitzgerald. You may for a moment think you’re in the US, circa 1920-something.
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That is, until you order your drink, at which point you’ll realize distinctly that you are in Paris. The bartenders at Harry’s are notoriously solemn and formal, so don’t expect a chat (or even a smile) but the cocktails here really are some of the best the city has to offer.
You’ll pay a pretty penny for your Manhattan, but simply knowing that the bar was such an important watering hole and place for conversation of great writers may make the steep prices easier to swallow.
Address: 5 rue Daunou, 2nd arrondissement
Metro: Opera or Pyramides
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 61 71 14
Experimental Cocktail Club
The concept of “mixology” – oh-so-trendy in New York but not yet having caught on entirely in Paris-- gets its comeuppance at this creative bar, which prides itself on combining ordinary ingredients to create extraordinary drinks. Tommy’s Margarita Especial’s agave tequila Arette mix with lime juice and honey will twist your taste buds, while Experience #1, made with vodka, lemon, basil, lemon grass and elderflower cordial, is a refreshing summer cocktail. Prices aren’t low, but the music is good and the staff is reputedly friendly, promising all you need for an enjoyable evening out.
Address: 37 rue Saint Sauveur, 2nd arrondissement
Metro: Sentier or Réaumur-Sébastopol
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 08 88 09
L’Entrée des Artistes
For a slightly more intimate and less rowdy experience, head to this bar in the relatively tourist-free Oberkampf district, a favorite among students and young urban professionals for nights out, to sample some truly delicious cocktails.
Unique ingredients like elderflower liqueur and bitters go into these well thought-out drinks, made with care and creativity by the agreeable staff. From cocktail hour onwards, the place gets pretty packed, so get here early and enjoy your drink while the playlist jumps between hip-hop, R&B, soul and funk.
Address: 8 rue de Crussol, 11th arrondissement
Metro: Oberkampf or Filles du Calvaire
Tel: +33 (0)9 50 99 67 11
Add a little spice to your night at this Mexican eatery and cocktail bar, also near the Oberkampf nightlife district. As you munch away on beef tacos or chips and guacamole, sip La Gringa – a delightful mix of tequila, triple sec and citron vert. Or for some extra zest, order La Guepe Verte, which combines spicy pepper-infused tequila, coriander and cucumber. Although you could essentially point to any drink on the menu and be satisfied, the largely English-speaking staff will help you make the best choice.
Address: 52 rue de Saintonge, 3rd arrondissement
Metro: Filles du Calvaire
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 74 41 28
If the idea of going out for cocktails conjures up images of Sex and the City, swanky bars, beautiful people and Cosmopolitans, you’ll be in seventh heaven at this bar/restaurant in the storied Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood. While not a place to spend an evening if you're attempting to pinch pennies, the quality of the cocktails and the seriously good people-watching will make your outing here a true pleasure.
Address: 62 rue Mazarine, 6th arrondissement
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 10 19 90