Kissproof Belleville: one the coolest Paris bars you probably haven’t heard of

Quicktake: Kissproof Belleville bar is lowkey with a young clientele, creative cocktails, and a nice selection of absinthe.

Kissproof Belleville has been quietly pulling in Parisians with its under-the-radar attitude since opening in November 2022. Though a cocktail friend dropped the name to me last summer, it’s not a Paris bar that comes up regularly in cocktail conversations. Maybe it’s the location, further afield than other Paris hipster hotbeds like the Marais, Oberkampf, or Pigalle. So I expected it to be empty on my first visit, early on a weeknight. But a half hour into opening, it was brimming with a cool young clientele, unassumingly confident in their knowledge of the right places to be.

Kissproof Belleville is in a bustling neighbourhood known for its street art and murals

Much like the 20th arrondissement in which it’s located, Kissproof Belleville is unpretentious with a welcome soupçon of rough and ready. You know, a little divey, in a good way. You could easily walk past the yellow facade with red neon signage that blends in with other loudly colored shopfronts touting outlet sales, cheap mani-pedis, and Asian restaurants. It’s a gem hidden in plain sight. 

Kissproof Belleville’s menu includes a nice selection of French and Swiss Absinthes

Kissproof has a dozen or so absinthes at 8 to 13 Euros, plus a fountain for proper louching. Although absinthe is well established in the romantic history of France, it’s not easy to find a decent selection in Paris bars. There’s something fitting about this gritty and artistic neighborhood celebrating a spirit popularized over a century ago by artists in the raucous Montmartre of the late 1800s.

The Ode to New Orleans is a sazarac with a side bottle of SASSY cider

The Kissproof Belleville backbar reveals the kind of bottles that often end up in my own home: some big name basics that deliver affordable consistency, a few more unique favorites, and the necessary bitters and French herbal liqueurs to crank out classics or the more creative offerings on this cocktail menu. Drinks are all 13 Euros, starting with the six “Booze and Bubbles” options that incorporate fizz in fun ways. They forgo the obvious champagne and use less snooty, more interesting alternatives like French cider, beer, cremant and sparkling sake. The Ode to New Orleans is a sazerac served alongside a SASSY cider into which go the remains of the absinthe wash from the drink. I like this from both a flavor and no-waste standpoint. It’s also almost like getting a 2 for 1, with the bottle of cider acting as a nice lengthener, something to sip on and get sociable for a beat rather than immediately ordering the next cocktail.

Their most experimental cocktail also comes in this section, the Drink Yourself to Death:  Japanese whisky, ponzu sauce, sparkling sake, and a pickled mushroom all served separately and drank in a particular order. It does challenge cocktail expectations, but it’s interesting and pushes boundaries in a fun way.

Love on the Beet cocktail with mezcal and beetroot

Things feel a little more familiar in the “glam cocktails” section with campy names and descriptors, such as the Pink Sheep of Beirut, a “glitter parade daiquiri”. The long drinks have long names like “Liquid Lamborghini in my Flaming Cocaine”, a mix of crémant and vodka, which feels rather accessible. Beyond the cocktails there are some nice wine options, including a few Rieslings – always a personal favorite. 

The interior is no-frills and simple

Kissproof is also a cafe where you can order dishes from cheeseburgers to smoked frog with shitake mushrooms, which reflects the same sensibilities as the drinks menu as it covers the easy-going to the more experimental. The decor and soundtrack provide the right backdrop for the space with an industrial DIY space filled with the perfect mix of old and modern music. 

Really nice to see sparkling sake in a bar

The bartenders are welcoming, and at least one of them was recently back from lengthy work abroad, bringing a fresh perspective from outside of the current French bar scene. And an outside perspective may be what’s giving Kissproof Belleville a leg up. It’s part of the Wisors Hospitality Group that owns a handful of eclectic and enticing Beirut venues. While some may bemoan the effect of the continued influx of foreign establishments and inspiration on the Parisian food and drinks scene, I don’t. These external influences and interesting immigration is a large part of what keeps Paris a vibrant, living, growing, city – and has done something positive for both its cuisine and cocktails. In short, Kissproof is a testament to the ever-evolving landscape of Parisian nightlife.

Highly recommend a stop around the corner from Kissproof before or after for small plates at Paloma

And big bonus: Kissproof Belleville is just a few steps from the 20 arrondiseement’s other uber cool cocktail bar, Combat, as well as the delicious and great value small plates restaurant, Paloma. Meaning, you can easily spend a very enjoyable long evening in this little corner of Paris.

Kissproof Belleville
50 Rue de Belleville
Paris 75020

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