Even with a centuries long pedigree, punch has quietly endured less popular periods as well as stalwartly suffered abuse from the collage crowd. Fortunately, over the past decade, Punch has resurfaced (with a capital “P”!) to regain a position as a serious drinks category and serve as a source of inspiration on the cocktail scene. It’s been so inspirational as a style, that the team behind Le Syndicat recently opened a dedicated Punch bar, La Commune.
La Commune’s menu offers 10 punches, divided into 5 regions: India, Africa, Antilles, “Five Oceans” and Belleville (the neighborhood where it’s located). Punches serve from 2 to 10 people, so this is a place to go in groups. Prices range from 10 to 13 Euros per person for a punchbowl. Like their big sister bar, they use all French ingredients (with a few small exceptions like Indian red tea, which makes sense within the bigger context of the location and menu.)
The Citronelle N.5 is made with Indian lemon grass, fresh pineapple juice, ginger lemonade, Indian peppers, lemon juice, Corsican cedrat liqueur and Cognac (and was my preferred of the two I tried). It is an impressive balance of strong, sweet and spicy that pretty much just refills itself. The Belle Ville sur Eau Marie Galante is also an easy drinker but with the elderflower liqueur showing off a bit as it’s want to do. In both cases, the number of ingredients behind the finished product is somewhat obfuscated as you get a more general overall sense of a style rather than seeing each ingredient work individually.
There are some really interesting ingredients (Marc de Bourgogne, rhum agricol, etc). However, it’s a bit of a double edged sword letting unfamiliar ingredients pass so easily without much notice, as it doesn’t necessarily present them in their full glory. But, that’s okay…either people will slip through this Punch gateway to explore the more unusual ingredients further, or just enjoy themselves with the Punch as presented. Either way, we can call it a win-win.
Finally, there is one single serving cocktail on the menu: the Ti Punch. At 10 Euros it’s served in traditional style (small and strong) and you can select one of the French rhums from their reserve menu as its base.
Drinks aside, the design is top. The interior is chic + rough creating an edgy elegance tinged with graffiti. Industrial and unfished concrete are lit with candles and punctuated by pretty punchbowls. The large front terrace is packed with comfy couches, armchairs, generous tables and greenery. Between the concrete chic inside bar, the industrial jungle of the terrace and the work-a-day bustle of the sidewalk just beyond the walls, it’s a very unique juxtaposition of different feels and styles.
It’s a bit off the beaten path and when we arrived at opening, it was near empty. We relaxed into a terrace sofa thinking we’d have the place to ourselves but over the next hour or so, a hip, lively and young crowd settled in for some chatty fun over convivial drinks. So, go early if you want relative calm and go later if you want to get into more of a punch party vibe.
They’ve been drawing regulars from the original bar across town as well as temping a few curious neighbors from the surrounding working class area who are not quite accustomed to this kind of addition to this street. Looks like they are mixing up the city’s multicultural masses and classes, much like they might mix up various ingredients for a coherent punch.
80 Boulevard de Belleville