New York City had Studio 54, but Paris had its own era-defining and decadent club, Les Bains Douches. The location that served as Paris’ first spa in 1885, and counted Marcel Proust amongst its regulars, was converted into a nightclub in 1978. The pool remained from the former bathhouse and over the next two decades an impressive roster of regulars came by to dip their toes – or in many cases – dive right in. Familiar faces included the likes of Iggy Pop, David Bowie, a young Kate & Johnny, Mick Jagger, a gaggle of gorgeous supermodels, on so on. Les Bains Douches helped launched the careers of Philippe Stark, who designed the club, and David Guetta, resident D.J., both relatively unknown at the time.
But nothing lasts forever and in 2010, Les Bains Douches was forced to close due to its dilapidated state. In 2015, after a hefty remodel, this ‘bathhouse’ began its third act as a multipurpose venue with a hotel, restaurant, boutique, club and upscale bar, all under its shortened name, Les Bains.
Downstairs, the club retains its edgy but elegant ambience…for those who make it past the doorman. Here, bottles of champagne are de rigor and the cocktail menu is relatively simple with just a few mixed drinks. However, those who don’t want to stay up past midnight or deal with door policies can enjoy a selection of craft cocktails at the main floor bar.
Under Julien (bar manager) and Nicolas (head barman), the menu is a solid selection of 15 cocktails including creations and revamped classics and covering a range of styles, spirits and flavor profiles. Mixers are quality, juices are fresh, syrups are homemade, shrubs make an appearance and the spirits selection is good. At 18 Euros/drink, prices are above average for the cocktails themselves, but inline with prices for a venue of this stature.
Drinks run the gamut from light and refreshing like the FAIR vodka Fairy Tale mule to the dark, strong Nikka whisky Yogi Old Fashioned. Their special spin is their house syrups: wild fennel for the mule and Ayurveda for the old fashioned. In both of these cases, the added syrup flavours marry well with the original to deliver something both delicious and up to date. Another nice option is to start with the Popolo Rosso, which makes for a fresh and floral aperitif.
In addition to their more creative options, they can cover the classics, including an excellent martini. While the drinks menu doesn’t veer far from the expected when it comes to the current criteria for good cocktails, there are three additional items worth noting: A barrel aged negroni, a beer based cocktail (with La Barge du Canal from the Paname Brewing Company), and a large format cocktail that serves 4 to 5.
Extras include herb coated nuts and most excellent service. There are also two terraces off either side of the bar. The bar clientele is more sophisticated and subdued than their club-going crowd, but this mix-it-up philosophy is classic les Bains, which strives for and thrives best with an eclectic assortment of guests from lowbrow to highbrow, grit to glamour, newbie to big names.
In short: The club is where you can circulate amongst celebs, dance ‘til dawn with the fashion forward crowd, or take a dip in the pool with the It Girls and Boys of the moment. But a more relaxed way to partake in this legendary Paris nightclub is simply to enjoy a well-crafted cocktail at the bar.
7 Rue du Bourg-l’Abbé