Quicktake: Little Red Door’s new cocktail menu explores the taste and sensations of flavor & they’re opening a temporary terrace
Paris may not yet be fully deconfined, but at least drinking options are on the upswing! As we move from last month’s delivery and to go cocktails to the opening of terraces, ad hoc outdoor seating is popping up at bars that are normally entirely in-door affairs. Not a bad thing, really, as we ease into summer months and sunnier times.
The cocktails that are normally only available inside the Little Red Door are spilling out into the streets thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Stir crazy cocktail lovers can now settle into some makeshift street seating and enjoy a peak at the bar’s new menu. In a case of unfortunate timing, they had launched their latest menu just days before the whole country went into lockdown.
Now, you know Parisians are excited about something when they actually show up on time or – gasp! – early. This is normally a city where most bars don’t start buzzing until 7pm or much later. But, when I stopped into LRD at opening hour the night the new menu dropped, the place was already packed with notable industry folk and cocktail lovers while a thirsty little group huddled at the door waiting for an open barstool.
Little Red Door is well-known for their string of successful conceptual menus that explore cerebral or slippery ideas like architecture, art, language through cocktails. Their latest menu, “Don’t Judge a Door by its Color”, upholds this practice with a collection of drinks that please, tease and teach. This menu explores flavour, which on first consideration, seems pretty straightforward, right? I mean, we’re here to taste cocktails and all. But in the fashion typical of this team, they spent a year deep-diving and experimenting until they came up with creations that explore two sides of flavour: taste and sensation. The team took familiar flavours like menthol, lemon or coffee and, for each, created one cocktail of a more classic variety to highlight its taste and another cocktail of a more challenging and showy bent that explores its sensation. The result is one drink that valorizes how the flavour tastes and the other how it feels. For example, for “coffee” you can order:
Coffee Without Bitter: Coffee distillate, strawberry vermouth, berry blend, and tonic
Bitter Without Coffee: Campari, Grappa, Baldoria Rosso, and Chicory
One brings an element of smooth coffee flavour to the cocktail, while the other brings lets its bitterness shine.
It’s a menu that pushes boundaries and is more challenging than its predecessors. Even after tasting multiple cocktail on its first night, I realize a menu that requires revisiting multiples times to really explore its full potential. Everyone will surely find a personal favorite. I liked many but the Chili Without Spicy especially stood out. The Altos Blanco tequila, green pepper and coriander, Empirical Spirits F**k Trump habanero spirit and Baldoria Dry are nicely balanced and allow for exploration of the taste without the impediment of the heat, for a better – or at least different – appreciation of it. More challenging for me was the Sour WIthout Lemon, which delivers a serious tartness factor using citric acid in a cocktail with an unexpected texture; it’s an acidic yogurt drink that makes you both squint and think.
Basically, for each flavour you can choose to be comforted by the familiar or challenged by something more unexpected. Working through the menu, i learned how I can separate the taste and sensation of a flavor – for example I can’t stand coffee, but I love its bitter quality. On the flip side, I love the taste of lemon, but the tart sensation can be tough for me to take under certain conditions.
If that’s my takeaway after a few tastes, I imagine the bar staff must have learned a lot more having worked on the cocktails for twelve months. Bar manager Rory Shepherd says: “It’s hard to go specific because I learnt and discovered so much but I think one thing I was blown away by is how sensitively temperature effects sensation as well as flavour. Spicy was a great example of this, the liquid is super cold like a martini and the temperature numbs the receptors on your tongue so at first you only feel a slight heat at the back of your throat due to the liquid warming as it runs over your tongue.”
I put off writing up the menu as it seems kind of cruel to tease the reader with something so interesting but unavailable. But, now that things are loosening, they are making some of the drinks available on their new terrace menu as well as selling them in to-go bottles. While you might not get the full experience – yet – you can get a taste. And while so much of the Little Red Door experience is what happens indoors at the bar with presentation and preparations, the team has risen to the challenge of delivering even under compromised conditions.
Rory explains “One of the beautiful things about this difficult time is it has pushed forward things we have wanted to do for a long time. We started the year saying we want to take LRD beyond its four walls and connect with our local community more so a project like bottled cocktails has made us think differently. The question was ‘how do we give people an LRD experience without them actually being there’ this is why we chose larger bottles for sharing, it adds sharing a moment to the experience, it implies ‘grabbing a bottle and heading to the river’. Conversation and companionship paired with a delicious and evoking offering is such a huge part of what LRD loves.” And, it’s what customers love about Little Red Door.
To experience this trio of conversation, cocktails and companionship, check out their terrace, which is open Thursday through Sundays from 15h – 22h and potentially daily after the June 22.
Little Red Door
60 Rue Charlot