Quicktake: Gentlemen 1919 is an intimate Paris speakeasy and fumoir hidden within a barbershop
These days, both cocktail bars and barbershops are hip. And, Gentlemen 1919 successfully combines the two with their Paris speakeasy hidden behind a slick salon. Look for the red, white and blue barber’s pole outside the shop, and slip past the stylists in snappy leather shoes through the unmarked door and into a bygone era.
The contrast between the bright barbershop and the dim bar hidden within enhances the prohibition speakeasy ambience of Gentlemen 1919. Their name is even a nod to the year when the Noble Experiment began in the United States. The chic, retro bar is the perfect place to sip whisky while sinking into comfy leather chesterfields. And should you care for a cigar with your drink, they also have a fumoir. Non-smokers need not fear the fumoir as it’s well aerated and insulated so you don’t get smoke seeping into the bar. (Well, at least I never noticed it on three different visits to the bar)
Having sampled their classic martini on a couple of occasions, I approve. The gin selection is acceptable with many of the dependable classics like Beefeater and Tanqueray. On my latest visit with fellow cocktail lover Anthony of Le Cocktail Connoisseur, I tried a martini with the barrel aged Monkey 47 which took my usual martini into pleasant new territory. They really excel at brown spirits with over 80 whisky references from all over the world plus a fair number of rums.
The house cocktail menu features only 7 drinks, which means they haven’t sacrificed quality for quantity. In keeping with the theme of this Paris speakeasy, the cocktails all bear the names of old school gangsters, mobsters and criminals. For example, the Al Capone “Scarface” is a bracing straight up drink with Woodford rye, Saint-Raphael, Benedictine, absinthe, bitter aromatic leaf. I particularly enjoyed the Sam Giancana “Sam the Cigar” (Mount Gay black barrel, Havana 7 yr, Saint-Raphael, Suze, coffee bitters and a peat spray.) It felt like a warming old fashioned with a bit of backbone thanks to the gentian and bitters.
This is also the kind of place where you can buy a bottle of something special and store it onsite in your own private spirits locker. Finally, they have a couple of non-alcoholic cocktails on offer as well. Prices are around 20 Euros per cocktail which is on the high-end for Paris. However, you are also paying for the speakeasy novelty, accessible exclusivity and classy comfort. Given that, the prices are reasonable. And, you can always grab a glass of wine for a tenner.
The bar is open during the day, so it’s a nice option for daytime drinkers. Call ahead for entry during closing hours for the barber shop. And, I highly recommend you reserve in advance so you easily slip into this discrete little Paris speakeasy.
11 Rue Jean Mermoz