3 Rue Durantin
Montmartre is inextricably linked with the iconography of Paris. Who doesn’t look at photos of its winding backstreets, romantic stairways or old street lamps and sigh “Ahhhh….Paris?” But things are moving & shaking around Montmartre, especially Pigalle. Fresh faces have been turning hostess bars into cocktail bars and injecting something innovative into the scene. However, one of the latest openings on the Butte is bringing something modern with a nod to the area’s past.
A French duo, Benoit and Simon, has created a modern day buvette just off Abbesses. Their goal is to maintain the Montmartre charm of a local watering hole and snack bar while delivering current cocktails alongside a selection of artisanal beers and unusual wines. They’ve retained the original façade, cubist flooring and stonewalls but updated it with industrial lighting and fresh coat of paint.
They’ve added other historical touches like bar shelves built with original fruit boxes from the 30’s. Their table water is also inspired by the neighborhood. After finding a recipe in the Montmartre Museum for a licorice and lemon infused water sold from refreshment carts, head barman, Mickael (previously of le Forvm and Lipstick) revisited it to create something refreshing, light, and with a hint of sweetness thanks to the licorice. Full disclosure: I was so interested by this beverage that I’ve spent the weekend recreating it and plan on clarifying it for aesthetic reasons (Agar Agar style – yes, I’ve been reading a lot of Liquid Intelligence lately)
Benoit and Simon are working with others to develop their beer and wine menu. And the same goes for their cocktail menu. They brought in the help of Alexx, brand ambassador for Don Q, to develop the drinks selection, which will change seasonally. They offer a list of 9 cocktails from 9 to 13 Euros, the first few of which are based on Don Q. The back bar is small, but with some nice names.
I started with the refreshing and edible Aphrodite (Citadelle gin, maraschino, Suze and lemon juice) garnished with a melon ball wrapped in a slice of jamon. I wasn’t immediately convinced when it arrived, but the edible garnish works nicely with the drink.
Next up was the Bonbonnet, which is a mix of Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac infused with cinnamon. This is their “dry” option for guests, although I felt it was a bit heavy on the cinnamon. Personally, cinnamon anesthetizes my mouth, so it needs a light hand. (Note: I shared my feelings onsite with the boys because I’m a little tired of online complaints that come before trying to air thoughts onsite – everyone loves to be a critic, but fewer people have the balls to say it on the spot.) That said, I think it will be a good choice for the regular consumer who doesn’t expect a cognac-heavy cocktail but rather something to introduce them to the spirit without overwhelming them.
My final taste test was the Serotina Julep (who can resist a julep?) This little combo of Mezcal del Maguey, black cherry shrub, and fresh mint was a great call. Both the smoky side of the mezcal and the sweet/sour cherry lingered in the mouth leaving a feeling of drinking the cocktail even when you aren’t.
On the evening of my visit, a couple of very elderly gentlemen sidled up to the bar – exactly the kind of customer that would have arrived back in the heyday of the area. Clearly Persifleur is pulling in both the old timers as well as the cocktail curious, which I believe is their goal.
In general they’re doing a nice job of it. In a community with some stand out bars like Dirty Dick, Lulu White, Baton Rouge, Glass and l’Entrée des Artistes (all of which have very distinct personalities) I’d love to see them continuing to push the Montmartre concept. And they are off to a good start. If they keep flaunting Montmartre cred, they’ll pull in and put out a great combination of old and new clients and cocktails.