Speakeasy: Paris Cocktails of Another Sort

25 Rue Jean Giraudoux
75016 Paris, France
01 47 23 47 22

Articles abound on the ‘speakeasy’ bar trend; some proclaimings it’s in, others proclaiming it’s over. I think it’s over. That’s not to say I don’t highly enjoy many of the places touted as modern day speakeasies. But, a little variety is good and I don’t think a bar need necessarily employ faux-prohibition tactics to prove their cocktail cred. However, a bar with the name ‘Speakeasy’ is going to catch my attention.

With red velour stools, dark leather sofas, nightly jazz and a discreet fumoir, the Speakeasy attempts to transport clients back in time to the smoky, jazz-filled Chicagoan dens of iniquity of the twenties. The menu features over 20 cocktails, including the usuals like margaritas and mojitos and more unique house creations at 14 Euros each. Nothing looked exceptional and some were hovering suspiciously close to spodie territory such as the Gin Imperial (Bombay, Malibu, grenadine, pineapple juice, mandarin imperial, raspberry juice and tonic water.) Although what was exceptional for this generally expensive area was a happy hour (17h30 – 19h30, all cocktails 8 Euros)

I was very early and set off solo for my first drink. Cheerful besuited staff set out dishes of chips and jarred salsa. I don’t like jarred salsa. It simply does’t taste good. I ate some anyway and washed it down with the glass of ice water the barman had thoughtfully put in front of me. I’ve been living here long enough to know better. It wasn’t water. This was my martini: sweet vermouth over ice with a big lemon chunk in it. I think he may have dropped in a few drops of gin because I had asked for a ‘dry gin martini.’ It’s is a shame because there are more than a few gins I would happily put in my mouth from those listed on their menu (Gordon’s, Tanqueray, Beefeater, Tanqueray 10, Bombay Sapphire, Pink 47 and Hendricks.) However there is one gin they list which has me a baffled. I have never heard of (and find no information on) “Cavendish” which they also have listed on the menu as a gin. [note: Paul-Eric of Sipeasy just notified me that this is the private label gin of France Boisson]

Mel and Vio arrived and took two drinks whose names and don’t recall and which left them nonplussed. Unable to find anything imbibe-inspiring on the menu I went the when-in-Rome route with the amicably votre, a crazy concoction of whisky, light rum, Malibu, pineapple juice, blue curacao & strawberry juice. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t. And the color. Anyone ever see the modern day freak show that is the Jim rose circus? The color recalls Matt “The Tube” Crowley’s act. I’ll leave you to look the description of that one up at your leisure in case you’re having lunch right now.
A fellow blogger Cat – who hits some nice bars – reported a very good experience there. And with the friendly staff, good tunes and relaxed atmoshphere, I have no doubt that one could pass an enjoyable evening here with the right drink orders. (wine? Whisky?) So perhaps it’s hit and miss here.

And, I imagine speakeasies during prohibition had that same range in quality. In some cases, the liquor restrictions forced a flourish of creativity as bartenders invented new recipes with limited resources. But those with less cash or connections were unlikely to be celebrating this new bout of cocktail creativity and probably ended up in sketchy speakeasies with even sketchier spirits. At this Speakeasy: Cat had a good experience and I had a bad one. At Prohibition era speakeasies: Sometimes you get a legendary Last Word cocktail. But then sometimes you get bathtub gin related deaths. So perhaps this place – with its bads as well as goods – is actually more representative of real speakeasies than I initially thought.

9 thoughts on “Speakeasy: Paris Cocktails of Another Sort

  1. Forest

    Also in the XVIth you should try le 29 (starring Greg from le Secret and le Royal Monceau), even though I'm sure it's already on your to-do-list.
    Just opened a few days ago!

  2. thanks, Hub! i've heard talk of Greg's new place and planning on making a stop very soon.

  3. The name caught my attention, but this bar seems a bit lacking in quality of cocktails. Perhaps a stop for happy hour and hopefully a hit not a miss…

  4. yes, I'd definitely do the stop at happy hour in case it was a miss, so you're not spending as much & to get a stool at the smallish bar – otherwise, you need a table in the restaurant part.

  5. Your "Martini" sounds like a disaster! Haven't heard of Cavendish, might be worth keeping an eye out for it…

  6. talking of gins i had never heard of, i tried Citadelle in a very dry martini last weekend. it was very good.

  7. Columbine: yes, i like it a lot as a gin. It's not my preference for a martini, but I think it works really well in a g&t. Also, they have a reserve, which is barrel aged and interesting.

  8. Quick question, being a cocktail connesseur is it just a fancy way of admitting being a stylish alcoholic or not?:)

  9. OMG, you called me out! 🙂 The husband and I hit the Speakeasy on one of those bright pre-summer evenings when we had nothing planned and just jumped on the scooter in search of adventure. What we liked about it: the fumoir, the drink we had was divine — also with strawberries but more akin to a Mojito than what you describe — the live music (though the signer was slightly tone-deaf which added to our amusement). What we didn't like: the price, the decor, the crowd. We have yet to go back opting to spend our summer nights at the much more lively and hip Grazie or way cooler way more ambient Le Secret.

    The only thing that would tempt me back there was the excellent cocktail we had though since there are no printed menus and I have really no idea what was in it, I'd prefer to keep the good memory rather than risk the disappointment of not being able to recreate that luscious libation. 😛

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