Cocktails are breathing a new life here in Paris, and the French against all odds are liking it
I first heard about the Experimental Cocktail Club through the monthly FT supplement "How to Spend It", a glossy magazine targetting the very rich which is mostly a base for whole pages of luxury-goods ads featuring Swiss watches and Vuitton bags. While most of this brightly-colored magazine is appalingly-boring stuff intended for a high-heeled conformist elite with no clues about the real life, this supplement has always a few good pictures (fashion photography in particular) and also now and then an interesting report like this story that they run a few months ago : That's how I learnt about this new thing striking Paris, Le Shake, c'est Chic, or how three young French entrepreneurs decided to introduce the cocktail culture in Paris, France.
There aren't many cocktail bars in Paris, usually, demanding cocktails amateurs would head to the bars of luxury hotels to enjoy the art of mixology, places like the Four Seasons/George V or the Hemingway bar at the Ritz where you'd pay 25 or 30 € for an expertly-made cocktail. These high-end venues offer athentic mixology designed by professionals, not just the sugary drinks with flashy colors that you find in the bar next door. But still, at 30 € a glass, you can't bring in crowds and start a trend, at least in Paris nowadays.
The pic on the right shows the rue Saint Sauveur with the shop window of the ECC on the right.
Their are many ancient versions of cocktails, says Mickael, like the punch or the Mauresque (from southern France). They all are the result of mixing alcohol with flavored ingredients or fruits, spices and sugar. Actually, there's a large base of ingredients which are French and Italian, drinks like Vermouth, Chartreuse, Byrrh, Dubonnet... these drinks were very popular in France until the mid-20th century and the advertising slogans praising these apéritifs were routinely painted on buildings across France and along metro tunnels in Paris. While largely fallen into oblivion since, they are still produced and somehow make a comeback as base ingredients for cocktail drinks.
Although it has been banned by 1915 in both the United States and Europe for making people crazy, some say that it has never been proved that Absinth was more harmful than other spirits.
I was speaking to someone of La Maison du Whisky (a whisky importer & distributor) not long ago, and this person told me that the ECC was a big buyer of high-end spirits, he remembered that for example they were the biggest buyer they had for Ketel One vodka, a spirit made in Holland, and he marveled at how quickly this new cocktail operation had grown. Speaking about the vodkas with Mickael, he tells me that the good vodkas are mostly made from either wheat or rye, mostly. At the ECC, they tend to go more toward rye vodkas. These days, in addition to Ketel One, they also use an upper-range Wyborowa vodka (Exclusive) which is made from wheat.
They use different whiskies, among them the Rittenhouse and the Pikesville supreme straight rye whiskey. I spot an Elijah Craig 12 years bourbon, a Maker's Mark Kentucky straight bourbon, a Buffalo Trace bourbon and a Blanton's bourbon.
The cocktail menu sports 10 to 12 cocktails (priced 12 €) which change with the seasons, but if you have a preference not listed in the menu, the bartenders will probably concoct it for you. Also for a given cocktail, you'll have the option to a have a more bitter version of it, or a more sugary depending of your taste, if it pleases you. THat's what I was proposed for my Gringo Murder, a mezcal-based drink with tequila, orange peel, sugar cane and Angostura. I chose to go more on the bitter side and this happened to be a very onctuous drink, bitter at the same time but with smoothness and harmony between the two things.
B. chose a Baluchon Sake, made with egg white and Koï Koï sake and she loved that.