A rising scene
So, first things first, if you're expecting any Francais, it's not going to happen. I took Spanish in school, damn. Secondly, I’m currently write this on the 25th December 2013, so Merry Christmas. Minutes before now, I climbed 700 bloody stairs to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower to drink champagne and have a moments reflection on the upcoming waffle.
So where to begin, the wine? The women? The Red Light District? The moment in a café where I forgot to zip up my trousers after using the restroom and, ahem, popped out at the waitress? The rising cocktail scene? The Dirty Dick? The French? The pineapple? LE FROMAGE!?
Lets start here. The rich history of imbibing cocktails in 'the city of love' can date back pretty far. From the French 75 created by Harry MacElhone in 1915 at the New York bar, to the groundbreaking libations that came out of The Ritz during prohibition. In the last few years there has been a distinct increase of inventive, free thinking people creating an explosive scene in drinks. With my favourite spots residing in the seedy, sexy, pit of sin, which is Pigalle. Exactly as Old Compton st. in Londons Soho did 10 years ago, bar owners and young fresh investors are taking the old beat down strip clubs, sex shops and rub and tugs, turning them into modern, inventive drinking spots.
Though the hotel bar style, snobbery and almost militarised decorum one is forced to partake in when entering certain establishments is still very much in full swing here in paris. Bars like Candeleria, Glass, LRD and of course the don of French tiki Dirty Dick are forcing that old hat style of imbibing out of the shaker. Don’t get me wrong, many bars have been doing this prior to the current movement. E.C.C started its global jump into the cocktail world here in Paris some years ago.
Lets take one, Candeleria. The owners (Quixotic group) saw a missing staple in Paris, authentic Mexican food. Tacos, mezcal, jarriots are all in a brilliant favela style raw, real, restaurant. Myself and Scotty (owner of Dirty Dick) ate huevos rancheros with lashings of chipotle, washed down with Mezcal Marys and spicy micheladas for brunch nearly every Saturday (or Holy Belly for another banging breakfast spot) to cure the friday night shots. It is impossible to find anything with a scoville rating above 4 in Paris.
After 5pm a secret door opens past the grill at the back. Walk through the smells of beautifully succulent pulled pork, coriander and corn to find yourself inside the candlelit tequila shed. Great drinks, awesome tiny sling glass shot glasses and a crazy bearded bartender with the weirdest wrist breaking-ly painful looking double shake, who pulls it off like a bad man! It’s a great cosy bar that covers the bases amazingly, you feel like you've stumbled across one of the worlds best kept secrets, so grab a cushion and get a margarita.
Head across the other side of Marais to the 10th Arrondissement to find another hidden bar (seems to be a theme here) Le Syndicat, a wicked little bar hidden behind what looks like an abandoned shop front plastered in posters. Slide the door back and squeeze in to find a spot shoulder to shoulder with some of Paris' coolest youngsters in a room of booming French hip hop and the smell of sandalwood smoke wafting from French spirit based cocktails mixed by effortlessly cool bartenders.
Tip: Get an airbnb in Le Marais on the side of the 10th. All in walkable distance is Little Red Door, Le Mary Celeste, Candelaria, Le Comptoir Generale,, Hero, Le Syndicat, Beast, Floyds, Bon Homie and a whole load more. Pigalle is only a 5 mins taxi away.
Another Quixotic bar and industry local is Glass. Across from Dirty Dick in Pigalle. Yep, its a hidden bar, look out for the neon sign. Open till 5am you'll bump into half the bartenders in town after work for a boilermaker, hotdog and some pretty terrible dance moves.
But, where is all the rum?…
Now I think the best way to introduce my ride at Dicks is to tell you a little about my first night in Paris. Scotty and myself set out to Zenith stadium, armed with wooden box full of all sorts of homemade syrups, infusions, fruit, bamboo and tiki mugs galore. We were directed the backstage VIP band area and a full access pass was hung around the neck of my favourite, crisply ironed 1950s barkcloth aloha shirt and a pop up bar awaited our night of debauchery. We lit candles and put orchids into water as the final touches before Queens of the Stoneage finished their set. The killer lead singer came off stage and turns to us before going to his dressing room, shouts "y'all better get mixing" and slams the door. Now, I'm not at liberty to say how much booze was drank and the crazy weird things that went on but it set the tone for the months to come working at one of the worlds best tiki bars, Dirty Dick.
Dirty Dick has been in the same spot in Pigalle since 1936, once a whore house catering to the Nazis. Around 1945 the American troops and French revolution fighters became the new regulars, and I'm guessing business was booming! After a brief period with some European mobsters hiding million dollars worth of heroin in a secret ceiling panel, Scotty Schuder and his partners acquired this iconic spot. 10 months after they opened they received number 1 cocktail bar in Paris according to Time Out and a bunch of other awards.
True to only the most authentic tiki bars, when you walk in you're hit with the sweet smell of molasses, flaming overproof rum, cinnamon and citrus. Dicks boasts a respectable amount of top quality rums, tons of homemade syrups, secret blends and mixes indicated by coloured electrical tape (Don the Beachcomber style) and a great, fresh young team blending, shaking and swizzling old and new wave tiki drinks. The buzzing vibe is perfect to transport you from your everyday life, as true tiki sets out to do. Expect a room full of glorious chat, ridiculous jokes, perfectly balanced drinksand, of course, shit loads of stuff on fire!!!!
I haven't seen a bar for sometime constantly busy all the time and never squandering on quality or value for money. It fills me up with that orchestral ukulele music and bamboo supported joy to see these soldiers fighting to keep Tiki (the longest fluid trend in the bar world) alive! PINEAPPLE ARMY!
Merry christmas and happy birthday to my mum Lisa.