Discover the best bars in Paris
The Left Bank isn’t known for its buzzing bar culture and nightlife, but perhaps that’s because some of its best haunts are hidden away down back alleys or concealed behind featureless façades. This is the case with retro cocktail bar the Castor Club, whose discreet frontage, elegant old lampshades and wealth of log-cabin wooden panelling create an aesthetic reminiscent of the speakeasy bars of Prohibition-era America. Often busy, the bar plays a mix of Nashville pop and country from the ’50s and ’60s while customers try out the eclectic range of house cocktails. Standouts include the ‘Turkish Delight’ (strong Peruvian pisco, acacia gum, pistachio cream, lemon and cardamom, €13), which is fresh, creamy and a touch acidic, and the ‘Chirac 95’, which blends calvados with génépi liqueur, apple shrub, egg white and lemon. Downstairs, a funkier R&B playlist gets a cheery crowd writhing in a dance-friendly bar space, while others chat away in the cosy candlelight.
Opened in August 2015 on the buzzing Rue des Vinaigriers, this hip cocktail bar has fast become one of the hottest hangouts in Paris. This is thanks in part to its self-consciously stylish interior – the ceiling is covered with vertical wave-shaped slats that seem to crash down dramatically behind the massive steel counter. Less overtly ambitious but equally striking is the charming little terrace outside with its sleek, Scandinavian-style furnishings.
You can choose from among a wide selection of inventive cocktails (think €12 for 120ml-200ml). Waiting times can be long (20 minutes), but every drink is strikingly vibrant, well balanced and generously sized. As an example of the menu’s originality, the ‘Fruit du Passé’ (Strega liquor, Genepi Dolin, own-made celery syrup, lemon juice, liquorice powder and fennel seeds) is a particular delight. Team your drinks with one of the various imaginative sharing platters (all less than €10), like the salmon ‘bonbons’ with maple syrup and peanuts, or the duck tataki with fig and pistachio.
To get to speakeasy Mooshiner, you first have to make your way through the restaurant Pizza Da Vito, then push your way through the metal door of the walk-in fridge. Once inside, the temperature drops ten degrees (it’s New York-style a/c as well), so you start drinking pretty quickly. It’s all cocktails and whiskies, at a large range of prices – from €6 for the delicious seasonal punch to €14 for a more complex cocktail like the Smokey Island, which mixes three year old Havana rum with vodka, Beefeater gin and a host of heady aromas. The more cautious might want to try the refined Salvia Cosmo, while heavyweights can go for a bitter P Galor Martini or a whisky cocktail, where traditional recipes are mixed with a contemporary spin. There are 83 whiskies listed, showing a love for the peaty stuff that’s not for the fainthearted, as well as a selection of beers in bottles and on draught.
With its hushed atmosphere, dim lighting, retro jazz on the gramophone and a strongbox in the elegant fumoir (smoking room) (if you manage to open it, you win what’s in there), the clandestine vibe is respected throughout. The tattooed, heavily-accented staff are easy going, making the ‘secret’ experience all the more pleasurable.
L’Avant Comptoir de la Mer
Yves Camdeborde is a name to conjure with, and L’Avant Comptoir de la Mer is another hit for the cutting-edge chef. This 2016 venue follows in the footsteps of his extremely popular Avant Comptoir, but this time focused on seafood. Like its older sibling, here you eat standing up, and everything happens at the bar – from ordering to getting stuck in to the quality wines and tapas-style dishes. It all happens in a relaxed, old school atmosphere where it’s easy to make friends with the other diners. Ordering at the bar can be a bit of a scrum, but it’s all done with a cheerful Southern humour. While you wait you can snack on delicious crusty bread with Bordier butter, almost good enough to replace your meal – but not quite. You can point out your choices from the priced pictures that hang over the bar (€4-€20 each) – fabulous fish ceviche with green apples and cucumber; tuna tartare with raspberry, buckwheat and coriander; Palamos shrimp carpaccio – and many more. The barman is well equipped to give you expert wine recommendations, so much so that you end up toasting your neighbours at the bar. You’ll be keen to come back, even when it’s full to bursting – that’s the magic of Yves Camdeborde.
La Cave du Septime
A superb selection of wines, delectable smoked meats on toast, and a cosy environment to enjoy it all in. Sounds a bit like heaven, or maybe just the annex of Septime, Bertrand Grébaut’s buzzing Michelin-starred restaurant, which has become particularly popular since Beyoncé’s much publicised visit in 2013. Little sister La Cave is a similarly glamorous spot, for sure, but its prices aren’t prohibitive. A rotating selection of five whites and five reds are sold by the glass (between €4.50 and €8), including an exquisitely fruity Fleur Sauvage Jouret or a punchy Hanami Bobinet. A fantastic array of bottles can also be taken away, starting from just €13, but there’s an additional corkage fee of €7 if you want to drink in.
Though rather nondescript on the outside, this cosy cocktail bar in the 10th arrondissement exudes a lively, buzzing atmosphere all night long. Perched at the bar or on leather chairs and re-purposed wooden crates, the after-work crowd can choose from a careful selection of organic beers, wines, spritz and home made cocktails. Priced at €6 during happy hour, the best mixes include the BCG (basil, cucumber, gin), which is fresh, sweet and enlivened by a welcome hit of acidic physalis, and the pleasingly mild Smoke (smoked whiskey, home made sugar syrup and egg white). The venue hosts regular live jazz and funk and hip-hop DJ sets, which warm up the room from the early evening, while customers can also enjoy unlimited free games of table football.
Find more top-notch drinks in Paris
Paris’s drinking scene is one of the best and most diverse in the world, with speciality wine bars, craft beer bars and cocktail clubs constantly cropping up across the city. Here’s a selection of the best places in Paris to go to get tipsy, tried and tested by Time Out experts. Cheers — or as the French would say — Tchin tchin!