Women Expats Mix Up the Paris Cocktail Scene
Thu 12 Apr 2012
The Paris cocktail craze is on the rise, and while the scene remains mostly a boys’ club, women mixologists are important and influential players in the momentum of the movement. Bringing experiences and ideas from around the globe, lady expats have made a place for themselves behind some of the buzziest bars in the city. I was able to talk to a few of the scene’s rising stars, a group of amazing expat women who served up some advice on ice for anyone looking to enjoy Paris’s nightlife.
My first visit was to Le Kremlin, a Russian-themed bar in the Pigalle neighborhood. This strip-club-turned-Soviet-hangout attracts a friendly crowd that fills up the place on weekends, drawn by reasonably priced (6–11 euros) and delicious cocktails. Here I met Cristina Hernandez, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, who came to Paris to study cinema and started tending bar shortly after her move.
“Cocktail culture is growing in Paris,” Cristina assured me. She and her crew are dedicated to doing their part to challenge and diversify Paris’s cocktail culture. One way they do this is by up selling some of the lesser-known creations featured on their cocktail menu. Cristina’s favorite cocktail to mix is Stalin’s Final Word (8 euros), a whiskey-based cocktail with touches of citrus and Chartreuse, topped with a flourish of cinnamon to add some spice.
Cristina’s advice for anyone looking for a fun night out on the town is to be adventurous and avoid tripist bars. “Explore a little bit,” she suggests, encouraging visitors to discover hidden treasures on side streets. One of her favorite areas for going out in Paris is in the 11th Arrondissement, where she likes to stop in at L’UFO as well as the lively Orange Mécanique.
One of the hottest spots for nightlife in Paris is Candelaria, a favorite address in the northern Marais neighborhood that serves up tasty tacos in the front restaurant and brilliant cocktails in the back bar. Founded by a Colombian and American partnership, the bar has assembled an international staff of expats who vigorously shake innovative cocktails overhead like Polaroid iPhone apps.
Amanda Boucher, a US native, learned to bartend in Paris and is happy to be a member of Team Candelaria, as it allows her to take advantage of the bar’s “laid-back and creative atmosphere.” Amanda’s favorite creative cocktails to serve are the award-winning tequila-based Postcard from Italy, “because it’s so damn pretty,” and the more traditional old-fashioned, which allows room for bartender creativity.
If you’d like to try Amanda’s spin on either of these cocktails, Candelaria is the place to be, but if you’re planning on barhopping, Amanda has a few suggestions for a girls’ night out. “Throw on your favorite outfit and a comfy pair of heels, and take on the city,” Amanda advises, adding some very sound advice on when to splurge. “Indulge on taxis. The night bus is a nightmare!” Amanda’s favorite spots to sit and sip include L’Entrée des Artistes, WOS Bar and Experimental Cocktail Club.
An alumna of Experimental Cocktail Club herself, Gwladys Gublin is now managing and bartending at Prescription Cocktail Club. Gwladys has lived all over the world, including Canada, Madrid and London. Paris has been her home for the past three years.
Gwladys began her career at ECC, where she started as a part-time server and worked her way up to a position behind the bar. Throughout her blossoming career in cocktails, Gwladys has seen changes in the Paris nightlife, drinking and bartending trends. She attributes these evolutions to a cross-pollination of sorts: “People are traveling more and more, they come back better trained and they realize that there is another possible way to comprehend their job.”
Bringing her own international experiences and personal spin to the shaker, Gwladys feels at home at Prescription Cocktail Club, which is owned by the same people that founded ECC four years ago. Both bars stay true to a philosophy that was revolutionary in the Paris bar scene at the time they opened. Gwladys describes the bar’s mission as providing a “democratic cocktail” that includes “affordable prices for good drinks made with fresh fruits and homemade syrups.”
While she may be a favorite femme of the cocktail scene, Gwladys defines her tastes as masculine—“I like my drink to be simply dry and smoky”—and she tries to get curious clients to let down their smoke screen and sip on some of her favorite creations. A cocktail she recommends is the Pauvre Chérie, which is a blend of crushed pink peppercorns, sherry, gin and bitters, with a sage leaf garnish.
Gwladys’s advice for a girls’ night out is to start by picking up a bottle of wine from Le Verre Volé to share with friends by the Canal St.-Martin. “Once you’re done with this step,” Gwladys instructs, “it means it’s time for you to go and dance at La Féline, an angry rock bar/club in Menilmontant. If you’re not too tired after this, get a late dinner/early breakfast at Au Pied de Cochon to get some tartare or saucisson. Then, you’ll be allowed to go to bed.”
With all these bars to visit and cocktails to try, I don’t know when there is time to sleep! Maybe on the plane or taxi ride home—as long as it’s not the night bus!
L’Entrée des Artistes
Experimental Cocktail Club
Prescription Cocktail Club
Le Verre Volé
Au Pied de Cochon
6, rue Victor Letalle, in the 20th Arrondissement.
01 40 33 08 66.
Editor’s note: After you take a trip of the bars, take our self-guided trips of Paris. We have 12 trips that start at only $1.98, and they’re available as iPhone apps or pdf maps that you can download.