Paris has always loved to drink. Given its singular metropolitan status in a wine-loving country, it had no choice. But Paris has not always loved cocktails or non-French wine—both of which are quickly changing. It used to be that the best drinking was found in gilded brasseries and white tablecloth establishments where foie gras and escargot were produced with white glove service and Michelin stars—and the “best” drinking meant expensive wine. But more and more, Paris has begun to let down its hair and throw formality to the wind, tradition be damned.
Over the last decade, the natural wine movement has taken in hold in Paris, giving birth to an incredible number of natural wine bars—from the clean and contemporary Le Siffleur de Ballons to the magnum-fueled energy of Thierry Breton’s oddball La Pointe du Groin—many of which have gone beyond the wine bar designation to become pillars of the bistronomie movement.
Similarly, the cocktail scene has experienced a burst of creativity not seen since the 1920s, when American bartenders fled Prohibition for countries where the booze still flowed freely (Harry’s New York Bar remains as evidence). Only a decade ago “cocktail” meant sugary, creamy, unidentifiable well drinks, but today, the Parisians can mix up classic pre-Prohibition drinks with such ease that they could fool any American.
But not to worry, all the old standbys still exist. From all those stuffy old-school joints to cafés the Lost Generation frequented to the beloved apéritif hour joints, Paris’s traditions will not be erased by the newfangled or the un-French.