12 November 2010
One key piece of advice for drinking in Paris: almost never order cocktails. They just plain suck here. With the notable and laudable exception of the Experimental Cocktail Club mini-empire, the cocktail scene in Paris is about as sophisticated as a half-stocked BU frat party in the mid-to-late nineties. For evidence, just look to the ubiquity of mojitos, which in the rest of the civilized world ceased being cool, and began to be recognized as just a watery hassle, about a decade ago. (I can and will write a whole separate post on how keenly I wish for that drink to disappear.)
People who spend their money wantonly will invariably respond by directing me to one of a zillion Paris hotel bars, where I can sit in perfect loser half-light on some plush balding chair and pay 20-30eu for a serviceable Manhattan made by a grizzled but consummately professional old man. Somehow I prefer to just make my own. But even that becomes tricky in Paris, where almost none of the critical ingredients - Italian vermouths, cult bitters, decent tonics, etc. - are readily available. So I was extremely pleased the other day when the Native Companion showed me Izrael, a real wonderland of strange assorted imported things in the Marais.
The place is festooned to bursting with all kinds of vaguely cheap-looking delicacies: dried fruit, chocolate, cured meats, spices, and so on. Very little of it seemed to be of actual connoisseurs' interest. But look up and you're greeted with wall upon wall of obscure liquors. Grappa, eaux de vie, amari, a rainbow of vermouth. They even had what looked like well-made orgeat (almond syrup, key Mai Tai ingredient - not pictured below).
I didn't really get the impression that Izrael is stocked by any kind of cocktail afficionado. In fact it looks more like the kind of place where the buyer just says yes to absolutely anything anyone tries to sell him. (Among the good and great spirits there's a lot of pretty mediocre stuff, and I didn't, in the end, see any good tonic water for sale.) But whether accidental or not, Izrael has one of the best selections of weird spirits I've yet seen in Paris.
The NC, for her part, goes there for a particular type of pastry dough they stock - so presumably there are various other treasures to be found, if you feel like looking.
30, rue François Miron
Metro: Saint Paul
Tel: 01 42 72 66 23