Milan Shows Off Cocktail Fashion

Our tour of Europe’s cocktail bars continues with an easterly hop, up and over the Alps, to Milan, home to Italian fashion, two great soccer clubs and some jaw-droppingly good bars. Now you might think that bouncing around the world, sipping cocktails and reviewing top bars is a dream job and you’d be right. This week we found another three crackers and cannot recommend them highly enough.

The bar at Rita

The bar at Rita

We had heard about Rita before arriving in Milan so it was top of our list to visit and we were not disappointed. Situated in the fashionable Navigli district, Rita has an enviable reputation for amazing cocktails and a team of talented barkeepers, led by Edoardo Nono. The menu is always evolving as different flavour combinations are explored and if you fancy something off the menu, no problem, you can have that too. The ambiance is young and vibrant and there is a real energy to the bar that is as infectious as it is intoxicating. Rita is open every day, apart from Sunday, from 6pm until 1am and it is the perfect place to start, finish or spend the entire evening.

Rita, Via Angelo Fumagalli 1, Milan

Pinch's wide selection of spirits and liqueurs

Pinch’s wide selection of spirits and liqueurs

Staying in the Navigli district, Pinch is relatively new but it is becoming famous fast and for all the right reasons. One might say that it is a little bit English (never a bad thing) with burgers and fish and chips featuring strongly on the menu but it is the cocktails that we came for and they were wonderful.

Pinch is a classic Italian bar, very traditional and very familiar, with a high, solid wood bar and a broad range of spirits and liqueurs. Bartender owner, Mattia Lissoni is a master at blending old and new flavours to produce something new and exciting. While we were there he was playing with bitters to produce something dry and edgy for the approaching heat of summer. Try the Martelletti or the Magna Mater to start but whatever you chose you will be smiling.

Pinch, Ripa di Porta Ticinese 63, Milano

The Marc Jacobs Café

The Marc Jacobs Café

Strolling over to the Brera neighbourhood we found the Marc Jacobs Café. This is a big classy bar with a large terrace stretching out into the beautiful Piazza del Carmine. Could there be a better place to enjoy an aperitivo as the milanese sun hangs low in the sky? As you might expect of Marc Jacobs, the interior decor could be straight from a fashion show party with large layered lighting, a marble topped bar and a real sense of space. This is a super cool bar, favoured by the young, hip and beautifully turned out. In fact, they were razor sharp chic.

The bar at Marc Jacobs Café

The bar at Marc Jacobs Café

The cocktail list is in keeping with everything else at the Marc Jacobs Café. It is broad enough to offer choice but not so large that it overwhelms. The cocktails are equally well defined, created with passion and no small amount of Italian flare. This is a bar that knows what it is about and it keeps every promise it makes.

Marc Jacobs Café, Piazza del Carmine 6, Milano

Posted in Francois' Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loving Lyon’s Cocktails

After all the fun in Paris, this week we headed down to Lyon, the gateway to the glorious South of France.

Le Comptoir de la Bourse, Lyon

Le Comptoir de la Bourse, Lyon

Our first port of call was Le Comptoir de la Bourse, an outstanding bar that stands out for more reasons than its solid crimson exterior in a typical ‘off white’French street. This bar is all about fun. There is a great selection of high grade spirits, bartenders who know their business and an ambiance that demands a smile. The on-street furniture is relaxed and reminiscent of a beach club, while the interior is retro chic at its most flamboyant. There are crushed velvet thrones, sweeping sofas and a mix of bold ‘60s colours. The only thing missing was Austin Powers.

Le Comptoir de la Bourse, Lyon

Le Comptoir de la Bourse, Lyon

There are very few bars in the world that can list their whiskies by region as well as country. There are over 50 different types of Scotch alone and just wait until you see the list of rums! As you can imagine, with that ample selection of spirits and liqueurs, the cocktail menu is extensive with tremendous opportunities for subtle twists on flavours. If you have the time, go for the €38 Luxury Experience, a selection of cocktails by the Chef Barman, that depends on your tastes and his inspiration on the day.

Le Comptoir de la Bourse, 33 Rue de la Bourse, 69002, Lyon
http://www.comptoirdelabourse.fr

Ayers Rock, Lyon

Ayers Rock, Lyon

Could Lyon be any further from Ayers Rock, that large lump of stone that sits in the middle of the Aussie Outback? A few blokes from down under have been partying in Lyon since 1997 and may just challenge your thinking. The Ayers Rock Cafe is a small piece of Australia right in the heart of France. In fact there are two Ayers Rocks in Lyon, Ayers Rock Downtown and the Ayers Rock Boat. We opted for a night downtown and we were not disappointed.

Ayers Rock, Lyon

Ayers Rock, Lyon

This is a real Aussie experience, loud, brash and a lot of high energy fun. It is unashamedly Anglo Saxon from the bartenders to the beer. Yes you can get a VB but there is more than a little French in there to take the edge off. The bar is well stocked with liqueurs and spirits and the classic cocktails are as good as you will find anywhere. Many of our companions that evening were experimenting with a variety of liqueurs; sipping straight up, over ice or as shots between beers. On more than one occasion that night, memories of happy evenings in Sydney came flooding back. This is a real party bar.

Ayers Rock, 4 Rue Desiree, 69001, Lyon
http://www.ayersrocklyon.com

L’Antiquaire, Lyon

L’Antiquaire, Lyon

Our final bar on this visit was L’Antiquaire, another great find and totally different to the other two. This is a 20s style speakeasy with more than a little Gallic flare and the emphasis is back on cocktails. There are barrel aged cocktails on the bar and some unique specials on the menu, it’s a tough choice only eased by some smooth jazz playing in the background. If you can’t make a decision just ask the guys behind the bar for what you really fancy and the chances are they’ll make it for you, just the way you like.

L’Antiquaire, Lyon

L’Antiquaire, Lyon

This is a cosy, relaxed, intimate bar. It is not hung up on the speakeasy theme, rather it sets the stage for a sophisticated evening of sheer indulgence. We loved it!

L’Antiquaire, 20 Rue Hippolyte Flandrin, 69001, Lyon

Posted in Francois' Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where To Go For Fantastic Cocktails in Paris

The Cocktails and Spirits Show 2014 was on in Paris a week or so ago, so we were back in the French capital, enjoying the sun, the tennis from Roland Garros and one or two cheeky cocktails in the 11th Arrondissement. Life is good! As you might expect, there are plenty of fantastic bars in Paris and the 11th Arrondissement is no exception. One day we hope to get around them all but for now, here are three to be getting on with.

Le Cannibale

Le Cannibale

First up is Le Cannibale, a bar, brasserie and restaurant on Rue J.P. Timbaud, that is celebrating its twentieth anniversary and it is easy to see why it has been so popular for two decades. The decor is very French, very Parisienne and the atmosphere very boho-chic. You could say that about most bars in Paris but what makes Le Cannibale different is the food and cocktail offering. You can eat well and very

Le Cannibale

Le Cannibale

reasonably priced for breakfast, lunch and dinner with the cocktails kicking in later in the day. There is almost a student-come-traveller feel to the place, no one stands on ceremony here, there is an earthy, relaxed feeling that is almost palpable. It is easy to see an afternoon blend seamlessly into an evening and beyond. Definitely worth a visit.

Le Cannibale, 93 Rue J.P. Timbaud, 75011, Paris

The Bottle Shop

The Bottle Shop

Around the corner is The Bottle Shop. For those of you from Australia and New Zealand, it certainly is not what you would expect when you hear the words bottle shop. This is, however, a real melting pot of French and Anglo Saxon influences. You will feel very much at home here while still enjoying the best of Paris.

The Bottle Shop is relatively small and intimate but it has a larger than life atmosphere and thirty classic cocktails on the menu. Indeed, the list is just what you might expect in London or New York but done well, really well. As ever, it is the simple things in life that count the most and here we went back to basics and opted for the Bloody Mary. There really is nothing better than a lazy Sunday Brunch in the Parisian sunshine with a perfectly chilled Bloody Mary. Yum!

The Bottle Shop, 5 Rue Trousseau, 75011, Paris

The Lone Palm

The Lone Palm

Our final port of call was the Lone Palm on Rue Keller. It sounds American and you would be half right if you thought that. Lone Palm brings back post-war, ‘Brat Pack’ era, American culture and fuses it with the finest elements of modern France and we don’t just mean a Frank Sinatra track belting out on iPod. The retro decor, low lit ambience and service take you right back to a time most of us have only glimpsed in a Hollywood classic.

The Lone Palm

The Lone Palm

Lone Palm is big on cocktails, it’s what they are all about. If you have a classic favourite then order with confidence because you won’t be disappointed. If you are feeling a little more adventurous there are plenty to choose from on the menu but we suggest you start with the bar’s signature cocktail, the Lone Palm, a gin based special with a mix of Thai Basil Syrup, lime juice and just a touch of Old Jamaican Ginger Beer. This is a really fun bar and the smiles are free!

Lone Palm, 21 Rue Keller, 75011, Paris

Posted in Francois' Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cool Crystal Iced Teas For Summer

The Crystal Lounge, Brussels

The Crystal Lounge, Brussels

Every now and then something comes along that’s just a little different, just a little special. Raphael Trémérie, Bar and Restaurant Manager, of the Crystal Lounge Bar at the Brussels Sofitel, has been chatting to our very own Pauline Quigis, about Iced Teas.  Together with his colleagues, Fabian van Roy and Renaud Masse, Raphael has been experimenting with various teas to bring something new, refreshing and inspiring for those looking for a non-alcoholic alternative, on a hot summer’s day.  Taking a creative cocktail-like approach to iced tea, the team have been mixing up a special summer menu. Pauline’s favourite is the Dehli but we would love to hear about your favourite one of these four.

St Germain

St Germain

St Germain by Renaud Masse
10cl Paris Tea infused with lime
3cl Giffard Grenadine Syrup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jardin Japonais

Jardin Japonais

Jardin Japonais by Renaud Masse
10cl Green Tea infused with cucumber
3cl Giffard Lychee Syrup
3cl Ginger juice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dehli

Dehli

Dehli by Abdelkader

10cl Rooibos Tea
3cl Orange juice
1.5cl Giffard Chai Tea Syrup

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sahara with Fabian Van Roy looking on

Sahara with Fabian Van Roy looking on

Sahara by Julien Duvivier
10cl Green Tea infused with fresh mint
2cl Giffard Rose Syrup
Sichuan pepper

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Stiff Drink with Death & Company

Death & Company, in Manhattan’s East Village, is a bar for grown ups who enjoy their cocktails in an atmosphere that is more sophisticated than hip and more understated than obsequiously trendy. As for the cocktails, well they’re to die for. This bar has a long standing reputation for employing some of New York’s finest bartenders and it is well deserved.

Entrance to Death & Co.

Entrance to Death & Co.

From the moment you arrive at the down-lit door and step over the Death & Co sign, you know that you are in for a special evening. The bar’s ethos is a polite hat tip to those ‘who shun the night’ and a warm embrace to ‘those who shine after dusk’ and that is exactly what you get. The bar consists of a single lounge, the walls and ceiling covered with dark wood, the tables are topped with granite, the seats are suede and everything is subtly illuminated to create a sophisticated atmosphere that is only matched by the cocktail list. Now, you could have a lot of fun here and we are sure you will, but we suggest you start with a Manticore; Beefeater Gin, Velvet Falernum, Giffard Menthe Pastille, Cinnamon Syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters.

Death & Company, 433 East 6th Street, Lower East Side, NY

Bar Room at Death & Co.

Bar Room at Death & Co.

Next up it’s over the East River and into Brooklyn for the Extra Fancy bar, except it isn’t. Extra Fancy prides itself on being a good old, down-to-earth, bar in the Williamsburg area. The play on the name comes from the US working class staples that are jazzed up just a little and are then prefixed with the words ‘Extra Fancy’ to suggest they are now raised well above their everyday counterparts and while the bar claims that this enables them to take a playful attitude to everyday items and redefine them, make no mistake, there is nothing ordinary about this bar’s cocktails, they are world class!

Extra Fancy, Brooklyn

Extra Fancy, Brooklyn

The food menu is unashamedly New England with a strong focus on the sea, as you would expect, with the remainder freshly drawn from local producers. Before we get onto the cocktails, let me just say that the linguine and clams is outstanding. Onto the cocktail menu, which is broken down into sections that have a touch of lifestyle advice to them, Easy Going, Fancy Favourites, Classics, Hot Stuff and the Strong Side. You can’t really go wrong with any of them and choosing one is pretty impossible so, here’s two. From the Classics section try the Stinger; Remy Martin 1738 Cognac, Giffard Menthe Pastille and Mint 14. Then from the Strong Side go for the Yeah Ya Did; Rittenhouse Rye, Cocchi Americano, Cocchi Vermouth, Jerry Thomas’ Bitters 12.

Extra Fancy, 302 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Extra Fancy, 302 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn

Extra Fancy, 302 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn

Strolling back across the East River we can also step back 40 years at the Golden Cadillac. This bar is a shrine to the ‘grit’ of 70s New York and there isn’t a brown shag pile carpet in sight. Now, that’s a good thing because the Golden Cadillac sets out to make people think a little differently about the 1970s. The ‘me decade’ was all about guilt free excess and enjoying life to the max and to an extent that remains but the bar sets out to rediscover the lost cocktails and foods of the day.

The Golden Cadillac, 13 First Avenue.

The Golden Cadillac, 13 First Avenue.

In addition to some classic cocktails and one or two modern ones, there are a few that have fallen out of favour since the ‘70s but they have been brought back with a few minor tweaks, twists and improvements and a lot of loving care. The Grasshopper, Bloody Cesar and the Long Island Iced Tea are all back and they are better than ever.

The bar looks like it belongs in the world of the Osmonds, the Jackson 5 and should have a bald policeman sucking a lollipop on the door asking “who loves ya baby?” It’s very brash but brilliant fun. The colours are gold and brown with a dash of orange and brown, the seats black leather and the tables burled wood. For those of you young enough to have missed the ‘70s, the Golden Cadillac represents the best of it. Go and have fun!

Golden Cadillac, 13 First Avenue, NY

Golden Cadillac

Golden Cadillac

Posted in Francois' Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Singapore’s Hombres Go For Cocktails

Could there be a more vivid contrast to the hustle and bustle of Singapore than the laid-back nature of Mexico’s Baja Peninsular? That is exactly what you experience at Hombre Cantina down on the Singapore river. Established by Alex Liu and his partner Kevin Cheng, the bar offers the greatest selection of tequilas in the city and some signature cocktails that are truly world class.

Some of over 60 Tequilas available

Some of over 60 Tequilas available

Founder, Alex Liu spent his childhood holidays exploring the long, sandy and largely deserted beaches of the Baja Peninsula. Interspersed with traditional fishing villages it provided a vision of paradise and an idyllic way of life that had a lifelong impact. Now together with Head Barman, Pelagio Revilla Manalang, Alex and Kevin have set out to recreate those easy feelings with a glimpse of paradise and a food and cocktail menu that is built around you. Mexican cantinas offer simple, informal food in a very casual manner. Hombre Cantina has nailed that ‘mi casa es su casa’ style perfectly. Guests select their own seats and help themselves to cold drinks and hot foods as they wish.

Mexico comes to Singapore

Mexico comes to Singapore

The interior decor lends authenticity to the cantina concept. The walls are decked out with reclaimed timbre palates and corrugated sheet metal that delivers a beach vibe from thousands of miles away. Outside there is riverside seating that is perfect for watching the equator sun dip below the horizon, cocktail in hand. There are six signature cocktails on the menu, all of which are fantastic but if you do not have the time to explore as much as you would like, we suggest that you try the Asiatica and the Especial De Hombre.

Asiatica:
50 ML Tequila Corralejo Reposado
20 ML Giffard Ginger of the Indies liqueur
2 thin slices of fresh Ginger and a stick of lemongrass

Method: Muddle the slice of fresh Ginger and a stick of lemon grass into a Boston Glass. Fill a shaker with ice cubes. Add all the remaining ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish : Dip the rim of the glass in salt and add a skin of lemon-grass.

A slither of lime peel to finish off that Especial De Hombre.

A slither of lime peel to finish off that Especial De Hombre.

Especial De Hombre: 
45ml Mezcal Monte Alban
20ml Giffard Orange Curaçao liqueur
10ml Giffard Agave syrup

Method : Fill a shaker with ice cubes. Add all the ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lime peel.

Garnish : Dip the rim of the glass in salt and add a slither of lime peel.

Pelagio Revilla Manalang and an Especial De Hombre

Pelagio Revilla Manalang and an Especial De Hombre

Posted in Arthur's Asia | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three of the Coolest Bars in Paris

When an area is called ‘trendy’ or ‘up and coming’ in the press, you know that the really hip people are already moving out.  In Paris the uber cool place to be is no longer Gare du Nord, it is the 10th Arrondissement and we have been out to find three cutting edge cocktail bars that are doing it their way.

Le Fantôme – 36 Rue de Paradis, 75010, Paris

Le Fantome

Le Fantome

Straight out of the comic books, this enormous space is brought to you by those clever people behind Le Baron.  It is perfectly modern with a large dose of 1983.  The huge bar is surrounded by table football, pinball machines, retro arcade games and even a Pacman table, you’ll need to book it and if you can remember what it is from the first time around you are probably too old to be there.

Le Fantome

Le Fantome

The food offering is primarily pizza but it is done really well and very reasonably priced.  It just fits so well in this bar where the accent is on loud, laid-back fun and gaming.  The cocktail list completes the unique offer of this bar with several specialist cocktails designed to complement the generous portions of pizza.  Our favourite is the Whisky “Rumble” (bourbon, fresh lemon juice and Giffard Abricot du Roussillon Premium Liqueur).

Le Napoléon – 73 Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, 75010 Paris

Le Napoléon

Le Napoléon

The first thing that anyone says about Le Napoléon is ‘great service’, a rare compliment indeed in Paris.  Le Napoléon gets so many things right that it is always heaving with full tables inside and out.  The food is very good and keenly priced which makes it popular with locals, students and more than a few Englishmen on their way to and from the rugby at nearby Stade de France. A large bust of Napoleon looks down from the architrave and one can sense a slight frown crossing his brow as jug after jug of Pimms is consumed below.

Le Napoléon

Le Napoléon

Le Napoléon sits on the corner of Rue du Faubourg and Rue des Petites Écuries and the open double aspect makes for two very pleasant terraces.  The cocktail menu is compact but each of them is beautifully made and always served with a smile.

La Quincaillerie – 76 Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, 75010, Paris

Quincaillerie

Quincaillerie

Quincaillerie literally means hardware store and perhaps at one time it was.  Now however, La Quincaillerie is a very chic bistro with good reviews for its food as well as a night time cocktail destination.  The venue is light and airy, mid-sized and what the French would describe as a loft.  The bar itself is semi-circular and sitting in the middle of the place it acts as focus.  The chairs and barstools are all odd sizes and the tables follow a similar theme, reminiscent of London’s gastro-pubs in the ’90s.

One of La Quincaillerie’s great strengths is its ever evolving menu.  There are one or two house favourites but nothing stays on the menu for too long and there is always a good selection of specials and that goes for the cocktails too.  Constant reinvention require creativity and a healthy measure of confidence.  We really enjoyed the cocktail of the day on our last trip, the Western Conference (Tequila, Giffard Triple Sec, orange, pamplemousse, chili, lemon and grenadine).

Quincaillerie

Quincaillerie

Posted in Francois' Travels | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment