The Spirited Traveller: Paris' elusive tippling scene

( - The City of Light is renowned for its dining and wine culture, finely honed over centuries. Good wine can be had easily and virtually anywhere in Paris. But what about spirited tipples?

Cocktails are created at L'Experimental Cocktail Club, Paris in this undated photograph obtained on June 27, 2011. REUTERS/Handout

For a long time, it seemed that no one drank cocktails here. But that has slowly changed over the past few years; great cocktails are hard to find - but they can be found, if you know where to look.

Nicolas de Soto used to tend bar at L'Experimental Cocktail Club ECC.L (<here;) in Paris' Second Arrondissement, one of the small but growing number of cocktail bars in Paris. Although he has since decamped to London to work with the recently-opened ECC outpost there, de Soto still knows where to go for a drink.

Of course, Harry's New York Bar (<>;) remains a classic haunt for a Cognac-based Sidecar. However, the Frenchman also directs business travellers to "see-and-be-seen" spots such as the dramatic Buddha Bar (<>;) and Shanghai-inspired Le China (<>;), or the oak-panelled Bar Le Forum (<>;) for after-work drinks.

At many of these spots, “it’s a shame, but Mojitos and Caipirinhas are still the winners in Paris,” de Soto mourns.

For a more adventurous drink at the end of the day, he recommends bars such as the ECC (mai bien sûr!) and its sister bars Curio Parlor (<>;), with a stock of 30 Nikka Japanese whiskies, and Prescription Cocktail Club (<here;).

In addition, stylish cocktail lounge La Conserverie (<>;), and Mexican-inspired canteen La Candelaria (<>;) also make de Soto's shortlist.

Tequila and mezcal in Paris? I can’t help but wonder what the absinthe-quaffing bohemians of turn-of-the-century Paris would make of today’s young hip tipplers.

RECIPE: Strawberry Alarm Clock (Courtesy of Nicolas de Soto)

(One of the signature cocktails at the Experimental Cocktail Club, Paris)

Conversion note for cocktailians: 1 centilitre (cl) =10 millilitre; 3 cl = 1 ounce.

5 cl Ketel One Vodka

2 cl Belvoir Summer Berry

2 cl Lemon Juice

3 strawberries

Mint, plus additional mint sprig for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, muddle strawberries and mint. Add liquid ingredients and ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with mint sprig.

Kara Newman is the author of "Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails," available <here; Editing by Peter Myers