Thursday, January 8, 2009
If you ever want to spend a night feeling like royalty, just go to the Hemingway Bar. Tucked away inside Paris' exclusive Ritz Carlton, this gem was a highlight of mine and Kris's nightlife while in Paris. Although I wouldn't count out Sacra Couer or an evening stroll along the Seine, other musts if you're planning a trip to this French coup d'état, the Hemingway Bar is an unforgettable experience.
The Hemingway Bar, named for one of it's most famous patrons, is very quiet; you won't find any rowdy patrons here. Although the bar has a delicious and divine drink selection, be forewarned that these tasty treats don't come cheap. The bar is actually listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the seller of the World's Most Expensive Commercially Sold Cocktail known as the Ritz Sidecar with a pricetag of $515. The drink is made with an 1834 Cognac that's so rare that German soldiers tried to steal it during WWII.
The Hemingway Bar is decorated like an old library filled with relics of the famed author. We were seated next to an old black typewriter, but his books, photos and other items were scattered throughout the bar. People watching was quite fun here because there truly was an interesting mix. Because of the small size of the bar and the intimacy that comes with that, it was quite easy to overhear other's conversations.
While Colin Field, named World's Best Barman in 2001, mixes up drinks there today, the former Hemingway hangout has always had a history of making memorable cocktails. Take the Bloody Mary for example. The drink was created specially for Hemingway because his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, became very tired of him coming home smelling like whisky every night. The Ritz barman at the time mixed up a special tomato concoction for Hemingway that would disguise the smell of alcohol on his breath. The next time Hemingway saw his bar tending friend he commented that "Bloody Mary hadn't smelled a thing," and so the Bloody Mary was born.
While I skipped out on the high-end Ritz Sidecar and the standard Bloody Mary, I settled for a smooth, luscious melontini. My drink was sweet nectar fit for the gods. It truly tasted as though I was drinking a deliciously ripe cantaloupe! Kris and I nursed our drinks while snacking on smoked almonds and delightful homemade potato crisps and just took in the scene around us.
I would recommend dressing up if you decide to venture over to the Hemingway Bar. I donned a cocktail dress while Kris sported a sports jacket and tie. We dined in Champs Elysees before our after hours drinks, which I would recommend because of the close vicinity of this part of town that has some very nice restaurants along the strip. I recommend Chez Clement, which was a divine dining experience on all counts. The oysters from Brittany were unforgettable, and their crème brulee was the best I've ever had.
Another word of advice is to have a plan on how you'll be getting home in the evening. Kris and I stayed out until it was quite late, not realizing that the metro had already stopped running. While we eventually did find a cab driver who got us back safely, it's very difficult to get a night cab in Paris, particularly in Place de la Concorde. Our driver spoke very little English and we spoke very little French, so it was a bit of a challenge to communicate. Have a business card on hand with your hotel's address information to avoid any confusion if you are able to catch a cab home.
However you spend your evenings in Paris, Hemingway himself describes the way the city always stays with you, even after you leave it.
"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."