Adam Wilson, formerly of San Francisco’s Beretta, was recently in Paris researching cocktail inspiration for the European, a new bar/lounge opening this March in the Warwick San Francisco Hotel. The European will have a menu that is reflective of the history and evolution of European spirits and cocktails and will pay homage to the experience guests have at Parisian bars.
“The focus will be on champagne and sparkling wine cocktails and aperitifs,” says Wilson. “The idea is that you can have a few drinks and not have to get too crazy. I want to bring the social aspect back to bartending. We’re going to be the opposite of the mustache, hat, and suspenders bartender trend and the bars that don’t serve vodka because ‘it’s not a real spirit’,” he says. Wilson and two of the owners of the European spent nearly a week visiting both old school and new bars in Paris, including Harry’s Bar New York (5 Rue Daunou, 33 (1) 42-61-71-14, harrysbar.fr), Las Closerie des Lilas (171 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 33/ (1) 40-51-34-50, closeriedeslilas.fr) and Terroir Parisien (20 Rue Saint-Victor, 33/ (1) 44-31-54-54, yannick-alleno.com/carnet/terroir-parisien). “We wanted to understand what was going on right now in Paris and bring something back that’s a bit different for Americans,” he says. Wilson and his partners discovered talented bartenders with a very personalized style. “The bar top was no longer a barrier,” he says. “The bartenders would actually come to your table and explain things. There was no pretention. If I wanted a vodka drink they’d make you the best vodka drink you’ve ever had.” Here, he shares two of his most exciting finds.
“This place was slightly modern with funky music and often local artists hanging out. The venue was really small and the concept was small food and big drinks with good service from a mellow team. I don’t speak French but they were very patient with me. Here, they did different takes on different drinks. A Negroni, for instance, is a very one-note cocktail with three parts. They didn’t try to change that by replacing ingredients. Instead, they added a couple more to enhance the drink so that it was one big drink called a Hustler Negroni. I had two of them, which is very unusual for me.”
20 Rue Beautreillis, Paris, 33/(9) 83-38-47-80, sherrybuttparis.com
Little Red Door
“The bartender here made me a drink with mescal, tequila, yellow chartreuse, and crème de violet. When I read that description on the menu I thought it would be undrinkable. I thought, there is no way he can pull this off, it will be too strong or too weird tasting. But these young guys know what they’re doing. It blew me away. It may have been one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. Like Sherry Butts, this place was small with a focus on big drinks, small food, and no pretension.” 60 Rue Charlot, Paris, 33/(1) 42-71-19-32, lrdparis.com
Title photo by Ryan Robles. Photos courtesy of Adam Wilson.