Still standing at 51 rue de Montmorency, you will find the oldest stone house in the city of Paris, once the home of Nicolas Flamel, enshrined in legend as the alchemist who, along with his wife, Perenelle, achieved immortality through creating the elixir of life.
A prominent citizen, Flamel’s notoriety as an alchemist came centuries later, first with a book, Livre des Fgures Hiéroglyphiques, which was attributed to him. He appears later in the works of Isaac Newton and Victor Hugo, and more recently appeared as the creator of the eponymous substance in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
But is it legend, or is Flamel still among us? Hopping on the Metro or taking a stroll of an hour or so along the Seine, you may find yourself pondering that question. Arriving at the Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Paris and entering Les Heures, a Parisian bar that exudes warmth and elegance, you will find a modern alchemist, Florian Thireau, creating elixirs that left us wondering if Flamel might still be with us.
The Prince de Galles recently reopened, after an extensive renovation that pays homage to its Art Deco roots. Sumptuous surroundings are de rigeur for Parisian hotels of this caliber, but the hotel has undertaken to distinguish itself from the crowd by hiring and giving free rein to Florian, a barman who has already, at the age of 29 (or perhaps, accepting the alternate theory, 678), distinguished himself as a craftsman of exceptional talent. Each cocktail is prepared to exacting standards, presented in exactly the right glass, garnished to perfection, and presented with an understated flourish. Bar Les Heures has already made a appearance in the World’s Best Bars.
Much of the work happens outside of the bar’s open hours, with Florian toiling over complex mixtures of liquors, essences and exotic additives to achieve perfect balance. Some of these mixtures mature over a period of several weeks before they are ready to be presented to patrons. Each is stunning in its perfection.
But, it is in Florian’s latest project that the alchemist’s genius is truly revealed. Working with a notable French parfumeur, the two have created nine distinctive cocktails and an accompanying eau de perfum—available exclusively at the Prince de Galles—that feature the same essences in their respective tastes and scents. It was an ambitious project and an astonishing achievement.
Each of the cocktails and scents reflect a special part of Florian’s personal aesthetic, but one bears special mention—“Mina” is the love of Florian’s life, the 21st-century embodiment of Nicholas Flamel’s Perenelle. We met her and know who she is, but have been sworn to secrecy. That’s the way it is with alchemists.