Where to Go Drinking in Paris

Back in the heyday of the Roaring Twenties, Paris hotel bars were at the nexus of cocktail creation. Today, the city’s top mixologists are just as visionary with their libations in hotel haunts that are steeped in history. You can channel Josephine Baker at her namesake bar at the Lutetia, imagine Salvador Dalí, pet ocelot in tow, at the Bar 228 at Le Meurice, and follow in Ernest Hemingway’s footsteps at the Ritz. Not to mention the Crillon’s Les Ambassadeurs, with its soaring marble walls, crystal chandeliers, and ceiling fresco. At the city’s hotel bars, the drinks are delicious, the vibe is glam, and the best part of all? After soaking up the scene over a digestif, you can spend the night.

A line forms outside the Bar Hemingway every night of the week before its 6 p.m. opening (Tuesday-Saturday). The legendary watering hole at the Ritz Paris doesn’t accept reservations, so clients come early to snag one of the 25 seats. Dating from 1921, it’s all leather and wood and nostalgia, overseen by head barman Colin Field who pours tasty tipples like the bestselling Clean Dirty Martini, the Serendipity (which he invented in 1994), The Ritz Sidecar (an expensive twist on the original, which is said to be invented at The Ritz, though Harry’s New York Bar also claims that honor).

The Ritz Bar
The Lantern at the Ritz Bar encloses the circular bar, but at 5:30 p.m., it is raised, illuminating the bar and projecting constellations on the ceiling.  (Jerome Galland )

But this legendary palace hotel is also home to another destination bar. Launched in September 2021 during Paris Fashion Week, the Ritz Bar is a chic, astrology-themed space situated near the Bar Hemingway. (Le Comptoir, the patisserie-café helmed by madeleine-master François Perret, occupies the spot on Rue Cambon which once housed the bar’s previous incarnation.) The pièce de résistance is the enormous lantern. During the day, this sculpted brass fixture actually encloses the circular bar, but come 5:30 p.m., a theatrical ritual marks opening time: the music kicks on, the floor-to-ceiling curtains close, and the lantern is raised, illuminating the bar and projecting constellations on the ceiling.

The bar menu, developed by maestro Romain de Courcy and his team, is an immersion in the world of astrology with the precision of perfume making. Named for the signs of the zodiac, each drink reflects a personality trait with innovative flavor combinations and essential oils in delicate compositions. Even the ice cubes are specially created by a master craftsman, encasing ingredients like pink peppercorn or gold leaf which melt into the drink. (The ice cubes require three days of work.) The bestseller? The Erotique, made with muscat, fig leaf, floral musk and Champagne Ritz Brut. 

The James Joyce bar at the Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain
The James Joyce bar at the Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain is located next to a library filled with 1,500 books.  (Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain)

There’s a new luxury address in an exclusive corner of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and it’s already the darling of the district. Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain is the latest in the bijou portfolio of Chevalier Paris, the family-owned hotel group behind the Pavillon des Lettres, the Hôtel du Petit Moulin and the Pavillon de la Reine, the beloved five-star hotel tucked away on the Place des Vosges in the Marais district. Chevalier Paris has a passionate approach to hospitality; the group’s expansion is carefully planned after investing in real estate and transforming heritage properties into embodiments of the Parisian art de vivre. The newest addition is the result of two years of renovation work after the acquisition of Hotel Le Saint, which occupies three integrated buildings at the corner of rue de l’Université and rue du Pré-aux-Clercs. The interiors by designer Didier Binderli are plush and contemporary, exuding elegance like that friend of yours with effortless good taste.

This is where James Joyce finished writing Ulysses, and the bar — situated next to the library filled with 1,500 books by the Gallimard publishing house — is named in the author’s honor. It’s an intimate space with seductive style: Wood walls, Japanese-style brocaded fabrics, an illuminated gold comptoir and velvet seats in blue and rose. The bar manager, Clément Lepage, has devised a cocktail menu that’s a twist on the classics. For example, the Prometheus is a smoky version of the Manhattan, made with pepper-infused Rittenhouse rye whisky, Vermouth, Benedictine, Perique tobacco liqueur and chocolate bitters; the drink arrives at your table under a smoke-filled glass dome.

Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain
Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain has 47 rooms and suites. Shown here is the lobby. (Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain )

You could while away the hours chatting with the friendly barmen, but don’t miss a meal at Les Parisiens (named as a nod to Joyce’s Dubliners). Since its opening in April, the restaurant has charmed a devoted crowd of habitués who come for both the convivial scene and the haute-bistronomy cuisine by Thibault Sombardier, the chef behind the popular tables Mensae and Sellae. Start with the sublime leek dish or local trout in Gravlax style, then order the Challans duck with foie gras, followed by the pistachio-flavored soufflé served with raspberry sorbet scented with orange blossom. Tip: To cap off your meal, ask for one of the rare digestifs stored in glass demijohns; the sommelier uses a pipette to measure the aged spirit into a glass.

The hotel offers 47 individually decorated rooms including five suites. Amenities run the gamut from Codage bath products to espresso machines, while the custom-designed furniture — armchairs, cool lighting, tables in precious wood — will give you home decorating inspiration. (Our favorite piece? The bathroom vanity, designed in wood and brushed bass, with the double wash basins.) Top digs: With views of the Paris rooftops, the signature James Joyce Suite can accommodate four-five people. We also love Suite No. 309. Traveling with your family? The hotel has a number of interconnecting rooms and a dedicated family room category. For bookings, luxury travel agents can reach out to Vanessa Jacquiot ([email protected]; 011-330-140-291-919), sales and marketing manager.

This is a place where history happened. In staying on the premises, James Joyce was actually following in the footsteps of T.S. Eliot. Plus, there was a cabaret club called Le Quod Libet on the lower level — the vaulted subterranean stonework is centuries old — and it’s now occupied by a two-room Codage spa, gym, and small swimming pool. Bref, the Pavillion Faubourg Saint-Germain reflects the traditional spirit and elegance of the quarter. 

Situated in the 16th arrondissement, Saint James Paris is the only chateau hotel in the city and its book-lined library bar — long part of an onsite members club — is also a cool rendezvous for in-the-know Parisians. Decorated with coffee-leather armchairs, a spiral metal staircase, and a wood-paneled ceiling, the bar channels an English gentlemen’s club. Fittingly, the drinks menu makes reference to“history’s greatest writers” who have acted as “ambassadors” of the cocktail. What to imbibe: the Garden Party, a mix of Bourbon, lime juice, agave syrup, and barbecue bitters. Speaking of gardens, the Saint James Paris has one of the loveliest oases in the City of Light, complete with a retro green pergola housing a charming bar. The hotel recently unveiled a dramatic redesign — landscape architect Xavier de Chirac completely transformed the garden, while in-demand designer Laura Gonzalez gave the rooms and public spaces a makeover. Nice touches in the 50 rooms and suites include cocktail bars by Distillerie de Paris and Guerlain bath amenities. (There’s a Guerlain spa on the lower level.) At the Michelin-starred restaurant Bellefeuille, chef Julien Dumas takes pride in sourcing ingredients from local producers; in fact, the hotel has purchased a garden farm in the Ile-de-France to ensure their farm-to-table mission.

Saint James Paris
The terrace at Saint James Paris has a white marble bar with a fresco by Pierre Mesguich in the center. (Saint James Paris)

Saint James Paris is overseen by Laure Pertusier, the general manager. A member of Clefs d’Or, Head Concierge Pascal Leneveu has worked for the maison for 32 years. For VIP bookings, reach out to Nicolas Egloff ([email protected]), director of sales, who also handles sales for sister property Relais Christine in Saint Germain.

Near the Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection, the Hôtel Madame Rêve has been turning heads since it opened in October 2021. It’s the result of the large-scale renovation of a central Paris landmark: the 19th-century Louvre post office building. The ground-floor café may dazzle with its high ceiling and marble tables, but the real stunner is upstairs: Step into La Plume, the French-Japanese restaurant, and you’ll be struck by both the bar and the Paris panoramas. Soak up the cool scene with the Pinku, a signature concoction of Champagne, cranberry, rose and Sichuan pepper created by the head barman, Gauthier Zucco, previously at the Moma Group.

The Saint James Paris
The Saint James Paris has a garden on the terrace,complete with a retro green pergola housing the outdoor bar. (The Saint James Paris)

The views are as sublime as the people watching at ROOF, the newly inaugurated rooftop terrace. One of the largest in the capital, this leafy hang-out is the star of the show at Madame Rêve. There’s even a pool table for a sky-high game of billiards. Stay overnight in one of the 82 rooms overlooking iconic sites like Saint-Eustache Church and Notre-Dame. (No. 382 has Eiffel Tower views from the mosaic-tiled bathroom.) In-room perks include pre-bottled cocktails by L’Alchimiste. For VIP bookings, reach out to Victoria Patrol ([email protected]). Anita Radovic ([email protected]), the front of house director, can handle all manner of guest requests, from excursions to Versailles to reservations at the top tables in town. Though it may be hard to leave the rooftop terrace.

Related Articles

Michelin-Star Dining in Paris: Restaurant Le Sergent Recruteur

Saint James Paris Unveils Total Renovation

The Bulgari Hotel Paris Makes its Debut

New Paris Museum: Hôtel de la Marine