Drink Like the French: Le Syndicat in Paris
We’ve talked about the fact that the French mostly like to keep their drinking simple, straight or in two-ingredient mixes in the glass; and yesterday we talked about the venerable tradition of ‘American’ cocktail bars. Today, we give credit to a new trend of legitimately French, legitimate cocktails.
As we made our way through the Paris neighborhoods from our airbnb to Le Syndicat, we suddenly found ourselves in a slightly grungy, young, multicultural neighborhood filled with hipsters on bicycles, and we suspected we were close. Being from Union Square in Somerville, what our bartender called ‘South South Pigalle’ simultaneously felt like home and like the center of young, modern Paris.
The bar was just opening as we arrived for our pre-dinner drinks. We were the only customers; so we sat at the bar and enjoyed–and occasionally participated in–the multi-lingual chitchat of the young, hip staff as they prepared for the evening, cutting mint, basil, citrus twists, and citrus wedges.
Perusing the bottles behind a bar is always fun, but it was especially so here. Le Syndicat makes their cocktails with all French ingredients; so their shelves were absent of many of the familiar bottles. Instead, they were filled with more brandies than we had ever seen in one place before, and with an array of new-to-us bitters and liqueurs. The only labels we recognized were Pernod and Bonal.
What We Ordered
Saix en Provence: Armagnac, watermelon syrup, chili pepper, lemon, lavender foam
Gettin’ Tziky With Nut: myrtle eau de vie, hazelnut syrup, lime juice, yogurt, cucumber juice, black pepper, dry vermouth
What We Thought
The freshness of the ingredients really stood out to us, and it was a delight to experience the unconventional mixtures of flavor. Saix en Provence was a sweet and pleasant brandy drink that was kept from being too simple by the subtle influence of chili pepper and the wonderful cap of lavender foam.
Getting Tziky With Nut was a revelation. Why have we never had a cocktail with yogurt before? The sweet and sour yogurt flavor was perfectly complemented by cucumber, and perfectly contrasted with pepper and myrtle. We’d never tasted anything like this before, and we loved it.
As will be the case throughout our tour of Paris cocktail places, the alcohol content of these drinks was quite a bit lower than we’d expect from a similar place in the US. These Parisian mixologists use their hard spirits sparingly, filling things out with fresh juices and fortified wines. These are low-alcohol drinks that were far more than vodka watered down by juice, though. They used a surprising mix of flavors, with small doses of hard spirits and equally judicious use of fresh juices, to make fresh-tasting, unique, complex, low-alcohol cocktails.
We loved every sip.