There’s not a lot of information about this month’s RETRO COCKTAIL, the “Parisian”, also known as the “Parisian Cocktail”. What we do know is that the recipe dates back to 1929, to Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, the haunt of expatriates, movie stars, celebrities, royals, and the rich. Over the years, Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Jack Dempsey, Humphrey Bogart, and even the Duke of Windsor and Prince Aly Khan have sat down and ordered a drink at Harry’s. But in 1929, Paris and the New York Bar was indeed the place. It was the end of the Roaring Twenties, the last round of drinks before the Great Depression and the terrible war, and there was a feeling of immediacy, of evanescence, of a charmed moment that soon would be no more.
The “Parisian” was invented by Harry MacElhone—the “Harry” of Harry’s New York Bar—our old friend and mixology maven whose seminal book, ABC of Mixing Cocktails, is the source of so many cocktail classics. The “Parisian” is unusual in that it’s
“vermouth forward”. In most drinks, the vermouth lingers in the shadows, and in the case of the martini, barely even appears. But in the “Parisian”, it takes center stage. As in most vintage cocktails, the "Parisian" has several variations, some requiring as much as 2½ parts French vermouth to 1 or 1½ parts gin. Keep in mind the quality of much of the gin back then, which explains why so many cocktails used 1 part lemon juice, plus much more vermouth than we’d use today, all to mask the gin and to make the drink drinkable. For my version, I employ the same ratio as I did for the “Sidecar”*: 2 to 1 to ½ for the three ingredients: vermouth, gin, crème de cassis (which is a currant liqueur). Lavender bitters adds a cosmopolitan touch (as in worldly and sophisticated), and the fresh blackberry garnish makes it visually a thing of beauty. Enjoy!
*See Sidecar: Retro Cocktail for March 2017
2 parts Noilly Prat Extra Dry French Vermouth
1 part Citadelle French Gin
½ part Crème de Cassis
dash of Scrappy’s Lavender bitters
Stir over ice. Pour into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish
with two fresh blackberries on a pick.
Paris when it sizzled.
The bar at Harry's New York Bar, Paris.
The man, the book, the legend.