The first thing I should probably mention about Paris Cocktails, a book by Doni Belau, is how it looks on the outside (all “don’t judge a book by its cover” arguments aside). This small, hardcover collection of recipes features a martini-shaped cut-out on the front, revealing a map of Paris underneath. It is extremely pleasing to the eye, to say the least, and when I first picked it up, I spent some time running my hands along the dense, yet somehow soft exterior, while admiring the names of the various Parisian streets and buildings.
I knew before I started that this book was a compilation of French cocktail recipes; however, I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. I work at an Irish bar, and the closest I get to a Parisian cocktail is a French Martini (which is delicious, by the way). I hadn’t heard of any other France-specific mixed drinks, but being the fervent drinker that I am, I was excited to learn more. According to the author, Doni Belau, who has been travelling to France for decades now (you can read more of her work at her website, Girls’ Guide to Paris), signature cocktails are something relatively new for that country. Before the last ten years or so, most places in France didn’t make cocktails, and a lot of the bartenders didn’t even know what vodka was (can you imagine?!).
The times have changed, though, and Belau was able to travel about France (she went to 50 bars in 6 weeks–how do I sign up for her job?) and research some of the best and most delicious cocktails right from the mixologists themselves. She even begins the book with a list of ingredients involved in most cocktails and their definitions (such as vermouth, bitters, etc…). This I found to be particularly helpful because a lot of these are terms we have all heard before, but maybe don’t actually know or understand them. And if there is anything you should understand completely, it is the components of your mixed drink!
Not only is this book filled with mouth-watering, delectable cocktail recipes, but spattered throughout the length of it are ideas for Paris-themed parties and quotes by famous people, either about Paris (“The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald) or about drinking (“I drink to make other people more interesting.” -Ernest Hemingway).
Most of the recipes in this book were for cocktails I have heard of before (like Bloody Mary’s and Old Fashioned’s), but there was usually something a little different about each and every one of them, putting an interesting (and apparently French) spin on classic favorites. When I finished reading, I couldn’t wait to try out a few of these mixes for myself. Doni Belau steps out of the classic cookbook/recipe collections format and gives the reader so much more than just a list of ingredients and directions on how to combine them. It may be a small book, but it certainly packs a punch.
Twisted Talk: Have you ever traveled to France before? What’s your favorite cocktail? Discuss below!