As winter descends on Paris and the temperature falls with the rain (and even snow), it’s hard to motivate oneself to get out of the house or hotel. And once you’ve been outside, wandering the chilly streets beneath an umbrella, there’s nothing that sounds better than a nice cocktail, a fireplace and a plush couch. For these wintry days, there are cozy Paris bars for every kind of Paris girl.
For the Literary Romantic Girl: L’Hôtel
13, rue des Beaux-Arts, in the 6th Arrondissement.
This lush Saint-Germain hotel is the famous locale where Oscar Wilde took his last breaths. The accompanying bar is quiet and comfortable enough for intimate conversation, especially if you have any secret lovers. The fireplace, marble columns, comfy velour chaise longues and dark wood bookcases filled with antique tomes from Moliére, Racine and Pearl S. Buck make you feel like you’re drinking in the library of the world’s richest reader. The only questionable decor is the leopard-print plush carpet, which makes me think of Wilde’s famous last words, “Either this wallpaper goes or I do.” Adorable bonus: your check is delivered in a hollowed-out book.
What to drink: The Oscar Wilde, of course. This expertly mixed cocktail combines rum, basil, honey, lime and Tabasco, giving your taste buds a bright and electric flavor before settling to a warming spice going down.
For the Bicoastal Girl: Candelaria
52, rue de Saintonge, in the 3rd Arrondissement.
My fellow Girls’ Guide writer Rebecca Brown noted that Candelaria is like the mullet of bars, with business in the front and a party in the back. Sure enough, its no-nonsense taqueria in the front is sure to please any California girl looking to get her fill of authentic, cheap Mexican food, and the secret bar in the back is destined to satisfy New Yorkers who feel most at home in LES bars with extremely dim lighting, a too-cool crowd and fantastic cocktails. As far as Paris bars go, Candelaria’s cuddle-up couches, bearskin wall hangings and pulsing music make it a prime spot for both date nights and girls’ nights out.
What to drink: The Guapo, a grown-up mix of mescal, tequila and all kinds of spices, is so effective it will make you forget you have ever been cold.
For the Modern Girl: Hôtel Jules et Jim
11, rue des Gravilliers, in the 3rd Arrondissement.
This ultrachic boutique hotel boasts a sleek and intimate bar tucked away behind its courtyard. Take a skinny-legged seat at the bar or on one of the modern lounge seats, and enjoy the bar’s ever-changing art collection and the bar’s unique square of glass floor, giving a peek into the wine cave below.
What to drink: If there’s no precipitation, head outside to sip a glass of Champagne around the courtyard’s fireplace.
For the Hipster Boho Girl: Le Comptoir Général
80, quai de Jemmapes, in the 10th Arrondissement.
It’s hard to describe le Comptoir Général. It has the feel of a speakeasy, yet it’s far too large for that. It displays “ghetto art” and curiosities in its “museum” (taxidermy ducks, apothecary potions from around the world). It has a “classroom” where the seats are all former school desks, a ballroom and a vinyl and secondhand shop tucked into the nook of its main room. Add to that weekly film screenings, and le Comptoir is almost overwhelming in its gritty coolness.
What to drink: The bar is unendingly busy, so keep it simple with a whiskey neat (or your favorite two-ingredient beverage) before flouncing down onto one of the vintage couches and watching the parade of Paris hipsters before you.
For the Luxury Girl: Le Bristol
112, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, in the 8th Arrondissement.
If le Comptoir Général is a rebellious teenager, the bar at le Bristol is her wealthy but cool granddad. The bar at le Bristol combines every imaginable reference to the idea of “cozy,” from richly upholstered furniture and tapestry wall decor to a roaring fireplace and warm, attentive service. You know the service will be good when the website features the photos and biographies of the bartenders. After giving me a bienvenue apéro of gin and absinthe, Roman (formerly a cocktail creator at the renowned Ritz Bar) chatted with me for 10 minutes about literature and the “lost generation” of Paris, giving me recommendations and telling me stories about some of the bar’s more interesting guests. Later, as I sat beside the fire on my own, another bartender dropped by with a selection of magazines she thought I might enjoy while warming up. The drinks may be pricey, and that’s true of many Paris bars. But in the case of le Bristol, you get what you pay for: the ultimate in comfort, luxury and cozy cocktails.
What to drink: Though the cocktail menu changes every two months, for winter I’d recommend the Old-Fashioned No. 2, which combines rum with a house-made mulled-wine syrup, topped with cloves, lemon rind and a cinnamon stick. Sitting beside the crackling fire, this wintry mix is sure to warm you from the inside out.
Hôtel Jules et Jim
Le Comptoir Général
Editor’s note: If you are a Girls’ Guide Travel Club member, you might want to try the wine bars Flûte and O Chateau in Paris. You’ll receive special deals at both. Cheers!