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A Taste of the Big Apple in Paris
In the center of the city, near the Opera House, lies the oldest American Bar in France
Pierre Joo (pierre_joo)     Print Article 
Published 2006-06-09 17:02 (KST)   
Step in for a night in the old New York in the heart of Paris.
©2006 Pierre Joo
With summer season on its way, here is one tip for tourists about to come to Paris, especially those planning to enjoy night time, sipping cocktails at the counter of Parisian bars: do not order a dry martini, unless this drink specifically appears on the menu.

In other parts of the world, notably North America, so many different kinds of martini cocktails are available that some bars are entirely dedicated to the many variations of the drink. But in France, this cocktail is not a common one. In fact, martini usually refers to a brand of Italian sweet vermouth that French people enjoy drinking before dinner. So ask for a gin martini to an unaware Parisian bartender, and you may end up with a glass of gin mixed with sweet, red-looking Italian liquor.

Of course, globalization is also affecting drinking culture around the world, and nowadays some places in Paris do have martinis on their cocktail menus. But one place that has been serving tremendous martinis since the beginning of the 20th century in the heart of Paris is Harry's Bar, the oldest American bar in Paris, since 1911.

In fact, another cocktail, namely the Bloody Mary, is what Harry's Bar is renowned for. In 1921, Pete Petiot, then barman of the place, allegedly came out with a cocktail of his own creation: vodka and tomato juice. But, the Bloody Mary does not escape the usual controversy surrounding cocktail legends. A few blocks away from Harry's Bar, the bar of the Ritz Hotel, also claims to be the birthplace of the Bloody Mary. According to its version of the story, the cocktail is named after Mary, the wife of a once frequent customer of the Ritz bar, Ernest Hemingway. As Mary did not tolerate her husband's heavy drinking habit, the barman of the Ritz had the idea of mixing tomato juice with the colorless vodka.

Ask any barman of Harry's bar about this controversy and he'll express no irritation or hesitation that could hint he is on the lying side and will give you Harry's Bar's official version in a tone full of confidence. Then order a Bloody Mary, and enjoy how instinctively and inspirationally he mixes vodka and tomato juice, along with Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. At some point he'll probably tell you in a courteous, yet slightly lecturing tone, that celery salt is not part of the original Bloody Mary composition. Finally, have a taste of the drink. You will then likely start to get the message the barman wants to convey: never mind where the Bloody Mary was actually invented, the fact is that the ones from Harry's Bar are outstandingly good.

Indeed do try their hot dogs, the best American style hot dogs in town.
©2006 Pierre Joo
Not everybody loves Bloody Marys. Hopefully, Harry's Bar has a lot more to offer, starting with the place's overall atmosphere. Stepping in the bar through the two wooden swinging doors feels like stepping back in time. According to the bar's current manager, the founder of the place dismantled its New York bar piece by piece to rebuild it in Paris in 1911. Ninety-five years later, the place seems to have remained mostly unchanged. The Harry's Bar inscription in the front window, along with the bar's famous motto "Sank Roo Doe Noo," the old wooden interior, the barmen's ageless white suits and dark ties, the display of ancient whisky bottles near the entrance, the collection of U.S. college flags, the pair of old boxing gloves hanging from the ceiling...or are they baseball gloves?

If you're not thirsty, Harry's Bar may still have something for you. It could be a hot dog, as Harry's Bar is one of the few places in France to serve genuine American style hot dogs, and not the French ones, made with a baguette (traditional French bread), and grilled cheese. It could be an early insight of the next U.S. president, as since 1924 Harry's Bar has been organizing straw votes, opened to anyone with a U.S. passport, on the night of the actual election. The huge majority of the bar's election winners eventually became President of the U.S. Senator Kerry is among the few exceptions. It could also be a fine moment with your mate, at the downstairs piano lounge, enjoying tunes from the classic Jazz repertoire, wondering whether the man seated in the back of the room, chatting with an elegant lady is some famous politician or journalist, as some of them are frequent customers of the place.

Taxi drivers should have no problem taking you there.
©2006 Pierre Joo
For those of you who may have decided to drop by Harry's Bar on their next stay in Paris, the easiest way to get there is by taxi. Don't even bother spelling the name of the bar to the driver, just make sure to tell him Harry's Bar's famous motto: "Sank Roo Doe Noo." These words may not make sense to you, but they will to the driver. Not because they are some sort of secret password between Harry's Bar and the community of taxi drivers in Paris, but because they are the phonetic transcription of the Harry's Bar's address: "5 rue Daunou."
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Pierre Joo

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