I have to admit, my honeymoon was just about as stellar as they come. Thanks to the incredible generosity of my in-laws, Hubs and I flew from Asheville to Paris on June 4th, 2007, where we stayed for 5 days in posh digs (with complimentary nougat-my favorite confection-and chocolate lollipops on our pillows every night!!!). After that, we jumped on a train to Monte Carlo, in the teensy principality of Monaco, where we set up shop in a hotel overlooking the harbor for four days (the yachts, folks, were completely off the hook!). Lastly, we set out for the third leg of our trip, traveling overnight by train to Rome, where we stayed for 3 days. It was glorious and romantic and indulgent in all the right ways that honeymoons should be.
One of the standouts of the trip for me, though, was something quite simple. While the Louvre was phenomenal, the casinos resplendent, and the Colosseum epic, one of my most abiding loves on the trip was of a cocktail had in our Paris hotel.
La Bar Chinois, found inside the Renaissance Paris Vendome, is a postage stamp-sized little thing of a bar, but a thing of beauty nonetheless. With exquisite chinoiserie-style wallpaper, handcrafted lacquered furniture, and the most intoxicating liquid incense (Pacifica's Mediterranean Fig comes close to mirroring the fragrance), the place was beyond charming, yet in an especially exotic manner. We took our seats at the diminutive bar, where the chic, urbane, oh-so-Parisian bartender directed our attention towards Bar Chinois' cocktail blends.Available in a remarkable number of permutations, the cocktail blends involve the drinker pulling three marked sticks from a tumbler of options. One stick selects an herb, one chooses a fruit juice, and the third designates the choice of liquor. The selections are all done randomly, so you don't know if you'll select basil, cranberry juice, and an herb-infused vodka, or mint, pineapple juice, and a spice-infused vodka.
While I can't remember the exact incarnation of what Hubs and I selected, I do remember that it tasted heavenly. We were so inspired by the drink (and its fun creation) that several months later, we threw a "Mad Scientist" -themed Halloween party where we set up a bar and allowed our guest to create their own signature cocktail. You can see our offerings pictured above. For herb choices, we used basil, mint, and tarragon (all fresh). Fruit juices included pineapple, pomegranate, and coconut. For the liquor, two weeks prior to the soiree we infused vodka three different ways: black pepper & jalapeno, vanilla & raspberry, and cranberry & juniper.
I used craft sticks of similar colors to group herbs (green), fruit juice (yellow), and liquor (red). Guests selected one of each color and, after chopping the fresh herb, I added all the components to a cocktail shaker, shook hard, and strained off the concoction. Amazingly, not one creation turned out poorly. Our guests loved the game and we loved bringing a bit out the magic of our honeymoon stateside.
If you're planning a New Year's Eve bash, I invite you to steal this idea. While you might not have enough time to infuse liquor yourself, you could simply purchase three different infused vodka flavors from the liquor store. I'm always a fan of mixing things up in life and this slice of Parisian fun, courtesy of La Bar Chinois, takes mixed drinks to a whole other level. Cheers (or, more so, Salut!)!