The Tunnel Cocktail (from Cravan, Paris)

One of my favorite spots in Paris is Cravan. It’s not right in the middle of town, nor is it in the popular St. Germain area, or the trendy 10th or 11th arrondissements. But a few métro stops is all it takes to find yourself at one of the loveliest little outposts in the city.

Franck Audoux is the owner of Cravan, a pocket-sized café with a well-used zinc bar going almost straight down the middle of it. The interior was designed by Hector Guimard, the designer and architect known for the cast-iron curvilinear entrances to the Paris métro stations and several other Art Nouveau structures in France. The café is a registered historic landmark.

[Image from Drinking French: The iconic cocktails, apéritifs, and café traditions of France, with 160 recipes by Ed Anderson]

What makes Cravan stand out, though, are the high-quality cocktails, and food. Open daily at 8am, I’ve not made it there at that hour, but on weekends there is a popular Sunday roast, and whenever I have gone (which is usually in the early evening) the bar food they serve is the best I’ve had in the city.

The cocktails use carefully-selected ingredients and are often served in vintage glassware. A few are Baccarat. The menu changes with the seasons and whims of the market; you might find a plate of poached white asparagus, fresh oysters (perfect with one of Franck’s 50:50 martinis!), little skewers of anchovies, chilis, and olives, broiled eggplant (whose simplicity belies how good it is), a Croque madame on Japanese pain de mie, and an Eton Mess aux fraises.

If you come in the warmer months, the terrace is a tranquil place to unwind with a perfect cocktail. (But I’ve enjoyed being inside in the winter, where the café becomes a place that’s as cozy as they come.) Like the food menu, the descriptions on the cocktail menu are short and to the point. Yet you can be assured that whatever you order, like the food, it won’t be overwrought. But spot-on. The Yellow Cocktail (below), which is one of my favorite cocktails that I featured in Drinking French, is a case in point. A few simple ingredients come together in the glass to make the kind of cocktail that I favor – one that gets right to the point, and you don’t have to wrap your mind around trying to discern how it was made, or what was in it, or why it tastes so good. You just have to enjoy it.

The Tunnel cocktail is Franck’s take on the Negroni, using similar ingredients and proportions, but making them distinctly “Franck,” as one could say. (Some of his other drinks are featured in his book, French Moderne: Cocktails from the 1920s & 1930s.) Brisk gin, oaky dry vermouth, two kinds of sweet vermouth, along with an obligatory pour of bitter Campari, come together to make a perfectly balanced – and decidely French – drink.

Cravan
17, rue Jean-de-la-Fontaine (16th)
(check their Instagram account for opening hours)

The Tunnel Cocktail
Print Recipe
1 cocktail
A riff on the 3-ingredient formula of a Negroni, Franck uses Campari for its incomparable bitterness, Noilly Prat dry vermouth for a little oaky flavor, and Punt e Mes Italian vermouth, which falls largely in the herbaceous camp with a sly amount of bitter, too. Another dry vermouth can be used in place of the Noilly Prat, and for the Punt e Mes, another sweet red vermouth could fill in.
1 ounce gin
1 ounce dry French vermouth, preferably Noilly Prat
3/4 ounce Campari, or a similar red aperitivo such as Cappeletti, Bruto Americano, or Forthave aperitivo
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth, preferably Punt e Mes
orange or grapefruit twist
1. Put all the ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass. Fill the mixing glass two-thirds full of ice and stir briskly until well-chilled, about 15 seconds.
2. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with grapefruit or orange twist


The Tunnel Cocktail (from Cravan, Paris)

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9 comments

  • Linda
    May 9, 2020 2:55pm

    David, please ask M. Franck to video the cafe. I am so intrigued by a Guimard interior! Just a quick look. Merci from Maine. Reply

    • May 9, 2020 3:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      hi Linda,
      I asked him to do it but will remind him during the video. It’s really pretty! Reply

  • Michael
    May 10, 2020 12:24am

    That’s a beautiful glass! Do you know who makes it? Reply

  • Dawn Darner
    May 10, 2020 7:51pm

    Thank you for sharing your friend and this delicious (sounding – too early here to drink yet :) I can’t wait to try it. Hopefully we’ll get back to Paris before long before I begin displaying Paris withdrawal symptoms and we will look this lovely place up. Reply

  • Cary
    May 10, 2020 10:53pm

    Did I miss in your post how is this not a Negroni? Tried Negroni for first time this winter and it was wild. Hope you’re well, David! Reply

    • May 11, 2020 11:16am
      David Lebovitz

      I didn’t mention it but Franck did in the video where he made the drink at his café. I believe a true Negroni only uses red sweet vermouth and this one uses dry French vermouth, in partnership with some Punt e Mes. There are lots of variations, though, and this is one of them. Reply

  • Vicky
    May 11, 2020 12:27am

    Thank you for sharing the recipe David, and for introducing us to Franck and Cravan. Definitely on the list for the next Paris visit! Reply

  • Cindy
    May 14, 2020 12:39am

    This was a fun video with Franck. I could tell right away what you were saying about how stern he can look. But, he seems charming. You know, his book is already out of stock on bookshop.org and I bet it’s because your readers all flocked to get it. You are quite an influencer, in a good way! I bought the OXO scale on your recommendation. One more thing, I watched the 1st season of Dead to Me and OMG, it was crazy and addicting. I love your daily videos, they are the highlight of my day. When I’m busy and can’t watch them live, I get mad. But, I love being able to watch later. Reply

  • Emilia
    May 25, 2020 12:57am

    Just made this with Forthave Spirit’s red bitter and Martini sweet vermouth (I know, not the best…). Absolutely delicious! To me, it tastes like the midway point between a Negroni and a Martini. Thanks for sharing! Reply

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