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