Feel like "Putting on the Ritz" in Paris? Better hurry because it's closing for renovations soon.
If you feel like “putting on the Ritz”, you better hurry because this luxury hotel at the Place Vendôme will temporarily close its doors in 2012. Upon learning that the much needed renovations will require two to three years, Stephane and I went to the Bar Hemingway a couple of weeks ago only to discover that it’s a very popular destination on Saturday nights. Looking at the crowded bar full of happy people and wishing that we could join them, we vowed to return on another occasion.
Wanting to increase our chances of getting a spot in this famous watering hole, we decided to occupy some of the comfy sofas in the Ritz while waiting for the bar to open last Sunday evening. Joking that we probably looked a bit desperate for a drink, Stephane, Sara and I were pleased when an English couple and an American family of five joined our vigil. Opening the doors promptly at 6:30 p.m., the bartender invited us to take a seat in the leather chairs and then made his way around the room describing three special cocktails ranging from “nice” to “naughty”.
Even though Head Bartender Colin Field, who was named best barman in the world by Forbes magazine in 2001, wasn’t there, we decided to try one of his creations that is also the Hemingway House Cocktail. "Serendipity", as described by the customer for whom Colin created the drink, is when you find what you’ve always been looking for without knowing that you were looking for it.
Serendipity, the cocktail
1 sprig of fresh mint
1 teaspoon of sugar
3/10 clarified apple juice
5/10 Ritz champagne
Gently mix the Calvados, fresh mint and sugar in a tumbler. Add a few ice cubes and the clarified apple juice. Top with champagne. Serve with a white orchard for the females. Enjoy.
With hindsight, I wish that we would have sipped our Serendipities at the bar rather than at a table because the bartenders are well-versed in Hemingway lore. Eavesdropping on the bartender's conversation with some of the other guests, we found out that Hemingway was the first American to enter the hotel after Paris was liberated from Nazi Germany, thus becoming the liberator of the Ritz on August 25, 1944. Forget his literary career, that's quite a claim to fame!
Hemingway once said, "When in Paris the only reason not to stay at the Ritz is if you can't afford it" and that's how I felt about the cocktails. At 30 € ($ 40) the Serendipity is the most expensive drink that I've ever tasted, but perhaps it was worth it to share a moment of history with Hemingway.
15, Place Vendôme
Head Bartender Colin Field making a Serendipity.