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1992 Clynelish K&L Exclusive 21 Year Old Cadenhead Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


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Wednesday
Feb112015

Paris – 1st arrondissement 

Along with the Ritz, you might call Harry's the most iconic bar in all of Paris. There since 1911, it's hosted everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Coco Chanel, and Rita Hayworth to Humphrey Bogart. Even the fictional James Bond recalled having a drink at Harry's in Ian Fleming's 1960 story "A View to Kill".  It's said that the Bloody Mary, Sidecar, and French 75 were all invented at 15 Rue Daunou, as well. Simply put: you can't go to Paris and not have a cocktail at Harry's. Especially considering you can get a hotdog with mustard and relish while you sip your drink.

If the Bloody Mary and Sidecar were invented at Harry's, then—as a dedicated student of cocktail history—that's exactly what I was going to have. One of each, please. The bartenders at Harry's are also top notch. They're very relaxed, friendly, and reminiscent of something you'd expect in the 1940s. Our guy hummed a little tune as he casually made our drinks.

Don't like cocktails? Then don't get one, but please—for God's sake, please—order one of the several hundred shots of whisky available at Harry's. Not just current release stuff either, but old relics from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, too! The prices are more than reasonable. I had a large pour of ancient Ballantine's 17 year for about $18. If only most blended whisky still tasted that good.

If Harry's hot dogs aren't enough to soak up all that hooch in your stomach, then walk about half a kilometer down the Rue des Petit Champs and hit up Hokkaido: the best bang for your buck we have found anywhere inside the city limits. The ramen is more than legit; it's top notch and it comes with seven pieces of fried gyoza. Add in a bottle of rosé de Provance and make it a decadent experience. We paid forty euros for two steaming bowls plus fourteen savory gyoza and a large volume of wine. We were very happy with this place, as was everyone else because it was packed. 

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Feb102015

Paris – Versailles

I've always wanted to go to Versailles. I just want to have a big, slammin' party right in the middle of the mirrored ballroom, invite all my friends, and hit the bottle all night long! So did Kim and Kanye apparently. The couple requested to have their wedding at the former Louis XIV home, but the French responded in turn by saying "Hell-to-the-NON!" After Kanye's behavior towards Beck at the Grammy's last night, it's clear the French were right in keeping their distance. I get why Mr. West wanted to use the grounds though. Versailles is the ultimate baller pad. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't able have a drink in the former bedroom of Marie Antoinette like I wanted too, but we had fun there nonetheless.

One thing that's nice about France in winter is that you really don't have to fight your way through the tourist traps. It's not peak season. For example, take our ride to Versailles today. We were the only two people on the entire tour bus! We basically had our own gigantic, private VIP bus drive us to the palace, drop us off at the front door, and take us home when we were done. What a feeling! The funny part was when we decided to meet the driver back at the bus earlier than he asked us to be there. We had finished our tour and still had an hour to kill, so I figured we could leave a bit ahead of time. "We're the only ones!" I said to my wife. "Why can't we leave when we're done?"

So we got to the bus and we saw the driver sitting in the upper deck through the window, but we couldn't tell if he was asleep or awake. After a few shouts and waves, we finally got his attention and he opened the door for us to come in. I asked if it was OK to go back to Paris now and he said, "Sure, if you want to." He let us in and we went up to the upper deck to take our seats, while we waited for him to start the bus. After about five minutes we still didn't hear an engine, but we did hear a repetitive air-generated sound that I thought may have been the hydrolic system. We ignored it, but after about ten minutes we still hadn't heard the bus start up. Instead we heard the same gust of wind, followed by a repetative computer beep. After about fifteen minutes I finally got up and walked downstairs to see what the deal was. When I saw what was happening I wasn't sure whether to laugh out loud or run for my life. 

I decended the stairs to find our tour driver blowing repeatedly into a breathalyzer machine hooked up to the engine, which he apparently needed to clear in order to start the bus. By this point he had blown into it at least thirty times with the same negative result. That's what we had been hearing before—his repeated breaths, gusts, and attempts to somehow convince the computerized system he was sober. It seems that while we were out touring the royal palace, our driver was getting his drink on—having a few extra glasses of wine with his lunch. When we came back earlier than expected it was clear he wasn't quite ready to get behind the wheel. "C'est bon?" I asked him. "Oui, c'est bon," he replied. 

"C'est pour l'alcool?" I then said.

"Oui," he answered without feeling the need to explain. Eventually he got it going. If at first you don't succeed...

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Feb102015

Paris – 3rd arrondissement 

Imagine Soho, the East Village, the West Village, the Meatpacking District, and everything else you love about shopping in New York in one overwhelmingly-large, winding, and ever-expanding entity. That's the Marais district in Paris's 3rd arrondissement. While the Champs Élysée and St. Germain have their own impressive selection of super-stores, most of it is couture. That means you won't be buying your wife anything less than a $3000 purse or an $800 pair of shoes should you want to do something nice for her. All the artisan boutiques, kooky designers, affordable accessories, and Parisian hipsters are in the Marais; to the extent that you could spend your entire time in Paris just combing through all the alleyways you might have missed. It took us two days just to scratch the surface. There's so much to do there it almost induces a panic attack.

There are a number of iconic bars in Paris; many of them long established and frequented by famous literary figures of the century or so. That being said, there are also a number of bars moving beyond Parisian tradition and into their own representation of what a French lounge should be, and they're mostly located in the Marais. The Little Red Door is one of these places (NOTE: if you go, don't be an idiot like me and try to actually open the little red door. The entrance is actually the door to the left of it).

Go early, and you can spend some time talking to bar manager Remy Savage. His customer service skills are impeccible, showcasing that oft-overlooked craft that seems to allude many a mixologist these days. I've had such wonderful service in Paris these last few days and that's really forced me to think about stepping up my own game. Any location—be it a bar or a retail outlet—needs to consider the fact that, when you're a serious destination, people are coming from all over the world to see what you're about. No matter how busy you are, or how many irrational customers you've dealt with that day, we all need to remember that we're not simply providing a service; we're ultimately playing ambassador. I only chatted with Remy for about twenty minutes, but it was clear in that short amount of time that he completely understands what it means to run a world-class bar. 

And he knows not only how to make a delicious and intriguing cocktail, he can do it with flare. The guy was mixing liquids from shaker to shaker, pouring between one container high over his head and another about four feet beneath it. Never once did he spill a drop. Go to the Little Red Door if you're in Paris. It's worth searching out.

Not far down the street is Candelaria, the La Esquina of Paris. If you've never been to New York's amazing La Esquina, I'll sum it up quickly for you: it's a world class taco bar that looks like a hole in the wall, until you realize that there's a secret and glamorous nightclub underneath it, the stairs leading down behind what looks like an ordinary door. Candelaria is attempting literally the exact same concept, but in Paris. Ordinary hole in the wall taco bar, but super fancy lounge in the back behind an unassuming white door. If you don't mind waiting a lifetime to get in, you might want to check it out as it's just a few blocks from the Little Red Door. 

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Feb082015

Paris – 2nd arrondissement 

On Sunday in Paris (and in most of Europe) the shops are closed and the day of rest is still closely observed, but that doesn't mean people are staying in. You might take a walk through the 2nd arrondissement and find yourself smack in the middle of an impromptu motorcycle parade. Why not? Have a few glasses of wine with brunch and then hop on your hog.

An endless snake of two-wheelers is somewhat tolerable, but when you combine that threat to moving traffic with a Je Suis Charlie support march on the neighboring street, only one block south from the mile-long motorcade, you're asking for trouble. I thought our cab driver was going to explode. "Traffic should be less on Sunday, not more," he said with a sneer.

We eventually made it through the melee and over to the Centre Pompidou for a look at the Jeff Koons exhibit, before heading back across the river to the rive gauche and the lovely Musée d'Orsay. If you think museums are just about the appreciation of art, then you're thinking too much with your intellectually-oriented brain. You need to think with your stomach every now and again, as well. Museums are quickly becoming some of the coolest and most stylish places to drink and eat around the world. Before closing for a lengthy remodel, the MOMA in San Francisco was a monthly destination for my wife and I; a spot to enjoy Mondrian cake and sip artsy cocktails. The restaurant in the Orsay is also incredible. A vintage French ballroom from the year 1900 juxtaposed with colorful and modern furniture, and a pretty killer wine list on top of that. We had truffle risotto with celery and a bottle of Alsatian pinot noir. Then it was back to check out the rest of the Monet landscapes. 

Drinking while checking out masterpieces of les paysagistes? That's how I like to appreciate art.

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Feb082015

Paris – 7th arrondissement 

As someone who grew up entirely in the United States, I've come to take for granted the idea of New York as "the city that never sleeps". Twenty-four hours a day you'll find action on the streets of the Big Apple, and many other American cities to boot. Don't most cosmopolitan areas work that way? Not in France, apparently. Paris definitely sleeps; and in February, she takes her sweet time getting out of bed. When you're in the midst of jet-lag and you're still waking up at 4 AM each morning, you're ready to rock those streets as soon as the sun even peeks its head above the horizon. But the rest of Paris? They're still dreaming of last night's dinner.

If you're looking for quiet introspection and a peaceful, taciturn look at the various architectural delights, you can get it in Paris; despite the fact that there are millions and millions of people crammed into this sprawling metropolis. The city streets are yours alone if you wander out before breakfast.

-David Driscoll

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