We were tired. We were jet lagged.
But a day of travel wasn’t going to get in the way of our quest to visit the top 100 bars in the world.
So after arriving in Paris, sneaking in a quick nap, and wandering around for a good 2 hours, the clock struck 6 o’clock, and that meant opening time for the first of our targets: Le Syndicat.
In following along with the World’s Best Bars List, one of two things happens when a bar is ranked in the 90s, as Le Syndicat in Paris, France was in 2016.
It will either fall off the list, and off my radar until I show up in a city and everyone tells you, that you have to go here. Or in some cases that it used to be great.
Or the other thing that will happen, is the bar continues to improve on what they’re doing, and the fly up the rankings – and this is the case of Le Syndicat.
Two years after barely cracking the top 100, they find themselves as the highest ranked Paris cocktail bar on the list, coming in at #24 in the 2018 list.
So now the question remains, in our experience, was it the best in the city?
First Impressions of Le Syndicat in Paris, France
If you’re not looking for it, Le Syndicat can be easy to miss.
From the outside, you’d have no idea that there was a den of world class drinking inside.
Flyers litter the exterior walls, and trash cans line the streets outside. My first thought upon viewing it from the outside was that it was the cocktail version of high end shoe store, Bodega, in Boston.
Once inside, you’re greeted warmly by the bar staff to a small space with gold accents, and coins stuck in the ceiling – which was kind of an interesting design choice.
But one of the first things you notice (if you’re paying attention), is the bottles behind the bar, or rather, the bottles that aren’t behind the bar.
Every drink they serve at Le Syndicat is made entirely of French Spirts.
That’s right you won’t find any American Bourbon, London Gin, or Brazilian cacacha. Everything they make is home grown.
The cocktails do an excellent job of finding a creative french solution like a cognac or verjus, to replace more standard cocktail ingredients.
And the results are not only unique, but delicious as well.
The Drinks at Le Syndicat
Our timing was slightly unfortunate in that, we visited Le Syndicat just a week before they were debuting their new menu. In a perfect world, it would have been the week we visited, so we could try both 🙂
But alas, now we have a reason to come back!
The current menu consists of drink and stories around the different landmarks of Paris.
It was a cool concept, and each of the drinks we had did a pretty good job of reflecting the places in question.
My first drink was called “A midi a minute” and it was their take on an old fashioned. One theme I’ve learned very quickly about the bars we’re visiting in Paris is that most of them don’t have an English menu.
So while you can figure out many of the basics of the ingredients, some of the particulars are a bit more elusive.
This particular drink represented Champs Elysse (which I still can’t pronounce correctly), and used Whisky Bellevoye as it’s base, eau di vie prune to add some sweetness, and a very earthy wheat element that I was told was built using a similar to process to what Guinness does with it’s beers.
On top of the simple fact they use all French spirits, it’s cool that so many of them are from under the radar, family run distilleries. I’d never come across a prune spirit before, but it sounds like that’s much more common in France than I would have ever known.
Tate had a Leonardo da Tiki, which was a cool French take on a tiki cocktail (as I bet you could have guessed).
Considering Martinique is an overseas region of Franch, rhum argicole was on the table here.
The resulting drink however toned down the funky, strong agricole flavor, and balanced it very well with an herbal element from Chartreuse, and a bit of sweet Benedictine.
Resulting in a much more refined drink than say, a ti’punch which just smacks you in the face with the rhum.
The star of the show, however was the “Disneyland” themed “M.W.A.’
This was most conceptual drink we had at Le Syndicat (and surprisingly, most delicious), and was served in a mickey mouse glass, with a balloon attached to it.
Even cooler, the balloon was filled with cotton candy flavored helium.
So you suck the helium, take a sip, and then, you guessed it, sound like Mickey Mouse when you exclaim “holy crap that tastes good,”
In my experience, it’s rare when the conceptual drink is also the favorite taste-wise, but this combination of raspberry, chocolate, and pandan was world class.
That last flavor, pandan, is one of my favorite Asian flavors, and not something I’ve often seen at cocktail bars.
Yet it seems to be on trend here in Paris, as I’ve had drinks at Le Syndicat, Danico, and Little Red Door that all feature the tropical leaf.
The final drink was “Watch the Throne” themed around Versailles. While I had yet to visit Versailles, the drink wasn’t quite what I expected.
It was delicious, and regal, but had a fruitier flavor than I was expecting – and that ended up being a good thing.
Final Thoughts on Le Syndicat
In the end, our first of the trip, and 48th checked off on the 2017 world’s best list, was a total success.
The focus on French spirits was something truly unique in the world of cocktail bars, the the tightrope balance between concept and just flat out delicious drinks was executed perfectly.
Throw in a laid back vibe, and some hip hop beats mixing in the background, and you have a fantastic place to spend an evening. I look forward to making it back and trying out the next menu sometime soon.