On a quiet side street just a short walk from the grand Palais Garnier is a rather unassuming neon-fronted bar called Harry’s New York Bar. Christened the New York Bar in 1911 when Tod Sloan converted it from an existing bistro, in 1923 bartender Harry McElhone took ownership and added his name as a prefix. Harry turned the bar in to one of the most famous in the world, frequented by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Coco Channel, George Gershwin, Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich.
Today Harry’s maintains its old world charm, with plenty of wood panelling and lots of very old looking bottles in cabinets and behind the bar. I visited on a Thursday afternoon, and the bar was quiet though frequented by a steady stream of older French gentlemen drinking nothing fancier than a whiskey soda. The bartender said the place is much livelier in the evening, and the piano bar downstairs looks like a great place to spend an evening.
There were no cocktail menus, so I started off with a Sidecar, a drink I know the bar claims was invented there by Harry himself. I’ve read stories to suggest otherwise, but who knows. The Sidecar was efficiently made by the bartender, and was served well chilled in a perfectly small cocktail glass. I didn’t catch what Cognac was used, but Cointreau and fresh lemon juice was used and the result was nicely balanced. It was a little light on Cognac compared to what I’m used to and as a result a bit sweet, but still enjoyable.
We waited quite a while after finishing first drinks before we could get the attention of the bartender, but once we did he was friendly and chatty. I went for another cocktail claimed to have been invented at Harry’s, the Monkey Gland.
An interesting mix of gin, orange juice, grenadine and Pernod, the “dash” of Pernod the bartender added was perhaps a little heavy for my taste, meaning a strong anise flavour dominated the drink. The gin and orange juice mixed nicely underneath though, and the drink was well shaken lending a nice mouth feel. If I make a Monkey Gland myself I will definitely cut back a little on the Pernod, but otherwise it was a pretty good drink.
Places like Harry’s can easily rely on past history for trade, but I was pleased to find that the bar still produces well made drinks. It’s an amazing little bar and worth visiting just because of the history, but combined with decent drinks I’d highly recommend checking the bar out if you find yourself in Paris.
Harry’s New York Bar is located at 5, rue Daunou, Paris 75002 and open everyday between 10:30am and 4:00am.
Tel: +33 (0)1 4261 7114
If you liked this, the barman recommends...