PARIS – A few blocks from the Bastille, down a narrow, one-way street lined with a beautiful blend of restaurants, an experimental theater, two used bookstores (including one specializing in rare books about music), and several five- or six-story apartment buildings (including the one Jim Morrison died in), you could easily walk by one of the most innovative cocktail bars in the city.
The rectangular, wooden sign to the right of the glass door of the bar is smaller than a placemat
The rectangular, wooden sign to the right of the glass door of the bar is smaller than a placemat. But often at night, you don’t need to see the sign to realize there’s something special to be found behind these thick, stone walls.
That’s because when this popular watering hole is open, there are often a few people lingering outside the long, narrow bar. And once you walk inside, you’ll never want to leave Sherry Butt, which has been rightfully hailed by some as one of the best cocktail bars in Paris.
Paris is famous for its opulent, upscale bars—from hotel bars in Le Meurice to The Peninsula Hotel and the Four Seasons Hotel George V. There are also many legendary, long-established bars like the Bar Hemingway in The Ritz Paris and Harry’s New York Bar a few blocks away near the Palais Garnier. And no roundup of Paris bars would be complete without the hundreds of charming brasseries scattered throughout the city.
But many new cocktail bars have managed to make a name for themselves in Paris in recent years. Some are simple cocktail cathedrals like Mabel. Others are exotic outposts with cheeky names like Dirty Dick. And while you can find creative cocktail bars throughout the city, the Marais, and just north in the République neighborhood, the 3rd, 4th, and 11th arrondissements have emerged as magnets for many innovative bars.
You’ll feel right at home in this intimate bar no matter what your age or musical tastes
Sherry Butt’s located in the other direction on the south side of the Marais near Place des Vosges. The bar definitely attracts a younger crowd (mid-20s to late 30s) than some upscale cocktail bars in Paris. Weekends (especially Saturday nights) can be much livelier than weeknights due to the DJ stationed near the back of the bar, playing a mix of mellow, electronic dance music which gets livelier as the night goes on. But if you appreciate innovative cocktails, you’ll feel right at home in this intimate bar no matter what your age or musical tastes, especially on quieter weeknights when Sherry Butt’s beautiful cocktails take center stage.
Once you walk inside, you’ll never want to leave Sherry Butt
Opened five years ago in September 2012, the name of the bar comes from the phrase used to describe sherry oak casks used by Whisky distilleries to age Scotch for several years. Along with distinct, seasonal cocktails, you’ll find a wide selection of excellent Whiskies, Scotches, and other distilled liquors at Sherry Butt.
“The idea at the time was to open a cocktail bar with really high standards that would also offer a nice selection of Whiskies while trying to keep prices to a decent level…and altogether in a very small and quiet street in the Marais district of Paris,” said Amaury Guyot, founder, and co-owner of Sherry Butt.
In particular, Sherry Butt often features rare Whiskies by the glass at reasonable prices. You can find out which bottles of rare Whisky from Scotland or elsewhere are being featured at the bar by going to the bar’s Facebook page and searching under the phrase #breakevenbottle.
A few months ago, Sherry Butt sold 30 ml drams for 10 euros of 1988 Mannochmore, a 28-year-old Single Malt Scotch aged for 28 years in a hogshead cask. Before then, patrons could purchase a 30 ml dram of 33-year-old 1982 Rare Old St. Magdalene for 27 euros a glass. During a recent trip there, I sampled four excellent Whiskies from India (Amrut), Australia (Starward), Japan (Nikka CM), and Taiwan (Kavalan KC).
But for many people, its Sherry Butt’s beautiful, distinct cocktails (which often cost 13 euros each no matter what the ingredients) that keep people coming back again and again to this intimate bar.
Asked what makes the bar so unique, Guyot said, “I would say it’s the level and dedication of our staff that makes this bar special. We’ve had a very low turnover in staff, there must be some pride to be working here. And also our huge cabinets to keep our glasses chilled!”
Sherry Butt’s bartenders constantly experiment in an effort to create new cocktails, according to longtime bartender Javier Alejandro Sham Lourenco. “Basically, we change the menu every six months,” Lourenco said.
“Sometimes you create an idea in your mind and it works directly because you are used to working with flavors and sensations in your head,” Lourenco added. “And it comes easy when you know what to taste and how they taste together—the sugars and the balance in your own head. Sometimes when you try it, you just have to correct it a little bit to balance. Or sometimes, it doesn’t work at all.”
One drink that has been consistently popular at Sherry Butt is called Ronin
One drink that has been consistently popular at Sherry Butt is called Ronin, a drink which Guyot said remains the bar’s most popular cocktail. “Ronin has been on the menu for a while now and it’s still very popular,” Guyot said. “It was changed, adapted many times, but the result and balance are always satisfying. And I guess it’s still popular to date because it’s a simple cocktail with Japanese Whisky and it’s very easy to enjoy at the same time.”
Sherry Butt’s Unique Cocktails
(All cocktails listed below cost 13 euros. Sherry Butt’s seasonal cocktail menu changes periodically. Certain cocktails listed below may not be currently available.)
Ingredients – Japanese Whisky, dry Madeira infused with pandan leaves, Oloroso Sherry, Champagne, smoked tea syrup, and black saline solution.
Tasting Notes – Sherry Butt’s most popular cocktail, this Whisky-based drink served in a cocktail glass with a single, large ice cube delivers a sublime, subtle, slow burn. A combination of a Manhattan with a Japanese flair, this slightly floral cocktail has a woodsy aroma and flavor. It’s the perfect drink for sipping by a fireside after a brisk day on the slopes or wandering along a windswept Parisian boulevard.
Ingredients – Rum, matcha tea, chai latte syrup, lemon, vanilla bitters, and sesame seeds on top.
Tasting Notes – Served in a metal cup with a single large ice cube, this pleasant-looking drink with sesame sprinkled on top is the cocktail I return to again and again, especially at the end of the night at Sherry Butt. Smooth and milky, this refreshing drink goes down easy and tastes absolutely delicious. It’s not always on the menu. But if you ask nicely, you just be able to get this slice of heaven to savor slowly in your glass.
Ingredients – Pisco 1615 Acholado, Campari, hibiscus/passion berries syrup, lemon juice, and vanilla.
Tasting Notes – Frankly, my dear, I do give a damn about this refreshing pink-colored cocktail served with crushed ice in a white-wine glass. Light, refreshing yet not too sweet, this is a great summer cocktail after wandering along the Seine on a warm, summer afternoon.
Ingredients – 30&40, Gen Maicha tea, chai latte syrup, lemon juice, and speculoos for garnish.
Tasting Notes – Served in a tall glass with ice, this guilty pleasure made with the popular French Aperitif, 30&40, has a smooth, slightly sweet finish. Light brown in color, refreshing on the palate, this lemon-flavored cocktail with a crispy finish tastes so good, you might need to go to confession afterward.
Ingredients – Scotch, Couchen, tomato shrub/white pepper, and pressed yellow lemon.
Tasting Notes – Served with ice in a metal cup, this spicy, milky concoction has a smoky taste and aroma. This is not a drink you wind down with at the end of the night. This intense, robust cocktail is the one you want when you’re gearing up for something exciting.
Ingredients – Cognac, Amontillado Sherry, Byrrh, and Vermouth dry infused with aux noix.
Tasting Notes – Served in a cocktail glass straight up, this cocktail will appeal to people who prefer their drinks on the sweeter side. A departure from many of the other cocktails on the menu at Sherry Butt, this is a drink I would recommend having near the start of the night before moving on to something stiffer.
Ingredients – Cachaca, Sake, pineapple syrup, eucalyptus, lemon cone press, and andaliman pepper.
Tasting Notes – Served with ice in a short cocktail glass, this floral-like, lemon-colored drink tastes like summer in a glass. A subtle blend of summer flowers and tropical eucalyptus flavors give this Cachaca-based cocktail a smooth, pleasing finish perfect for the beach or dreaming about one on a cold, winter’s night in the Marais.
Ingredients – Calvados, dry Vermouth, Manzanilla Sherry, dry Madeira infused with pandan, Champagne syrup, and orange and mandarin bitters.
Tasting Notes – Served neat in a small cocktail glass, this drink reminds me of a dirty martini with an apple and lemon twist. Tart yet slightly sweet, there’s also a slight saltiness with a hint of licorice and cucumber in this woodsy cocktail. Imagine being in the countryside, late on a Sunday afternoon and you sitting outside and trying to think of any excuse to not head back to the city. That’s how a Mystic River feels going down. Cheers!
20 rue Beautreillis, 75004 Paris, France
Open 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday and Monday
Photo credits: Ken Ross and Sherry Butt