It wasn't until Experimental Cocktail Club hit the scene in 2007 that Parisians considered passing on le vin. During the early 2000s, fancy libations were largely unheard of outside hotels, and even then such drinks came with a pricey tag. But inspired by New York bars like Milk & Honey, Pegu Club and Employees Only, childhood friends Romée de Goriainoff, Olivier Bon and Pierre-Charles Cros (Xavier Padovani joined the team in 2010) decided it was time Paris got drunk of better booze, and so they set out to replicate the high quality New York cocktail experience in their city.
With drinks flavored by passionfruit, pandan and coconut ice cream, Experimental Cocktail Club launched a joyeux bordel or happy mess (the guys actually named their second cocktail bar in London "Joyeux Bordel") of reinterpreted classics plus calling cards of their own like Experience No. 1, the first recipe in the book and one of the first drinks the team created. While the published recipe is based on vodka and flavored with elderflower, lemongrass and basil, it's a simple cocktail that serves as a blank slate of sorts, and one that has been remade many times over with different variations.
Today, Paris counts numerous noteworthy cocktails haunts (Candelaria, Little Red Door, Mary Celeste), but Experimental Cocktail Club set the tone and ushered in a new flavor of drinks. Since launching their first bar, the team has gone on to open Experimental Cocktail Club locations in London, New York and Ibiza, and they now count a total of 13 projects under their Experimental Group umbrella.
While, as mentioned, Paris' Experimental Cocktail Club was shaped by New York's drinking habits, newer outposts in Manhattan and London embrace the cultures of the cities in which they reside. And that means drinks, but also design and music, too. Explains de Goriainoff, "It’s largely why we named the bar ‘Experimental’ Cocktail Club." He continues, " ... many assume it’s a nod to molecular cocktails, it actually harkens back to our original idea mixing together cool people, good music and great cocktails. It was certainly an experiment at first!"
Experimental Cocktail Club ($30) is published by Mitchell Beazley and hits shelves November 3. Pre-order on Amazon now and score a first look below: