If I had to recommned one bar to haunt in Paris, and this is a serious decision for me, I would choose Andy Wahloo. A kitschy, hole-in-the-wall kind of place, it’s lit with neon, adorned with a leopard print carpet and boasts an impressive selection of Japanese whisky. The bar was recommended to me by my source of truth, Hamish Robertson, who’s tastes align with my own so very perfectly.
Kyle and I visited AW on a Friday night and it was relatively chill, we assumed the locals had already left on holiday, so we bellied up to the bar and chatted up the bartenders. Kyle started out with a French 75 and I a Manhattan. As we drank we asked the younger bartender what the specialty of the house was, to which the immediate response was, “the Old Fashioned, but I’m not allowed to make it, only Kaled,” pointing to the other, more seasoned bartender. Obviously I needed to experience this for myself. The seasoned bartender was named Kaled and he spent the next 15 minutes (time escaped me) making the most exquisite Old Fashioned for me, and me alone.
He set out a glass, filled it with ice, then covered it with a napkin. Gently, he placed three sugar cubes onto the napkin and then dashed bitters and some other concoction over the top, letting it slowly filter into the glass. Repeatedly he filled the glass with ice, then a bit of Bulleit Bourbon, then removed the ice just as it started to melt, then add more cubes and more bourbon. I marvelled in a drunken stupor at his process, the artistry and the experience that was being poured into the glass bit by bit. His eyes never left his work, and he barely spoke a word as he worked. I felt like this process couldn’t be more magical until he needed proper ice for the drink. Out the bar manager came with infant sized chunks of ice, clear as glass, which he carved by hand. From a cabinet behind him came an old Japanese knife with which he sliced and sheared till it was a perfect sphere that sat cozily in it’s bath of bourbon. As if that wasn’t enough he topped it with a peel of orange rind (of course) but also a custom made chocolate spoon which was spray painted with gold. It’s purpose was to hold the cherry, that way the customer wouldn’t stick their hands in their drink to eat it.
Kaled handed this holy grail over to me and I was nervous to drink it. I asked, “How do you recommend drinking this?” to which he responded, “Well, it’s your drink, whatever you want.” Humility at it’s finest. I placed it to my lips and felt as if I was supping a work of art. In my mind I compared what he had done to the artisans I met in Waterford, Ireland, the master glass blowers who transformed molten hunks of glass into fragile wonders. Clearly he was a master of this drink and it was a sight to behold. I think my honest (and probably over-enthusiastic) admiration was evident though. As we paid our l’addition Kaled asked the junior bartender to set up a line of shots, and myself, Kyle, and Kaled drank together.