A tiki bar is probably not the first thing you think of when imagining Paris drinking destinations, but then again, where would faux-Polynesian seem like the logical theme for a watering hole? The Dirty Dick opened this February, replacing a "hostess bar" (read: brothel) in Pigalle, a neighborhood in transition from red-light district to trendy cocktailing destination.
The cheekiness of the bar's name is a running theme, in the décor, the drink names, and the overall feeling of the bar, stemming in part from the attitude of the staff (a refreshing break from the brusque style that so rightly earns Parisian servers their reputation). The oversized pin-up girl on the wall or taxidermy jungle animals on the wall might signal an irreverent posture, but the drinks, from tiki classics like the Missionary's Downfall to original creations of bartender Scott Schuder like the Cutback Conquest (a chocolaty Guinness-laced rhum sour), are taken seriously.
As over-the-top as its ambiance is, the bar maintains equilibrium both in the make-up of the menu and in the mixing of impressively balanced individual drinks. The Da-Tiki-Da offers easy-drinking pleasure to big tiki style, impersonating a Brazilian caipirinha, but with rough edges smoothed out by coconut. Served small and clean, this cheapest drink on the menu (6€, or about $7.75) was a refreshing break after a few too many Cannibal's Dilemmas (10€, or about $13). That concoction, thick and tall over ice, hides bursting blueberry flavors alongside the the spirited battle between rum and absinthe to dominate the drink.
Creativity and latitude with the definition of 'tiki' make for an array of exciting menu options—there's a julep turned 'dirty' with coriander, a lemony Scotch-based drink called 3 Stoned Monkeys, and barrel-aged Zombies are on the way—options that will keep the tiki-geek happy without alienating the rum-o-phobe. They say you can't please everyone, but the laid-back style of Dirty Dick might offend only the people who can't take a joke on the name.
About the author: Naomi Bishop is a Seattle based food writer and marketer. Find more of her musings on her food blog, TheGastroGnome, where she claims that being a GastroGnome is not about sitting idly on the front lawn of culinary cottages. You can also follow her explorations of cooking and culture around the world at @GastroGnome.