Many, many moons ago, and not too long after we started DOTW (and before the recent cocktail revolution), we made a journey to Paris. We were excited to try the Bar Hemingway at the Ritz (where we were turned away for not being dressed nice enough) and even more excited to try Harry’s Bar. I am a huge fan of the Sidecar. I have written many times of my love for that drink. It has been my go-to drink for well over 15 years and will probably always remain my go-to drink. Well, Harry’s Bar is the birthplace of the Sidecar. It’s where all that magic first happened so many years ago.
Harry’s Bar is an authentic American bar that was disassembled in New York and reassembled on the Rue Daunou in Paris. It was opened by the famed barman, Harry MacElhone, on Thanksgiving Day in 1911 as the New York Bar. What foresight! Who would have known that in a few short years, America would enact Prohibition and Harry’s Bar in Paris offer refuge for cocktail swilling Americans in the 1920’s and the “lost generation” of American writers, like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. It was almost a right of passage for Americans to make the pilgrimage to Harry’s Bar, along with a few other key outposts, like the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London.
In addition to its vaunted position during the golden age of the 1920’s, Harry’s Bar is also famous for a number of popular cocktails that emerged from its inner sanctum. In addition to the Sidecar, the Bloody Mary, the French 75 and the White Lady were all alleged to have been invented at the famed drinking whole.
In 1923, Harry bought out the owners of the New York Bar and renamed it Harry’s Bar. Today, it’s still run by Harry’s family. It’s been a few years since we visited Harry’s Bar, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Unlike the Ritz, we were warmly welcomed. We had a few drinks, including a Sidecar for me, and chatted up the locals and the bartenders. We were given a copy of Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails
(the 2000 edition). We still use the book today. It’s a delightful little pocket stuffer with Harry’s tips on bartending, including the arrangement of the bar, and a number of classic cocktails. We have enjoyed the book as much as we enjoyed the visit. A must have behind the bar, especially since it take up very little space.