Paris bars run the gamut from the toniest hotel lounge to the tiniest neighborhood troquet, where old-timers gather for a chat over their morning petit blanc.
Hotel bars were once considered the aristocrats of the genre. Some mix historic pedigrees with a hushed elegance, but these days even the palaces are seeking a more modern edge. A few still represent the chicest spots for the fashion set and frequent high-roller visitors to Paris, but breathtaking prices and stiff competition among increasingly imaginative and atmospheric cocktail bars means a hotel bar had better be special to be worth the price (and many are: the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz and Les Ambassadeurs at Hotel de Crillon are two of the city's best).
The cocktail bar scene has absolutely exploded in Paris and is now grabbing the spotlight in terms of where to drink in the city. Parisian cocktail bars rival anywhere else in the world, and, as in other places, they focus on mixed drinks—although most offer everything from locally crafted beer to small-producer Champagnes. The new cocktail bars run the gamut from dauntingly elegant hotel lounges to designer dives, and they attract a diverse crowd willing to shell out anywhere from €7 to €25 a libation. Once called barmen, the new curators of cocktails are "mixologists," and the best of the lot garner fame and a following among devoted enthusiasts. Drinks are crafted, ingredients are sourced, the booze is barrel-aged or infused, syrups are house-made, and the ice is artisanal.
Wine bars (caves à manger) are different from regular bars in that they also serve food, from simple snacks like cheese and charcuterie to full meals, plus handpicked wines that are often "natural" or biodynamique. Wine bars keep mealtime hours and close earlier than proper bars—somewhere between 11 and midnight. Be warned, though: many establishments calling themselves wine bars or bars à vins are in fact full-fledged restaurants, with no bar to speak of.