If you want to follow in the footsteps of many a Parisian, travel to the colourful district of Belleville. Belleville is nothing like the rest of Paris. Belleville is also home to bar Combat. An excellent cocktail bar run by a group of female mixology experts.
Totally by accident, I ended up in the Combat bar at rue de Belleville, in one of the most iconic neighbourhoods of Eastern Paris. The unfussy, convivial atmosphere of the place pulled me in. Moreover, the striking mustard yellow tiles highlight the nicely stocked bar. The staff and the relaxed crowd make bar Combat super welcoming. Not only that, it soon becomes apparent that one goes here for quality. Bar Combat’s cocktails are delicious.
The neighbourhood Edith Piaf once called home, offers more than the old Parisian cliché
What I did not know is that the Combat cocktail bar is named after a nineteenth-century combat ring. In times past a savage animal fighting arena at Place du Combat with a notorious reputation. Those fighting days are now long gone. Along with the times that the tallest hill in Paris was covered with vineyards. In the 18th century, Belleville became known for ‘Guinguet’, a cheap, sour-tasting lightly sparkling white wine produced on the hills of Belleville in the vineyards of Clos Guinguet. And for its countryside ‘Guinguettes’. A ‘Guinguette’ is a cabaret, an open-air restaurant, wine bar, and a popular dance venue, all in one. It was the place where ‘tout Paris’ came to unwind, dance, and drink ‘Guinguet’.
Rue de Belleville is one of the main streets in the old village of Belleville. By the time Belleville was annexed to Paris in the 1860s, it was already a working-class neighbourhood. Famous singer Edith Piaf was born in a doorway at 72 rue de Belleville on 19 December 1915, or so the story goes. In all respects, Belleville was and still is a favourite nightlife haunt of Parisians. Since the neighbourhood became trendy again, it certainly has one of the most exciting bar scenes in Paris.
A bit of Combat history
The story of the Combat bar actually began in 2012 when its two founders, Elena Schmitt and Margot Lecarpentier, bonded in New York City over their love for cocktails. Long story short, they both return to Paris and meet again working behind the bar at the Experimental Cocktail Club. In search of a bar of their own, dedicated to mixology and good food, they discover 63, rue de Belleville in the up-and-coming district Belleville. Belleville was already a popular area to go for wine bars but in 2012 there was no cocktail bar in-sight.
Margot Lecarpentier, Elena Schmitt, with the help of Elise Drouet and Maxime Potfer, opened Combat in 2017. Their goal was to create something quite distinctive, different from a typical speakeasy. It does not take long before Combat manages to create a buzz. Combat’s (mostly) female bartenders conquer rapidly the Paris cocktail scene. This is no small feat, and for this reason alone you should visit them.
Home made, with a sustainable twist
Go for their ‘recette du jour’ or cocktail of the day. Every day, they design a cocktail made from decommissioned foods, fruits, or vegetables. Aside, they also serve fine, well-balanced cocktails made from homemade fruit juices, obtained with a juice extractor, their own syrups, and tonics, all in the spirit of sustainable development. All their cocktails are made with so many unique flavour combinations. Combat offers a small but pretty selection of natural wines, and some great craft beers as well.
Sometimes when you least expect it, you’ll find a surprise around the corner. For me, Combat embodied that surprise. It is a truly unique cocktail bar. I took a Bérégovoy made of Calvados, Cognac, Madeira Verdelho (interesting choice), Dry Curaçao, and Scrappy’s orange bitters. To grant yourself a little bit of French self-indulgence doesn’t hurt, does it?
63, rue de Belleville
Tél. : +33 9 80 84 78 60
Subway: Belleville, Pyrénées