Andy Wahloo: the man, the myth, the cocktail bar

Mar 13, 2019


Andy Wahloo: the man, the myth, the cocktail bar
Who is Andy Wahloo? It’s the question on everybody’s lips when they walk into this central Paris cocktail bar. I am hoping head barman Clément Faure will be able to answer it for me.

All around the world, bars are named after the iconic people who once frequented them, the legends who liberated the countries they’re based in and even characters whose well-thumbed stories put the address on the map in the first place. Seldom do we come across establishments with such a strong figurehead who did none of these things. Andy Wahloo is one such place.

“Andy is the kind of guy who loves girls, cocktails, parties and travelling a lot,” begins Clément, painting a vibrant picture of the bar’s namesake. Our protagonist is always on an adventure – or misadventure – in some glamorous corner of the globe. Whenever he returns home to Paris, he comes bearing new drinks recipes inspired by his international escapades. But here’s the kicker: he never existed in either reality or fiction until bar owners Hakim and Mourad ‘Momo’ Mazouz made him up.

It’s not an uncommon practice for bar owners to conceptualise their new ventures in the form of a character. Many people find it helps give shape to the place, informing the aesthetics and atmosphere based on the preferences of a hypothetical persona. But the Mazouz brothers went one step further. They began to create an entire biography for Andy, giving him all the substance of an actual pop culture figure. Incidentally, his name derives from that of the illustrious socialite and artist Andy Warhol, and the Arabic word for ‘I have nothing’, which adds a double measure of nonchalance to the character’s personality.

 

 

Andy Wahloo first hit the Paris nightlife scene in 2004 and, over the years, the stories surrounding its fictitious central character have evolved into the bar’s very own legend. The setting itself originally opened as an annexe where guests could have a drink while waiting to be seated at the neighbouring 404 and Derrière restaurants, which are also run by the Mazouz brothers. It wasn’t long before the mysterious, mythical man and his cocktails gained their own fan following and the bar became an establishment in its own right. What has kept Andy alive all these years is a self-fulfilling prophecy. He exists entirely in the form of invented anecdotes, but by embellishing and sharing his stories, he becomes a more complex character whose tales of heroism become urban myth as the fantasy and facts blur into one.

The ballad of Andy takes shape in the form of the signature cocktail menu, which features accounts of his various mishaps alongside each drink. A number of novel-length publications have also been released, chronicling some of our hero’s more outrageous feats – each one resulting in a new cocktail recipe, of course. I’m told a new book is pending for 2019. But where do all these stories come from? The staff do the most to perpetuate his existence by infusing their cocktail creations with inspiration from their own lives.

Looking back at the list, the Gazelle du Chili is an example of how these stories slip into reality just enough to give them gravitas and make you question whether they actually happened. It was concocted by Clément himself after a friend of his had been experimenting with baking Moroccan gazelle horn pastries. This inspired Clément to recreate the orange blossom and almond flavours as a cocktail, and so, Andy went off to Marrakesh, where he was accused of trafficking wild animals – including gazelles. Other anecdotes outline Andy’s ploy to become the successor to the Bacardi family fortune and describe his run-in with the KGB. Professional writers and illustrators collaborate to bring the tales to life, adding a healthy dose of drama, but they’re all related, no matter how tenuously, to a real person or event.

 

 

Plus, the staff know these stories off by heart. They embrace inquisitive customers and are ready to recount the sagas at any moment because, after all, they belong to them, too. “I just want to bring people into another world,” Clément explains. “You can [transport them] with many different things and one of those is a drink.” Where else but Paris could you find such a Proustian cocktail bar?

The final stage in solidifying the character is down to the customers themselves. “The stories in the cocktail list are fictional, but the stories people take away from Andy Wahloo are all real.” Whenever somebody crosses the threshold, they step into the fantastical world of Wahloo, assimilating into the narrative of the bar. When they leave, they take new memories with them that in turn become part of the cannon.

Essentially, Andy Wahloo the character is Andy Wahloo the bar. He is the highlights reel of all the great yarns that have been spun across the counter. What will his next adventure be? That all depends on you.

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