Forest Collins, the savvy writer behind discriminating Paris cocktail blog 52 Martinis, shares with us here her frustrations with France’s strange aversion to H2O’s solid incarnation.

As an American expat in Paris, the question I get most often is: What do you miss most about home? Honestly, this question usually stumps me.

While, of course I miss friends, they come frequently for visits, so it’s less of an issue. In a pinch I can find a reasonable substitute for many of the readily available items from the U.S. that I might miss. If not, said stream of friends usually keep me in a steady supply of goods and sundries that evade me here. But, there’s one thing I can’t ask even my nearest and dearest to lug over in a suitcase: Frozen water. Yes, you heard correctly. The thing I miss most about the US is ice.

Left: Haussmann streets on a Parisian street; Right: a glass of ice water on a wooden table
Top: photo by Ibrahim Boran
Above left: photo by Svetlana Gumerova; Right: photo by Giorgio Travato

When I’m back home, I get a special thrill out of sitting down to a table from the grungiest of roadside diners to the fanciest of upscale eateries and immediately being served a large glass of water full of sparkly, playfully tinkling, cold-making ice! While, in France, you’re lucky to get a small votive candle holder full of warm tap water after asking…twice.

And, this epidemic goes beyond commercial establishments into the very hearts of homes nationwide.

On trips to Seattle, I play with my friends’ automatic ice makers, spewing out cube after magically chilly cube, delighted by this largesse. In France, you’d be lucky to find a freezer containing ice trays. You’re even luckier if they’ve been filled prior to putting them in. My least favorite are the homes that use those thin blue disposable plastic bubble-infested bags for home ice-making. I find these about as about as effective as scrunching up a plastic sack from the grocery store, immersing it in a bowl of water and sticking it in the freezer.

Back when I was still living in the US, I had a girlfriend who had spent a few years in Paris. She was my go-to girl for all things Euro. I observed her foreign affectations and dreamed of the day that I, too, would be an expat. Then one evening we went for drinks. She ordered hers with “no ice.” How very European of her! And, suddenly I saw a possible glitch in my dreams of becoming Frenchified. I can’t envision a life without ice. I can’t envision a life without cocktails. And, a proper cocktail depends on ice for it very existence!

Left: A Parisian park in the summertime with people dressed in summer clothes loitering on the grounds; right: the bar area of a cocktail bar in Paris.
left: photo by Nella N Wou; right: photo by Lucas Calloch

Having lived here for years now, I enjoy learning about and trying to integrate into French culture. But, I still simply can’t understand the French aversion to ice.

A joke I heard recently:

“Why don’t the French make ice?”

“Because they can’t agree on the recipe.”

After many years here, I still can’t get to the bottom of this deep-seated aversion. Perhaps it’s linked with their distrust of air-conditioning.

So, what’s an all American ice loving, cocktail sipping girl to do in Paris?  I’ve been known to take my love of ice to extremes and pack it in insulated bags to bring along to others’ homes and gift people with ice trays. This evening I’m going to the home of some French friends for dinner. They’ve asked me to make cocktails for the occasion. Of course, I emailed them yesterday and told them to start making ice.

Related Links:

  • For those seeking Paris cocktail bars that know the value-added of a bit of solid H2O, check out Forest Collins’ excellent website to find out where the best cocktail bars in Paris are and more.
  • Cold drinks may be hard to come by in Paris but fortunately ice cream is not!
  • There is no place better to enjoy a cold drink on a hot summer’s day than on one of the best terraces in Paris.

Written by Forest Collins for HIP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.


Forest Collins

Forest Collins chronicles her search for the finest cocktails in Paris on her blog, 52 Martinis. Every Wednesday, she tries a new place. She starts with a martini for a standard of comparison and then usually orders a second. Got a bar you think makes great drinks? Let her know, she’d love to try it!

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