In Paris, Harry's Bar buzzes with US election fever


Paris (AFP)

US election fever infected Harry's New York Bar on Tuesday as punters at the legendary Paris watering hole knocked back the night's specially-concocted cocktails: the Hillaryous and the Trumpet.

"Every four years we get this buzz," the owner, Isabelle MacElhone, told AFP. "The Americans of Paris really expect it…. it's become an institution."

The mahogany-panelled bar, which marked its centenary five years ago, launched its traditional "straw poll" for the US presidential vote in early October, with US ambassador to France Jane Hartley casting the first ballot.

On Tuesday, the bar's high ceiling was draped with the flags of the 50 US states, and campaign posters shared space on the walls with the usual football and baseball pennants.

Big-screen TVs hogged walls at either end, but only a few Americans seemed to be keeping half an eye on them for any breaking news in a crowd dominated by French guests.

Apart from the Hillaryous and the Trumpet, the bar proposed drinks with names like Super Tuesday, White House, Air Force One and Bloody Vote -- the last one using the same recipe as Harry's signature cocktail, the Bloody Mary, invented decades ago.

French and Americans alike bemoaned the choice of candidates.

"I consider Trump to be cancer and Hillary to be gonorrhoea," said Robert Woodruff Smith, 50.

"But you can survive gonorrhoea."

Smith, a regular at Harry's since 1989, was proudly sporting his International Harry's Barfly lapel pin.

- 'North Korean' choice -

French estate agent Frederic Robert, 53, sporting a US flag on his lapel, said both options were poor.

"In France it's better... France in the 21st century has the ability to produce a buffet, a real choice. The problem with the United States is that it is a North Korean ice cream shop -- you only have one flavour."

For her part, MacElhone, the widow of Harry's grandson Duncan, said she was appalled by the river of dollars that have flowed into the 2016 election.

"When you see the money that's been spent, it's a bit shocking," she said.

The "straw poll" dates to 1924, decades before Americans could send in absentee ballots, to allow expatriates to have at least a symbolic say in the outcome of their national election.

The bar was to announce the result of the vote later Tuesday.

Harry's prides itself on the fact that it has failed only twice to predict the correct outcome, in 1976 when Democrat Jimmy Carter won and in 2004, when Republican George W. Bush was re-elected.

The saloon, reconstructed piece by piece after being shipped from New York, was a favourite of expats such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

They and their friends memorised the phrase "sank roo doh noo" -- the way the bar's address 5 rue Daunou is pronounced with a thick American accent -- to give to the taxi driver.