Bar

Dead Ringer

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It’s no secret that the team behind Sydney’s Bulletin Place are something of a supergroup. A series of old friends and successful solo artists, bought together by a creative endeavor they truly believe in. The raw impact hits you on entry, hospitality done well for the cities weary drinkers.

So then, what to expect when the group goes to ground for months in the creation of second offering? Would they be one-hit-wonders? Would this be full of experimentation and the things that simply couldn’t fit upstairs in their diminutive city haunt? Would Tim end it all by insisting that a pygmy orchestra be trained and flown in for the launch party?

It was with all, and none of these thoughts crowding my head as I visited Dead Ringer last week.

Built on the bones of other bars in Bourke Street, Dead Ringer is not Bulletin Place. Just the sort a solid second album you’d expect from a group of this caliber, things are noticeably more refined this time around. The boys are smart enough to have not wasted their money here but the finishes feel refined and well produced. Food is very much on the menu here, with twice as many dishes as there are cocktails. The pig jowl terrine and the chicken liver parfait are early fancies of the instagram crew, but even Tim’s signature $27 dollar olives (real price $7, but we all are watching Yelp for some outrage) are worthy of note, warm and textured, perfectly salty and demanding of the next drink.

And what drinks they are. The self-titled mainstay  Yuzu Breezer is set to be the most instagrammed drink in Sydney. The refreshing, yuzu and grapefruit acid nestles down with the rum and a little fizz. This update to the love-hate alcopop format is everything an RTD should be, the only conceivable improvement would be a hashtag on that label to try and keep track of the spread. The sherry cobbler and pineapple adonis showcase the soft spot the group has for sherry. The fresh elements that gained them fame are all present, but presented in ways that show the benefits of spending some time in the studio while the finer points of this opening were worked out. The cheek and chat can be more than seen in the nod to its Surry Hills environs, the obligatory – an old tequila, cold rip coffee and maple concoction which proves sarcasm can indeed be made to taste like heaven. The track-listing lends the drinks to be paired along with dining, I’ll be back to see how that works.

I’m not sure it leaves me as giddy and excited as the raw charm and refreshingly refined drinks concept on show each night upstairs at the original BP, but that said DR is probably better on many measures. Hands down my favourite feature is having more seats around the bar, with all the more chance to interact with the talent that resides behind it.

Early fans are like that though, always chasing the thrill of that first discovery, clinging to the fact they discovered it early as a way to stave of the personal and publicly identifiable madness that comes with fond obsession. For the bright eyed crowds walking the Hills of Surry, discovering the second one first will be as intoxicating as it was for those of us lucky enough to be there at the beginning. They’ll be blown over by the things that have become the signature sounds for this group, wherever they ply their trade: True hospitality and a feeling of welcome and enough staff to make sure everyone is looked after, really well made drinks that stand up to classics but showcase fresh local ingredients.

Keep rocking boys, I’ve put you on repeat.

413 BOURKE STREET
SURRY HILLS, NSW, 2010
02 9331 3560
Props to @callanboys @cocktailgirl @mixingdrinks @thedrinkbubble and @urbanchicguides for the pilfered instasnaps. Follow them on instagram for more drinks than you could ever imbibe on your own.
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Bar

The pineapple is an international symbol of hospitality

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and that’s really your first clue that something rather special is going on down the immaculately thatched stairs that lie beyond these doors.

The Papuan dancehall that is The Cliff Dive has long had a reputation as a place not so much to end the night as a place to push the night in a ditch, steal the night’s wife and shake it for hours on the dancefloor.

Much has changed in Sydney’s most urbane drinking precincts. An ill-considered policy of locking punters out of clubs in an effort to curb idiots punching one another left Alex and Jeremy, owners of this tiki gem and perennial tequila masterpiece Tio’s, with a hole in their cashflow.

Faced with such a change many would have gone to the wall, complaining bitterly of forces outside of their control. Some might have even marched, petitioned or tattooed slogans.

What these boys did is even more bold. They looked at what they could change.

Sitting beside them at the bar, you can’t ignore their creativity.

The chatter between the two is constant. Testing, asking, confounding and even occasionally congratulating. Theirs is the stubborn kind of creativity that just won’t take no for an answer, the kind that sticks to the plan of having a hand roped wall behind the DJ, even when it turns out to be a much bigger job than first thought.

What they’ve done is taken a space that already worked well late and given it some early evening legs. Booths and flexible seating options abound, there are stools at the bar. Grouper swim, at leisure across the dancefloor. It’s always been good here,and they’re constantly making it better.

Behind the bar is where the big changes have happened.

First, there’s food. Yurrippi has sprung from the left hand end of the bar. The skewers have been written about plenty by everyone else, they’re tasty.

Second, the drinks are rocking. The pair have partnered with Michael Chiem to lift the bar to what are now world class levels. The list provides a lesson to the tiki-curious with references to and drinks from some of the leading lights in tiki around the world.

The Zombie is excellent, existing at a point where strong, sweet, spicy and sweet coalesce in the best possible way. Served in an idol, the drink looks as good as it tastes and the stance on the mug foreshadows the effects of drinking too many of these wondrous serves.

Miss Cavendish is an example of what happens when tiki comes downunder, tequila mixes up with rum and citrus, the pebbled ice giving texture, the roasted bananas everything else.

For me though, the Jungle Bird is where it is at. This campari forward tiki classic is served almost as a slurry over a huge sphere. It’s got balance, style, texture and flavour. Easily the best version I have had anywhere.

I’ll be back soon to try the rest. You should too.

16-18 Oxford Square.

DISCLAIMER: You might have seen the odd mention in print of The Cliff Dive in recent weeks. I’ve been adding pleasure to my work helping the boys tell their story, along with members of my more beautiful and more talented team at Hill+Knowlton Strategies. They remain our only client with a Jungle Bird on their list.

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Bar

The Backstairs Inn.

The BackStairs EntranceNot by any means the newest bar on the Sydney drinking scene but one that pour hospitality in good measure across their bar.

They will serve you fancy drinks, but for me at least this bar is about whisky. If you get bored, have a beer, then move back onto whisky. They have many whiskies here, different people have different stories. The only place you’ll find more of the aged liquid in one place is at a distillery.

My favourite seat is at the end of the bar near the door, the bar kinks and allows these two special seats a view down a bar. Keep watch as the drams are poured and you’ll see what a professional at work really looks like. They lean into a conversation, share an education or a friendly remark and pour.

Peruse the lists for a favourite, or feel free to drop your brand or your favourite style and let them be the firm hand on your tiller as you navigate their whisky sea. I’ve found that often the whisky I’m after isn’t available, but they do have a age above it, or some rare expression to gulp down. It’s enjoyable upselling, and the bar is a truly great place to go and drink with a good friend.

Head down the alley towards what looks like certain doom for the first time visitor. To your right at the end you will see the door in the picture above, if you’ve come drinking at the times that everyone else does, you’ll probably spend a time in the queue.

Head down the Backstairs and find a non-descript door that opens in onto drinking heaven.

An early mark from work will be rewarded with a swift entry. Stay until they carry you out.

The Baxter Inn. Basement/152-156 Clarence St. 4pm-1am.

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Bar, Sydney

Vasco. Go.

254864_366744006749117_2098921301_nSmall bars have been the making of Sydney’s nightlife in the past few years, as licensing limits have fallen and allowed those whose passion exceeds their bank accounts to get into the business for themselves.

Seeing curated concepts come to life is an utter joy, and nowhere is that more true than at Max Greco’s Vasco on Cleveland St in Surry Hills. The awesome rock’n’roll space is covered from top to bottom in ephemera, from the drum kit built over and around the bar, to the fender stools or the record on the roof. Max has always had one of the biggest personalities in Sydney bartending, and with Vasco the venue, experience and drinks positively radiate his essence. A few drinks in, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re inside Max, in a totally platonic way of course.

The drinks are excellent, from fruity lady-killers laced with tequila, to my favourite listed drink in Sydney today, Coffee & Cigarettes. Greco’s World Class partner behind the bar, for now at least, came up with this incredible beverage, tying coffee infused gin with bitter amaro and oranges. The on-the-rock drink is everything i’m looking for in a glass.

The snacks too are epic, homestyle inspired italian favourites. The gorgonzola smothered polenta chips haunt my dreams, calling in their sweet siren song for my return.

Vasco is one year old today. Take a date, and Max’s shameless flirting will break the ice on even the most awkward of outings, take a client and get the cred for an out of the way gem, take your parents and they’ll love the vignettes to their youth and the boozy connection to your present.

Go tonight.

Vasco. 421 cleveland street surry hills nsw 2010 australia | map

 

 

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Bar, Cocktail, Sydney

By Hook or by Crook, get to the Rook.

There a plenty of good cocktail bars in Sydney these days, so you really have to work hard to do something different without affecting the quality of the product you’re putting up.

I’ll tell you one thing though, the team at the Rook are doing it right. Jason Williams and Cristiano Beretta have put together a list of cracking drinks with a playful streak.

Drink them in with your eyes below.

calligraphy cocktail

The Calligraphy Cocktail. Genever forward and served with a quill so you can personalise your drink. Yes, I drew a cock and balls on mine.

fear and loathingFear and Loathing. Mezcal, Cherries, Bats, Fuck. Garnished with a page torn from the novel folded into a paper plane.
Sloe Ringing Bell

Sloe Ringing Bell. Sloe Gin, Diamond Rye Belvedere, sugar, salt. A vodka drink for people who don’t order vodka drinks.
werewolvesWerewolves of London. A twist on the corpse reviver, and the phone message is classic. Fill a drink bottle with it when you leave.

There were others. They were excellent. I’ll add them when I remember what they were.

I may have gone home with a helium balloon tied to my shirt.

Go there and drink the whole list.

 

Now.

 

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Bar, Sydney

I review the most reviewed bar in Sydney right now

398057_487548354617067_1660761824_nThrough this rather nondescript and rather unadorned  doorway you’ll find a rickety staircase.

Climb two flights and you’ll enter a 50 odd square meter room where some of the best cocktails in Sydney, if not the world are served. The focus is on classic recipes, featuring seasonal local produce. The Wayward Lady that whet my lips laid mandarin, rum, lime & honey with a dash of Cynar across perhaps the most perfect balance. Taste snobs can roll the flavours across their tongues, marveling at the presence of each ingredient and the beautiful lingering finish. The less pompous would just stare, mouths agape, at the gorgeous, chilled stemware as the level of the delicious liquid drops to nothing with each tasty mouthful.

The six drinks change daily, so you’ll be presented with different choices when you step upon a stair and fight the crowds for one of four seats at the bar, or the handful of tables that crowd the room. My advice would be to pick any or all of them.

Some I’ve talked to seem to think the fit out doesn’t do justice to the hundred grand prize Tim Philips picked up at World Class last year, which is rather harsh given the swag was apparently 1,600 Edith Cowan’s short of that sum.  large cash and pouring prizes have only been introduced this year. The lighting’s low, the voices raised, a crate of whisky lurks stage-left for any wanting an education or something to tell their drinking buddies about. The back bar offers two stark shelves, more than making up in oddity what it lacks in variety.

The service proffered here is great. Adi Ruiz, Rob Sloane and Tim Philips have CV’s that read like a barfly’s wish list, and all share the glorious commonality of time served at the Black Pearl in Melbourne. Technicians behind the stick, their stars shine brighter still on the floor. Cocktail drinking as it should be; cracking liquid, cosy surrounds and people that make you feel right at home.

I might have been the last booze writer in Sydney to tick this one of my list, but if you haven’t found it (or heard about it) you should go.

Tonight, tomorrow night, every night.

I’m walking there right now.

On Google maps here and facebook here, in my mind forever. Well played lads, 263 out of 10.

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Bar, Melbourne, Sydney

Boom! A cocktail book you can get involved with.

541845_549492218424030_468301822_nSven and his band of merry men at Eau De Vie have made a start on something pretty special.

It’s a cocktail book, and instead of having it appear without fanfare on the market, they’ve decided to crowdfund the photography and production.

There are any number of packages/products and offers, although the 2.5k bar tabs with 10 signed books have understandably sold out already.

Get involved here. They’ve already met the target, so this is happening people!

 

 

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