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.

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.

The pineapple is an international symbol of hospitality


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.


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.

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



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.




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.

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!



Bar, Industry News

You could not have it more wrong.

George Souris, Minister in the O’Farrell Government here in Sydney, has come out swinging at the small bars in the wake of the bashing death in the Cross last week.

I don’t think he could have it more wrong. Sydney’s small bars are fostering a new drinking culture in the city, but I think that anyone who has experienced it would attest that it as extremely positive one.

I don’t normally get into politics here, but any attempt to pin negativity on the great bar culture growing up in this town should be something that anyone that like a good drink, and therefore anyone that reads this blog, should really care about.

Obviously he’d rather be working with big hotels, as evidenced by the chap he appointed to an open position on the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority, last year. Brian Ross was heading the Hotels Association (a lobbying group that advocates for large venue owners) before taking up a vacant spot on the CLAGCA that was open for a legal representative.

It’s all quite strange really.

Maybe Mr Souris should stop hanging out in the pokie parlours, head to one of the great small bars that are dotted right across Sydney and try a decent drink for once.

Bar, Sydney

The Roosevelt

When Sven Almenning launched the 1930’s style speakeasy in the troubled back space of the Kirketon Hotel on Darlinghurst Rd, I’m sure a lot of folk thought it, like it’s predecessors, would not be long on the Sydney scene. Instead, Eau de Vie set a new standard in cocktail bartending and service in Sydney and for the Australian continent as well. You no longer even have to trust the jaded hacks and bar bloggers like me, with an award from Tales of the Cocktail (the world’s leading cocktail and spirit event, if you didn’t know) as the best new cocktail bar on the planet and an outpost in the spiritual home of Australian drinking quality, Melbourne.

The best news yet? Team Eau de Vie is at it again.

The last ten days has seen the doors swing open on The Roosevelt, a welcome addition to the small but well formed drinking scene round the corner from the Cross in Potts Point.

Where the original venue was entrenched in the 1930’s, this new iteration references the 1940’s. It was a decade when women kicked off their shoes to host American troops, while their own men were fight for freedom abroad. It was the decade that marked the first racing of the Sydney to Hobart. It was a decade where Don Bradman scored his 100th century playing the Indians. Crime figures prospered from the moneyed up Yanks and the celebrations as a country found its feet and slaked its thirst again.

The venue takes its name from the flagship nightclub of Kings Cross Personality, Abe Saffron. The interiors reference Hollywood glamour more than Sydney’s history, with glass cabinetry showcasing the impressive collection of shakers and equipment that Sven has collected over the years.

The drinks list is small but perfectly formed. The style builds on the “cocktails you can’t make at home” ethic of the original Eau de Vie, with the delivery spec being taken up even more notches. Try the Roosevelt Refashioned‘s, smart tweaks on the trusted classic. #2 rests on a midori-esque mint ball that stretches and complements the bourbon and creme de peche wonderfully. Share Al Capone’s smugglers crate, which arrives at the table in, well, a crate. Smoke it up with a Dead End, served in a stunning art deco flask. Throw caution to the wind with a Nitro Colada or one of the other pearls from the roaming nitro trolley (pictured above)

Don’t fall in love with the cut crystal decanters that house almost every spirit in the place though, Amber Almenning is pretty sure her husband has bought every piece of available stock in the lucky country, but it does make stading at the bar that little bit more pleasurable. (Interestingly though, this is very much a lounge, the bar is a service area, sans stools, and the real action happens seated in the cosy booths.)

All that hopefully should convince you to go and immerse yourself in some of the city’s best drinking. The most well travelled amongst you will know a bar is defined by its concept only if the people that work there are up to the task. Happy days then, that Barry Chalmers, the charming (heh) Caledonian host who helped with the establishment of Eau de Vie and bedded down a strict but entirely worthwhile adherence to a spec which calls for nothing less than perfection. It’s great to have him back.

The hidden gem of The Roosevelt is through the door and out the back. Twin islands dominate a room established purely for the sport of cocktalian degustation. Accomodating 15 guest a piece, these tables will deliver on an idea that has been much vaunted around the world and only very rarely pulled off. Given the success this team has had at Eau de Vie and now in Melbourne, if anyone can it will be this lot.

Tickets will set you back $150 for five cocktails paired with five courses. I’ve seen other writing about the fact you’ll need to put a card up and pay in advance. While the practice is sure to raise some eyebrows, it should help ensure that the idea manages to make it from a good concept into a going concern.

If the food I tasted out the front, the standard and innovation involved will be something very special to behold. I understand that tonight is the first night it will be open to the public but you can call Barry on 0422 263 226 or email him on to find out for yourself.

Absolutely the must try venue of 2012.

32 Orwell Street, Potts Point, Australia 2011


Hinky Dinks

A good time has a new home in Darlinghurst.

Hinky Dinks has transformed a tired cafe premisies, a stone’s throw from the famous Coke sign, into a comfortable cocktail lounge with a kitchen attached.

The cocktail list is great proof that straight classics aren’t the only way to showcase spirits and deliver a fine drink to the hands of Sydney punters. Many of the drinks are from the mind and palate of Jeremy Shipley, of Longrain and Bacardi Ambassadorial fame, plus he’s my cousin to boot. Expect delicious concoctions, punches and libations. The tall rummy number I tried last night was superb, fruit and berries giving way to a rich rummy finish. I’ll be back next week to try some more and take some photos too.

Food from the kitchen is packed full of flavour and without pretence, moreish toasted sandwiches, positively explosive bruschetta and plenty more deliciousness morsels are sure to turn more than a few visits from a quick drink into an extended session.

Seating is limited, so arrive early and stay late. A curvy booth area in the front offers a ringside seat to the colour of the cross, three tables on a chequered diner floor share space with a perfectly formed bar and a big service window into the kitchen. The overall feel references the fifties feel of milkbar and movies, while still feeling new in its Sydney execution.

It seems as though there might be a new triangle of tremendousness forming, one that could rival or even eclipse the Crown Burton epicentre of a good time in a small bar. Stalwarts like Eau de Vie and Victoria Room have led the way, bars like Hinky Dinks and Barrio Chino have shown there is still plenty of scope for growth.

Exciting times people, get amongst.

185 Darlinghurst Rd
(02) 8084 6379

On Google Maps, here.

Awards, Bar, Sydney

I was drinking at the best new cocktail bar in the world on Friday night, where the hell were you?

Great news for the Australian small bar movement overnight, with leading light Eau de Vie snatching the honours at Tales of the Cocktail in Nawlins. This is an absolute testament to the house that Sven Almenning has built, and the quality of the talent producing drinks behind the stick there.

Sipping on a blue genever maitai with wintergreen essence on Friday night, the innovation, cheek and service were all in full display. This is a bar that revels in delivering world leading drinks in a way that stands out.

If you haven’t been, now would be the time. If you have been, at least you can say you knew about it before it was world famous.

Hearty congratulations for an amazing result.

Press release follows…

Eau-de-Vie was last night named as the World’s Best New Cocktail Bar at the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards.
The awards are held annually in New Orleans, and are internationally recognised as the industry’s biggest and most influential awards worldwide.

The Darlinghurst small bar was amongst stiff competition, with only New York City venues as other nominees:

World’s Best New Cocktail Bar

●      1534, New
York City, New York

●      Dram, New
York City, New York

●      Eau de Vie,
Sydney, Australia

●     The bar formerly known as (Painkiller),
New York City, New York

Sven Almenning, owner of Eau de Vie said ‘It’s a huge honour to be recognised on a global level like this, and the team and I are overwhelmed with the response we’ve had to Eau-de-Vie. We set out to create a small cocktail bar where quality of drinks and service are king… I hope that we’re helping to drive trends on a global level rather than just following whatever’s happening in London and the U.S which have typically been seen as the leaders in our industry.’

Apart from World’s Best New Cocktail Bar, Eau-de-Vie was also nominated for two other awards including:

World’s Best Cocktail Menu

●      Artesian at
The Langham, London, England

●      Eau de Vie,
Sydney, Australia

●      Mayahuel, New
York City, New York

●      Sanctuaria,
St. Louis, Missouri


World’s Best Drinks Selection

●      Artesian at
The Langham, London, England

●      Cure, New
Orleans, Louisiana

●      Eau de Vie,
Sydney, Australia

●      Employees
Only, New York City, New York

The awards and nominations are affirmation of what Eau-de-Vie prides itself on. With an extensive and intricately designed cocktail list, and an all-star team (which is fronted by Luke Redington), Eau-de-Vie is thrilled to have been recognised with such gusto in its first year and a half of operation, since January 2010.

On top of this news, the team is excited to announce that Eau-de-Vie Melbourne is opening soon. Come October, Eau-de-Vie will be venturing south with a new venue opening under the supervision of industry heavyweight Greg Sanderson. Having been in behind the bar for over 12 years and coming from Melbourne establishment Black Pearl and prior to that Mur Mur, Sanderson will take over the new venue in Melbourne CBD.

Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

Barrio Chino

Off the back of his Outstanding achievement award at the 2010 Australian Bar Awards, an appearance alongside Martha Stewart and the success at The Dutch in NYC, Startender Naren Young is back in Sydney for ten days only.

Bedding down the beverage program at Barrio Chino, and tapping Tecates for a few friends, he has shrugged off the time difference and looks 100% at home.

Barrio Chino is a new Mexican paradise, tucked down Bayswater Rd.

The food was getting great raps from everyone who’s eaten there. The type of fresh Mexican flavours that are such a rarity here. Naren has spent these last many years involved in the setting up of what the Amercians like to call beverage programs. Essentially, what gets delivered is a restaurant and bar that exist side by side. The bar is good enough it could thrive on its own, so is the restaurant. Paired together, they are a potent force.

I will be back to try the food directly, but the bar is great on its own. A real showcase of agave and its many facets.

There are masterful touches everywhere.

On the back bar there are some rarites, curiousities and even a couple of legends.

The list offers a handful of choices. Jar shaken pitchers of Tommy’s, balance perfect, perhaps the shareable first round available in the country.

The breakfast margarita picks up all the sweet zesty goodness that marmalade has to offer, but with the addition of an earthy agave heart that will leave you wondering why you’ve made this drink when any other spirit. The options offer a range of texture and formats. Long, short, touched with seductive smoky hint of mezcal. All singing, all dancing, all agave.

I would challenge any person who doesn’t like tequila to not find a drink that becomes their favourite.

The bar also signature serves Tecate, complete with gingery salt encrusted limes. Squeeze the juice into your can and knock it back.

Get into it.

Barrio Chino

28-30 Bayswater Rd, Kings Cross

ph. 8021 9750

On Google maps here.

Bar, Sydney

Gardel’s. Upstairs at Porteño

The secret of Sydney’s Argentinian altar of meats is already well known about town. Porteño has achieved this feat by roasting entire lambs over an open pit of coals, staffing its floor with characters from a fifties sock hop and generally delivering a slice of Buenos Aires magic to any and all lucky enough to grace its doors.

Less well known was the cocktail bar, replete with an elegant lounge, upstairs on the second floor. Bars that are a part of a restaurant often struggle to attain recognition and a personality of their own. The team at Porteño have decided to give their upstairs offering a separate identity, rebranding the space Gardel’s Bar, after Carlos Gardel, the Argentine tango legend.

Sometimes a split like this drives a wedge between the offerings, severing the link and allowing two very separate offerings to develop. The boys at Gardel’s do not seem in any danger of letting this happen. The number of bars in this town who make the most of having access to cooks and the kitchen seems few and far between. The Americans call this approach “The Beverage Program” and perhaps that’s something their Canadian talent behind the bar has bought with him from North America.

The smoker, used for kingfish and the some of the meat offering no doubt, has been put to great use smoking vermouth and maple syrup. Test out the result in the frankly wonderful Thank you for smoking. A good measure of spicy Buffalo Trace bourbon, coaxed gently with smoked vermouth and syrup, and a dash or two of the Bitter Truth’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters. I had goosebumps on finishing it and I can’t wait to go back, drop the maple syrup and maybe some of the achingly perfect balance to deliver a booze forward version I imagine will put the Man very much in a Manhattan. The Smoked Adonis also gives a taste of the teams smoky goodness, albiet in a more apertif style. The almond side garnish is a nice touch too.

The proximity to the kitchen delivers some of the best bar food available in the country. I dare you to stop at one chili dog.

For the first time in quite a while, there is a bit of competition in my heart and on my palate for what I would call my favourite bar in Sydney. I’ll be back again soon.

358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010

(02) 8399 1440

On Google Maps here.


Bam! and the cork is gone.

It is no secret that I have a bit of a soft spot for the guys at Eau de Vie. There innovation with roots-of-the-Gentleman-Sportsman approach to drinking makes a visit nothing but a supreme pleasure.

The latest party trick they’ve committed to is the fine and ancient art of Sabrage. You can check out Sven in the video above, or head on in for the real life experience.

Eau de Vie offers a Violet Hour special for early birds that can make it to the bar promptly (6-7.30), including 25% off your very own bottle of bubbles, sabered to order.

Join their facebook page if you’d like to be kept fully up to date.

Bar, Cocktail

The Aviator

Last week, Eau de Vie turned one.

It was a fantastic soirée. Drinks flowed, conversation ranged‡ and laughter erupted.

A cake made by Nicole Kidman’s surrogate was eaten; a bottle of Champagne was (almost) sabered, before the second lost its head. I can assure you unequivocally, a grand time was had by all.

A few drinks from the new cocktail list circulated the floor. The Aviator, above, continues a trend started with the Lady’s Leg Cosmo, inspired by one of Sven Almenning’s wonderful collections of cocktail shakers. This one comes to life in the exquisite silver Zeppelin, and has the perfect addition of a paper plane garnish. I’m writing about it, not only beacuse it was the only drink I seem to have taken a photo of during the whole night, but also because it is a variation on my favourite cocktail of all time, the Aviation.

The drink is a touch sweet on the palate, but that is true of many of the drinks on the Eau de Vie list. The herby rhubarb sweetness will most certainly open the drink up to a much wider audience, an achievement all its own.

The Aviator

House-made rhubarb and juniper puree shaken with Tanqueray gin, fresh lemon and a drop of maraschino.

Measures are available, you’ll probably just have to sleep with Max to get them; hence, they are not here…


Make sure you get down and check out the new list, raise a glass to a year well spent, demand your Champagne be opened with a saber, try the Tanq 10 fat-washed with Peking duck and most of all enjoy the great service, spectacular drinks and perfect ambiance of Sydney’s finest small bar experience.

‡ Rocky’s African-American opponent was Apollo Creed, for the record.


Greenhouse goes up

On Friday, something pretty amazing happened in Sydney. A great new restaurant and bar opened on the water, in the Rocks.

Waterfront real estate has been at a premium in Sydney since the fleet arrived and pushed the natives of Bennelong of their lands.

These days, getting anything on the foreshore requires a Herculean effort and that makes the Greenhouse that much more remarkable. Perched on Dawes Point, with incredible 270 degree views of Sydney’s harbour and icons, there is just no place like it.

A creative collaboration between a Dutch architect, Joost Bakker and Melburnian hospitality hero, Jason Chan, this temporary structure is the most exciting erection Sydney has seen since the Opera House went up.

It’s a concept that’s all about the local and the sustainable.

The cladding is sourced wherever the Greenhouse turns up, as is the straw that acts as insulator. The exact materials change with the various locations and provide Joost a chance to play with sustainable materials and utilise better products as they turn up. The oil from the kitchen powers the onsite generator.

The beers, Stone Wood from Byron, Little Creatures et al are chosen for the two factors of proximity and quality. Spirits too come from Australia, Chan’s own Tradewinds Gin from Perth, and 666 Vodka from Tassie will make cocktails-a-plenty on the upstairs deck of easily the best location for a bar in this entire town. Food falls in line with the same theme; it has to come the smallest distance so it arrives fresh, and at its most delicious. The milk even comes straight from the farm in a bucket, to be processed into cheese and yoghurt in the kitchen.

The constructed frame all fits in the two orange containers that serve as the conveniences upstairs (with plastic folding tables for doors, no less) and the galley below. It has visited Perth and Melbourne already. Next it will be off to Europe, further destinations are still being finalised but the wide eyed crew who staff this ship are all awed at the journey they’re about to undertake, Milan is up next, everybody’s amped and it shines through in the service.

I’ll be back next week to sample the fare and the cocktail list, plus to take maybe a thousand photos.

The Rocks is no longer just for the tourists, get down there Sydney!

It only lasts for six weeks.

There are no bookings, so expect a wait. Expect it to be worth the wait as well.


Joyeux anniversaire, Eau de Vie

It has been (almost) a whole year of amazing drinks, the best service and more than the odd chuckle for Sven Almenning and his other child. Eau de Vie.

They’re going to be throwing a little shindig on the 16th of February, next wednesday, to say thanks, and welcome in a whole new year of cocktail finery. What finer way to do that, for a world class bar like this, than to unveil a brand spanking new cocktail list

From 8.30pm you can roll in and try any of these new and lovely libations, for 25% less than usual (so says their facebook page at least,) and you know what that means children, every 5th drink is free!

I’ll be there, and it will also be one of your last opportunities (i believe) to say goodbye to everyones’s favourite Scotsman, Mr. Barry Chalmers. Barry is moving to KL for a little Asian Persuasion, so make sure you come and buy him a drink.

I’ll write again about this later next week, once I’ve tried the new list, and my hangover has abated.

Bar, Restaurant

Ash St Cellar

Part of the Ivy, and yet not a part of it at all. Proceed as usual, like you were about to head on up to the pool bar to blow a months worth of wages persauding some blondes to sit with you.

At the last minute, turn right instead of left and walk into Europe instead of Miami Beach.

From a cocktail perspective, the Martini was excellent. The barkeep used a method I’d not seen before, using the shaker as an ice bath for the glass. I’m not sure how he achieved dilution but my 7:1 Martin Millers and Noilly Pratt was deliciously fresh & floral and the perfect antidote to the last week before Christmas workday.

They obviously don’t get to make too many cocktails here, as he was keen for me to have a second. While the first recommendation of a French Martini seemed a little odd, the follow up offer of a Sazerac was pretty much bang on. Again, the method was new to me, shaken Sazeracs are something I’ve only ever really heard about from Simon Difford. I did think that he was taking the piss in the same way Jacob Briars does with his Corpse Reviver Number Blue.

The Hennessey VS was cloudy by the time it had had the bejesus shaken out of it, and while this method amalgamates the flavours of the Sazerac, I have to say I like mine better stirred, with the notes a little further apart.

Outside dining can be hard to come by in Sydney, and Ash St, plus the new bistro across the lane, Felix, delivers in spades. Folks come in droves to Ash St for the fare and the wine list. The Farr Chardonnay from Geelong was delicious. On the food front the lamb cutlets were jucy and divine but the true standout for me was the deliciously juicy Chorizo roll. I’m thinking about going back for a second one at lunch.

Ash St also has a large screen for decadent movies, intoxicating wines and attentive service.

On Google Maps, here.

1 Ash Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone (02) 9240 3000
Web :


Bar, New Zealand

The Golden Dawn

Hospitality has a new home in the Auckland Supercity and it’s called the Golden Dawn.

New Zealand has been nuclear free since the triumphant proclamation by Rt Hon. David Lange that New Zealand ports would no longer welcome U.S. Ships either powered by reactor or carrying nuclear weapons. Despite this, there was a tiny location that flouted this stance; The Open Late Café gained more than a trifling reputation with the city’s drunk and degenerate for serving Nuclear Nachos among their daily fare. Conjecture reigns on the presence of actual radioactive materials, but opinion is generally behind their assignation as toxic.

You’ve come this far dear reader, so allow me now to make my tenuous link, so slightly alluded to by the otherwise extraneous paragraph above.

This erstwhile nuclear hotspot can be linked again to a New Zealander 0f rare wit and courageous repartee. Mercifully free from Lange’s obesity, (but with his recent visits to Fergburger this may be all about to change,) and claiming a leftist position while his actions speak to more firmly rightist economics, I speak of course, of Jacob Briars, Bon Vivant, Brandsman and now a Man of Business.

Jacob has teamed up with Sam Chapman; a ghost from his Matterhorn past and Stephen Marr, hair stylist to the starry universe that is Auckland’s gleaming elite to open doors to the Golden Dawn. Rock-stars all.

Named for, or possibly nothing at all to do with, the Ancient Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a quasi pagan, path-to-spiritual-enlightenment-and-keys-to-the-magical-kingdom-type arrangemnet, who have been sucking in the dregs who couldn’t make it as part of the Masons or had been put of the Ka’balah by Madonna’s wrinkly hands.  If this type of thing interests you, I’m sure Jacob will be happy to make up a farcical story to keep you entertained, or perhaps it is actually all real, and if you slip behind the fireplace down the darkened alley you’ll find a secret loose brick with Benjamin Franklin’s spectacles, a lost Da Vinci Manuscript, the last shred of Nicolas Cage’s acting talent and Dan Brown’s penmanship, or maybe none of those things ever existed.

Names aside, the space is broken into two areas. Inside a DeGroff regulation bar, 42 inches high with a 4 inch foot-rail runs along one wall, with tables along the other which can be folded down for evening that are filled with that particular  brand of revelry that only the finest cocktails and accompanying hospitality can provide.  Outside a second bar, the pinkest toilets in Christendom and ample outside seating take the space from good to overwhelmingly great.

Food is going to be limited but tasty, and served in enamel ex-Prison department plates. Vegetarians will be well cared for, given Jacob’s leanings. Nuclear Nachos too, are rumoured to be making a comeback.

The drinks then. A fantastic list, daily punches, and perhaps tghe first time in my life I have been drawn to a mocktail, with the Lapsong Sour. Designed for the local set, cocktails that won’t necessarily nail you to your seat, but instead add a warm glow to the quick walk home to the villa, the family and another tasty home cooked meal.

Here’s a Dec 10 draft of the list so you can get the idea, the prices are in New Zealand dollars, so unless you’re a global superpower who has horribly devalued your currency through financial market racketeering and quantitative easing, they represent tremendous value:

Cocktail Menu – The Golden Dawn

December 2010

House Punch – $10

Long before the Cocktail became the bar staple, taverns and eating houses the world over would offer a bowl of ‘Punch’ to guests. Like most great drinking rituals it was designed to be shared.

We make up a different Punch daily, reflecting the seasons, notable events of past and present or maybe just our mood. Prepared before service and served in the traditional fashion – small glasses, a communal, flowing bowl, at a lovely price. Best enjoyed as a halfway house between the trials of work and the pleasures of home. Come early to ensure you get your chance to pull the punches.

Blackboard punch eg: ‘Fish House Punch’

Martell VS Cognac, dark rum, peach brandy, lemon juice, sugar, water.

Tried and True Classics

Some drinks stand the time for good reason – they are just very, very good, and better than anything we’ve yet come up with. For December, a list of fresh easy classics that can be enjoyed as a respite from the rigours of the party season.

Hallertau Boilermaker – $15

Traditionally the ‘boilermaker’ was an American ritual for men who did far more taxing manual labour than you or I. Their after-work ritual was more about quality than quantity, but we offer both.

We are lucky to be able to offer Auckland’s own Hallertau beers, delivered fresh and enjoyed on draught as they were supposed to be. We offer a glass of chilled Hallertau with a small glass of our spirit of the month.

For December, smooth amber Hallertau No 3 with a glass of Appleton’s Extra for a summery pick-me-up.

Americano – $12

The fore-runner of the bartenders’ favourite, the Negroni, this is a pleasant taste of Olde Europe that is wonderfully refreshing yet complex.

Campari, Martini Rosso, juicy oranges, soda water.

Pimm’s Punch  – $15

James Pimm kept an oyster house in the middle of the City of London, and his ‘cup’ became famous across the city as the best glass to be enjoyed with oysters and whores by men who enjoyed oysters and whores. We like our Pimm’s long and refreshing and laced with a little gin, as we lie back and think of England.

Pimm’s, Beefeater gin, summer fruits, ginger ale and refreshing cucumber.

Lagerita – $16

Tequila and beer, together at last. As ‘Chopper’ Read might have said, ‘I love a Margarita, but do they make ‘em for men?’ We do, as this modern classic from LAB bar in London shows. Hello, summer!

100% agave Cuervo Tradicional, agave syrup, fresh citrus, Hallertau pale ale, over ice.

Floridita – $15

A classic Cuban cocktail from the Golden Age of that country’s cocktail craft, and unlike the Mojito this drink has not been rendered passé by a thousand marauding hens’ parties. Unlike the hens, this is a marriage made in heaven. Rum and lime softened with elegant sweet vermouth and a hint of chocolate.

Havana Club, sweet vermouth, chocolate liqueur, lime, grenadine.

Sangria – $15

Forget what you think you know about Sangria and glasses of terribly sweet red punch enjoyed in Spain or in bars pretending to be Spanish. Our Sangria uses fresh fruit, good wine and is enlivened with a little rum and Grand Marnier for good measure.

Finest cheapest red wine, Stolen Rum, Grand Marnier, fresh citrus, Angostura bitters, soda.

Moscow Mule – $15

Our desert island drink.

42 Below vodka, lime, ginger beer, cucumber.

Aviation – $16

The Martini may be more famous but for our money this is the best pre-Prohibition cocktail yet to appear in a James Bond film. Clean and invigorating, a drink that makes you smarter. Icy-cold and enlivening.

Plymouth gin, maraschino liqueur, crème de violette, lemon juice, house-made brandied cherries.

Aperol Spritz – $15

The classic aperitivo of the Veneto region, a light and sophisticated drink for the early afternoon or later if you keep Venetian hours, as we do.

Aperol, white wine, soda, a chubby olive.

Proper Gin with Proper Tonic – $10

We use top quality gin with Wellington’s own Quina-Fina! Tonic water, which is made in the traditional way with hand-harvested chinchona bark, together with organic lemons and cane sugar. More refreshing than any gin and tonic you’ve ever had before.

Tanqueray gin, lemon, Quina-Fina! Tonic water.

New to You

Some of these cocktails you may be familiar with, some you may not, some are new classics and others may one day be. The best are lifted from our favourite bar menus around the world from bartenders far better than us, others are our own which we hope you’ll enjoy just as much.

Newton – $12

Apples two ways, laced with stronger stuff that may inevitably exert its own gravitational pull.

42 Below vodka, mint, apple, elderflower, Hallertau organic cider.

Batanga – $12

In a small old bar in the town of Tequila sits a small old man who creates this tasty drink on a daily basis. Don Javier Corona blends tequila, cola and lime and stirs it together with a knife because even at 84 years old, he’s the baddest bartender on the planet. We’re not that bad but we do add a little Kaitaia Fire because everything tastes better with hot sauce.

Sauza Hornitos tequila, fresh lime juice, Kaitaia Fire, Phoenix organic cola.

Corpse Reviver Number Blue – $15

Blue drinks went out (so to speak) with Tom Cruise but we are bringing them back in this electric twist on a classic from London’s Savoy Hotel. Perfectly balanced, icy cold and good at any hour of the evening/morning.

Plymouth gin, Lillet Blanc, blue curacao, lemon juice, absinthe, lemon peel.

Boulevardier – $16

v. One who walks the streets, particularly of Paris.

Supposedly there was an Italian nobleman called Count Camillo Negroni who liked his Americano (see above) strengthened with gin. This story, though repeated as fact by generations of bartenders is nonsense, here instead is the forebear of the Negroni; a complex, grown-up way to start or end an evening.

Maker’s Mark bourbon, Campari, Martini sweet vermouth.

Penicillin – $18

The first classic drink of the 21st Century, created in New York’s best bar by the city’s best bartender (who of course is Australian). A splendid marriage of whisky with ginger, honey and lemon, finished with the most powerful, smoky Islay single malt. A cure for whatever ails you.

Ballantine’s, lemon, honey and ginger syrups, Laphroiag.

Trindad Sour No.2 – $15

An insane amount of Angostura bitters with Trinidadian rum and orgeat, finished with lime. Full of Christmas cake richness and with all the goodness of Dr Johann Seigert’s famous curative bitters.

Angostura bitters, Stolen Gold rum, orgeat, lime juice.

Hemingway’s Special – $12

The grumpy writer. Who worked only in sentences. Like this was a famous drunk but. Occasionally he showed discernment, such as in. His choice of evening refresher inspired. By Paris.

Martell Cognac, lemon, soda.

Falling Water – $12

Hailing from Wellington’s Matterhorn, a New Zealand classic, if there can be such a thing. A refreshing marriage of our own Feijoa vodka with Ch’i mineral soda, easily the best thing to have emerged from Glenfield since Rachel Hunter.

42 Below Feijoa, Ch’i, cucumber.

Frisco – $15

Many of our favourite things hail from San Francisco, including Bullitt and this forgotten cocktail. Rye whiskey and lemon, sweetened with glorious Benedictine and bitters, served up in the classic fashion.

Jim Beam Rye, Benedictine, lemon juice, lemon peel.

Sherry Cobbler – $12

This may have been the first Cocktail ever to be drunk in New Zealand, for it was first recorded as having being made in Richmond, Nelson in 1851. For 150 years it fell out of fashion but this was the Mojito of it’s day and it deserves to be in the spotlight once more. We use solera sherry muddled  with fresh fruits, served over ‘cobbled’ ice.  Smooth and soothing.

Hidalgo Cortado sherry, summer fruits, sugar, lemon.

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

There are many reasons to choose drinks without alcohol, and we respect most of them. Whatever your reason, we don’t consider these drinks to be an afterthought and have tried to offer grown-up flavours that are crafted with as much care as our ‘spiked’ drinks.

Porch Lemonade – $8

Old-fashioned Lemonade made in the traditional American fashion, often never made in America any more.

Fresh lemon juice, cane sugar, lemon juice, chilled water, lemon peel.

Bambina – $8

Fresh, floral, tart lemons muddled with summery elderflower cordial and mint, and the cooling taste of cucumber.

Elderflower, cucumber, lemon, mint, soda water.

Iced Tea – $8

Not how it’s drunk on Long Island. Properly flavoursome tea with lots of lemon and local honey, over ice, cold and refreshing.

Chilled organic Green Tea, lemon, mint, honey.

Stromboli – $8

Juicy and easy on the eyes and on the mind.

Pineapple and cranberry juices, peach, bitters, lemon.

Lapsong Sour – $8

The unique and smoky taste of Lapsong Souchong tea balanced with lemon and sugar. Like a Lagavulin for drivers.

Lapsong souchong tea, fresh lemon, sugar, optional free range egg white.

No question, the must visit venue of this Antipodean summer.

134 Ponsonby Rd, Auckland.

On Google Maps, here.

Awards, Bar

2010 50 Best Bars

The Drinks International list is out once again.

700 bar professionals from 50 countries came up with the list. I’d love to know if they submitted blind or voted for an already collated list. There are 5 bars from aussie on the list, so a fantastically well done 1806, Der Raum, Black Pearl in Melbourne and Zeta and the Ivy in Sydney. Top 50 lists are always dicey, there are some favourites of mine not on there, but there are more than a few I’d love to go and visit.

Who did they miss in Australia or anywhere else in the world for that matter?


Milk & Honey, London


Harry’s Bar, Venice

Milk & Honey, New York

Buddha Bar, Paris

Pegu Club, NY

Death & Co, NY

Employees Only, NY

Harry’s New York Bar, Paris

Academy, London

The Connaught, London

Der Raum, Melbourne, Australia

Black Pearl, Melbourne, Ausstralia

Coco Bongo, Cancun, Mexico

Q’Ba, New Delhi, India

Matterhorn, Wellington, NZ

Sky Bar Unique Hotel, Brazil

Zeta Bar Sydney Hilton, Australia

Enigma Marriott Hotel, Mumbai, India

Schumann’s American Bar, Munich, Germany

The Lonsdale, London

Four Seasons, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Bubba’s Bar, Barbados

F Bar, New Delhi, India

Bramble, Edinburgh

Dry Martini Bar, Barcelona

Cafe Caprice, Cape Town, SA

Buddha Bar, Dubai

Skyview Bar, Dubai

Planet Bar, Cape Town, SA

Blue Frog, Mumbai, India

City Space, Moscow, Russia

Standard Bar, LA

1806, Melbourne, Australia

Charlie’s Bar, Copenhagen, Denmark

Barasti Bar, Dubai

Bert’s Bar, Barbados

Sling In, Helsinki, Finland

Buddha Bar, Kiev, Ukraine

Hemmingway Bar, Paris, France

Bar do Copa, Rio, Bazil

Le Lion, Hamburg, Germany

Buddha Bar London

Star Bar, Tokyo

Mangos, Florida

Quo Vadis, London

Bòeme, Rome, Italy

Nottingham Forest, Milan

Salotto 42 Rome

The Ivy, Sydney

Bar, Sydney, Training

An Introduction to the Malts at Eau de Vie

Eau de Vie has been my favourite slice of Sydney’s drinking scene for more than a few months now and they still manage to surprise, impress and intoxicate me. So it was, with a bright smile and a deep sense of anticipation that I headed down the Darlinghurst Road once more and in to Eau de Vie for a appreciation of Single Malt Whisky, led by the charismatic frontman and booze afficiando, Barry Chalmers.

I’ll write about the six malts we sampled next, but I just wanted to share some of the finer points my diminutive Glaswegian orator shared in his thirty minute epistle on the finer points of supporting his homelands economic well being.

We started with a history of spirit. From our man in the middle east, the moorish expansion, the information superhighway that monastic tradition bestowed. Eventually the Exchequer Rolls, and a record of about 1500 bottles of aqua vitae or water of life, and conversely eau de vie, natch. 1500 is a reasonable run, so it had most likely started some time before that.

Barry has a superb and well spoken grasp of the role of whisky in overcoming the tyrannies of distance and harsh terrain. It’s role in building a transportable economy in Scotland. A short revision of history, covering the Act of Union, the facts running somewhat different to everyone’s favourite anti-Semitic Australian’s blue faced cinematic, shall we say, revision. Taxation, evasion and eventual systematic establishment and the distilleries as we know them today.

Production next, with grain, through three steps of the malting and mashing process on show. A quick beer distillation in a tiny onion top copper still, cooled through a worm tub sets up a quick but quite thorough discussion on the different types of still, the effect of shape, height and ornamentation has on finish and final product.

Finishing next, a freshly toasted stave handed round, scents of vanilla rampant. We all got lost in forests and finishing effects from charred out woods that had hosted American, French or Spanish. It was agreed by all that green wood that hasn’t had it’s share won’t work.

Appreciation then. A light sniff, as nose in glass will knock your blinking socks off. Try over the back, over the glass and just in front. I do remember it smelling different things, but I’m unsure if there’s method to the madness. A sip, coupled with a lovely quote delivered in an accent broad. “You have to figure out if the whisky is a winding path through the forests of your mouth or a great fooking dual carriageway.” Attributed to Dave Broom, but Barry will always own it in my eyes.

Through the six, with stories and myth around each. A great education and a fine way to spend an evening, finished with a slice of cheese and a final Penicillin at the bar.

If you’re keen to be involved in this type of nonsense, the best way to keep up to date and aware is to become a member of the Eau de Vie Facebook page as they’re pretty good at making sure the events are on there.  They’ve got 574 fans now, so make me look good and join in your thousands…

These events are paid for, but for your hard earned wedge, you’ll get a little bit of learning, a little bit of drunk and a little bit of snacking. $60 has been the norm thus far, but they’ll be up front about that.

There is also a winter drinks session, being led by Dr. Phil next wednesday, so come along and join in.

Bar, Sydney


When is a bar not a bar?

When it’s the lobby of a restaurant.

I took my lovely lady to Etch last night for an after work cocktail and a little bite on what I had heard was the best bar snacks in the city. Entering the hushed enclave I declared my interest in the bar and was told that the assorted, plush but somewhat lobbyish chairs were the bar. When you are sitting there it feels like they’ve cannibalized some of the restaurant floorspace to try and increase revenue as the number of premium covers in Sydney falls off.

On the Drinks front, I started with a Brandy Crusta, and Chelsey ordered a Floral Fizz, the working bar that services the restauran makes the drink, and this is unfortunately situated out of sight. When the drinks arrived they looked exquisite, but my crusta was missing the collar of lemon peel that Jerry decreed and whose oils improve the drink no end. The Floral fizz fared better, the hibiscus sweetness matching the Aussie sparkles it came with. Round two entailed a Dry Martini, for me and the Passion Fizz for her. The Passionfruit syrup clashed alarmingly and the pips looked good but would have been better strained out of the drink. The tide was out on my drink, but it was cold, floral from the Bombay. The peel lacked the finesse which is obviously a hallmark of the food as well.

If that was where it ended, I probably wouldn’t have managed to write about the place at all. The bar snacks are exquisite. The warmed ball of goats cheese flavoured with Lavender and Honey was unreal. Perfect balance, explosive flavour. Quite simply, WOW. The duck rillette were formed in little quinelles and accompanied by crunchy little toasts. As Matt the Cravat would say, a symphony of texture, taste and mouthfeel.

While I was at the Cocktail World Cup in New Zealand, all the Americans there were talking about beverage programs at restaurants. While I thought it was largely wank then, it kind of makes sense to me now. The beverage program is about making sure the attention to detail, balance of flavours and aesthetic of the food service continues at the bar.

Etch, with its unbelievably good snacks could be Sydney’s best premium bar. They just need to put the bar in the back room, have a bartender you can see turning out drinks that look as good as the mains out the front.

As it is, a great place for a quick, quiet but stylish drink before you head off to the Opera.

62 Bridge St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia. (02) 9247 4777

On Google maps, here.

Bar, Melbourne

On Tour: Pandora’s Box

Hope is the only good god remaining among mankind;
the others have left and gone to Olympus.
Trust, a mighty god has gone, Restraint has gone from men,
and the Graces, my friend, have abandoned the earth.
Men’s judicial oaths are no longer to be trusted, nor does anyone
revere the immortal gods; the race of pious men has perished and
men no longer recognize the rules of conduct or acts of piety.

When Pandora opened the box Zeus had entrusted her with, one of two things happened; all the evils imaginable were let loose upon the world, or, as Theognis of Megara so elegantly put it, all the virtues of men escaped. Now many people think the box a symbol of loss, but there is one commonality between the two stories outlined above: that Hope remained inside, hope of virtues return perhaps? or simply that blind hope for all things best. Pandora’s Box then sounds like a pretty great place to be.

Tucked a hop, skip and a jump down Duke St, off Melbourne’s Chav shopping mecca of Chapel St , lies this Pandora’s Box. Four walls filled with hope, a great tapas menu and a simple list of drinks on offer.

Anywhere that has a Corpse Reviver No 2. on the list is ok by me, and backing that up with a Buffalo Trace Sazerac, a Tommy’s and a French 75 takes things way past ok into great territory. Probably not a place if you’re looking for cocktail fanaticism, but if you want a fine drink and some food to match coupled with some great service courtesy of Winter and her team.

2 Duke St, Windsor, 3181 Melbourne. (03) 9529 4590

On Google Maps, here.

Bar, Sydney


Made it back to Sticky for the first time since I started this blog. Tucked down Taggart’s Lane in a dingy doorway beside the goods fridge for the restaurant is the entrance to Sticky.

The closest thing we have to a Melbourne hospitality experience with kind words and cheeky wit at the door, even if the popularity of the upstairs space means a short wait in the cold. Ascend the stairs, breathing in the smells from Table for 20, a sharing plate concepted, long table execution of a best of what’s on offer model.

Ascend another set and you’ll hit to the laid back attic, decked out with antiques and little padded stools. The bar has obviously been designed by a bartender. Plenty of space behind it, and it’s needed when the place fills up. The beer selection is limited, but nicely done, Birra Messina a real standout.

The back bar is adorned by many nectarous bottles. Aged Grappa and Sazerac Ryes are obviously firm favourites of the boys behind the wood. A couple of special cocktails are chalked up, a twenty something bottle winelist as well.

I stuck to the beers and more than a couple of Negroni’s with the gin changed out for a blanco tequila. Nicely turned out. The pricey but oh so luxurious highlight for me was a Sazerac, whipped up with Thomas Handy’s Sazerac Rye.

Worth the trip, especially if you haven’t yet visited Melbourne and seen what real hospitality looks like. Don’t worry too if you get stuck upstairs drinking, the tasting plates are, well, tasty.

182 Campbell St, Surry Hills, Sydney. 0416 096 916.

On Google Maps, here.

Bar, Melbourne

On Tour: Sousoul

One of the things I’ve found to more true than anything else as I’ve moved through bars, sampling drinks and talking to bartenders, is that a list of twisted classics usually should be avoided.

Classics became just that because of the fine memorable taste the mix delivered. Take inspiration from the recipes sure, but you can’t improve on perfection.

Or can you?

On the mini crawl Jason Chan took me on after dinner at his, Sousoul was one place he’d mentioned a couple of times. The cocktails and their quality came up again as we crossed Chapel street and ducked down Greville St, beside the clocktower. As he popped his head into the new outpost of Ladro Pizzeria, next door to Sousoul, I’ll admit I was thinking “I’ve been drinking stuff you can’t buy anywhere, how is any cocktail meant to follow that?

Making it the door we were met by Nathan, our consummate host, Jason recommended and ordered the Chocolate Sazerac (below). The smoked cocoa is a triumph in this drink, I’m not sure if it has the fabled ‘wrongness’ of the rye and anise match in the original, but I’m sure Matt Preston would pull out his new favourite phrase “it’s yum yuck, a triumph” before hurling the glass at the back wall.

Well done Sousoul, one from one thus far.

My eyes didn’t get much further down the list before my eyes rested on the Aviation in 2010 (below).

Fuck with the classics, be my guest, but the Aviation is my personal favourite, opening a good gin up with citrus and the funky sweet lick that maraschino brings. Frankly I don’t care if they used to drink it with Creme de Violette. Most of the new liqueur approximations of this floral throwback stamp out any of the subtlety of the simpler ‘modern’ version (although none of my books have a violet version, isn’t that the Blue Moon?) Sousoul have updated the cocktail but my three ingredients are the ones in the glass.

That’s a tremendous tick in my book.

The boys behind the bar have captured an essence here. The Creme Yvette’s that are coming in the second wave of production are greatly improved. Adding it to the liquid in the glass might be dicey, so what’s the other option?

At Sousoul, the other option means spherification of the liqueur in a tidy little caviar spoon on the side. After the astringent brilliance of a perfect Aviation in the glass, these purple pearls wash your mouth with sweet floral goodness, ready for the next rinse.

I loved it. It is exactly what it set out to be: the very best Aviation you could put up.

I’m thinking of driving down again this weekend, just so I can have it again. If you are in Melbourne and only are going to have one drink, this, in my opinion, should be it.

I stand by what I said. Don’t fuck with the classics, unless you can do as well as this.

160 Greville Street, Prahran, VIC, Australia, 3181 (03) 9529 5670

On Google Maps here.

At home, Bar

The Best Home Bar on Earth. Period.

Oh what a night! Such sights, such tastes, such happy day!

I remember reading a great piece Camper English from Alcademics wrote on putting together the perfect 5 bottle bar for apartment dwellers. I’ve never been able to keep my collection that tight, and thankfully, either has Jason Chan, owner of Melbourne’s fantastic Batch, Star Wars figurine and rare spirits collector.

I was lucky enough to be invited to his apartment for dinner. I have never been gladder of anything in my life than taking that invitation, well, with the exception of my birth and making the acquaintance of a certain C. Barnes.

Jason is a collector. He has shelves, draws, cubbys and corners. All chock full of the finest spirits the world has managed to produce. I’ll write about some of the highlights over the coming weeks, and the drinks nerds among you will probably be able to identify some of the bottles on the table, Tricentennial, Zacapa 30th Anniversary, Macallan Quarter Century, Richard Hennessy, El Tesoro De Don Felipe Anniversario Extra Anejo. Truly, spectaularly awesome.

Jason is an encyclopedia of booze. Who’s made them, how they eeked out that little bit more special a spirit than anyone else. I picked up a Rittenhouse 25yr old Rye, “Life changing” I hear behind me, “Single Cask – Green Apples, Massive.” Memories of taste and mouth-feel catalouged away for what must be bottles in their thousands. He says he wants to be a distiller. I’m sure as hell signing up to whatever he decides to turn his hand to producing.

Jason also has a passion for food. His venues aside, he produces cheeses and bread, acknowledging local provenance. The hand pulled Mozzarella is creamy, the Persian fetta divine, the triple cream, OMG‡. His rabbit, turned with rustic green olives and cream over quality pasta, the perfect foil for just a few more nectarous nips.

Just enough time to get this gem of a photo, holding a tiki vessel that Jason thought most closely matched me (not sure if it was the size, the shape or the 1 litre volume that prompted that) before going to visit some of Jason’s favourite bars.

Epic, memorable and amazing night. Many thanks.

‡ not something I use lightly.

Bar, Melbourne, The Cure

On Tour: Batch

Chur cuz. Sick of the fucking bouncing kangaroos? Worried about that thing with the beady eyes you always thought was a bear but apparently is called mar-soo-pee-ill? Simply looking for a place where you can consistently find a decent cup of coffee, free from the hands of the pervasive criminal element?

Rejoice reader, this paradise exists and you can find it hiding at 320 Carlisle Street, Balaclava in Melbourne’s wonderful southern suburbs.

This place might be a cafe, but the fact you also get a measure of El Dorado 25yr old rum means that this little cafe has a back bar that many cocktail establishments around the world would envy. Breakfast and booze in one tidy package, Cure and Cause in four tight walls.

Started some time ago by another ex-Kiwi like me, Batch brings the cosy feel of Dunedin or Kingsland to Sydney’s southern sister. Jason Chan, owner, master barista and rare spirits aficionado can be found strapped into the coffee machine delivering perfect espresso, time, after time, after time.

Simply a must visit in Melbourne.

Shop 1, 320 Carlisle Street, Balaclava (03) 9530 3550

On Google maps, here.

Oh, this will probably help too:

Bar, Melbourne

On Tour: Der Raum

Step 1. Hail a taxi and direct him to the corner of Swan and Church St in Richmond♣.

Step 2. Pay the boatman, step the curb and approach the blackened door.

Step 3. Smile at the bartender♥.

Step 4. Take a spin through the menu♦

Step 5. Accept a welcome drink, casually diguised as an amuse bouche.

Step 6. While you finish your drink, select another and order‡

Step 7. Repeat step six, as many times as you can whilst remaining upright.

♣ Be aware that if there is a game on at the Gee, the crawl down Church St will be interminable. If this is the case, best sneak a roady in your pocket. ♥ Do not call him a mixologist. ♦ Don’t try to walk off with it, it has been attached to the bar. ‡ The drinks here, while lovely, can take some time to produce. Best keep one in the chamber at all times.

Well, you’ve waded through my short, but David Foster Wallacesque introduction to Der Raum. I suppose I now owe you an explanation.

Der Raum is a temple to process. Come forth, ye unwashed masses and worship at the altar of method.

Fine, innovative drinks, using techniques that wouldn’t seem out of place on Lost in Space or The Jetsons. The bottle above is a vermouth welcome drink, infused with floraln tastes and smoking with the addition of dry ice, ostensibly used to open the flavours up. While it’s not likely to make it onto my regualr roster of drinks at home, it was a pleasant welcome.

The Blue Moon, below, is a champagne salute to the ‘real’ Aviation. The violet flavor fog carried more taste than I had expected and the visual effect was indeed stunning. The Penicillin, served on an enopurmos sphere of ice and finished with a spray of Laphroaig, amazing. The Smokey Old Bastard, finished with cigar smoke delivered by a machine that wouldn’t have been out of place in a coffee shop on the Keizersgracht, should the Penicillin not deliver enough smoke. The Pharmacy, which i wrote about before, for the show more than anything. All the drinks on the list are incredible.

Der Raum consistently does well in awards and best bar in the world listings. The forest of suspended bottles over the bar is a joy to look at, with hidden treasures, like Tapatio Tequila that don’t come out very often at all, at least in this country. A fantastic bar, just heed my advice on ordering your next when you receive your first.
438 Church St, Richmond VIC 3121, Australia‎ – (03) 9428 0055

On Google Maps here.

Bar, Melbourne

On Tour: The Supper Club

In briefest terms, the place where you end up.

Somehow though, this place deserves a little more. A place for florid language, festooned with the detritus of a great Melbourne night. The penultimate step of an evenings libations♣. A standard to be set for the rest of the world.

Commit to a stroll onward and upward, and perched upstairs on Spring St, The Supper Club will enfold you in its ample bosom, provided, of course, everyone else hasn’t made it here before you.

While I’m sure you could order a cocktail here, if you’ve done things right through the rest of the town a simple Scotch, a glass or bottle of wine and a late night munch. Whereas in Kings Cross you might be seduced by the red-haired punchinello and his premium Angus, the Supper will entertain your with gastronomical delights to slake even the most cavernous of inebriated ravenousness. The eel and jamon croquettes, follwed by the polenta fries and perhaps the pate with those tiny little toasts please.

Smoking, now banned in all public indoor places in Australia, finds a spectactular home on the upstairs terrace, past a reassuringly large humidor.

My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them.

Winston Churchill.

1st/161 Spring St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia‎ – (03) 9654 6300‎

On Google maps here.

♣ Home, either yours or someone else’s being the ultimate. Hopefully at least.