Industry News, Training, Wine

Know your bubbles.

In 2010, Champagne imports to Australia totalled 3,687,140 making Australia the 9th largest export market for Champagne.  Recent figures also show that per capita of Champagne consumption is one bottle for every seven people, placing Australia in the top five countries for Champagne consumption in the world.

I know I drank more than average so that must mean that many of you just aren’t drinking your fair share. One way to rectify that, and maybe learn something along the way, would be indulge yourself in a Champagne Masterclass.

The Champagne Bureau will mark the beginning of Spring with a series of Champagne master classes across Australia. The classes will provide a forum to taste and discuss a selection of non-vintage, vintage and other unique styles of Champagne wines. All for only $60.

Classes will be taken by winners of the Vin de Champagne Award. Organised every second year by the Champagne Bureau, the Vin de Champagne Award seeks to find Champagne ambassadors who will share their knowledge and encourage the enjoyment and appreciation of Champagne in Australia.

In Australia, The Champagne Bureau represents the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC). The Bureau’s main role is to educate trade and consumers on Champagne wines, along with promoting and protecting the world-famous Champagne appellation.


Monday 22nd August 2011
The Hilton Hotel 488 George St Sydney, Level Two The State Room
TIME: 6.00 – 7.30PM
PRESENTERS: Huon Hooke and Greg Plowes


Monday 29th August
Sofitel Melbourne, 25 Collins St Melbourne, La Trobe Ballroom
TIME: 6.00 – 7.30PM
PRESENTERS: Kate McIntyre MW and Martin Williams MW


Tuesday 30th August
Sofitel Brisbane Central, 249 Turbot Street Brisbane
TIME: 6.00 – 7.30PM
PRESENTERS: Prof. Tim Sullivan and Martin McAdam


Wednesday 31st August
The Apothecary, 118 Hindley St Adelaide
TIME: 5.30 – 7.00PM
Presenters: James Smith, Jane Bromley and Dr. Patrick Iland


Friday 2nd September
Frasers, Frasers Ave Kings Park West Perth
TIME: 6.00 – 7.30PM
Presenters: Lexie Thompson and Steven Leslie


T: (02) 9555 8891  F: (02) 9555 8959

Spirit, Training

Johnnie Walker Tasting Sessions – Coming to a bar near you.

Let's work our way through this, shall we?

It’s not often I feel compelled to write about an event that I haven’t actually attended, but the Johnnie Walker tasting sessions are an exception. I hope that this type of consumer education will become a firm fixture that might replace the standard flashy parties or point of sale brochureware that are often the extent of a brands outreach in this market.

I wish University learning had set ups like this and involved as much whiskey

If you’re lucky enough to secure a seat, you’ll arrive to a Johnnie Walker red label cocktail and an introduction to your host for the night, an ambassador from Diageo who lives and breathes this iconic Scottish brand. I spoke with Sven Almenning, who hosted the session I had missed and is also the proprietor of my favourite watering hole in town, Eau de Vie. He had obviously enjoyed getting back in front of a consumer audience and the interaction it provides. The ambassadors spend much of their time training bar teams across the country, improving service and knowledge behind the bar, so it seems fitting to get them making a contribution to those who sit in front of it.

A few sensory prompts to bring the language of tasting to life

You’ll get a chance to experience whiskies from around the world, covering Canada, the States and Ireland. As well as some instruction on the different experiences you’ll have with Singles and Blends. A sensory kit should give you a few different elements to try and discern for yourself. You’ll learn about the regions of Scotch production and get a crack at the Red, Black and Green label variants of the Johnnie Walker brand. Capping the tasting is a chance to learn a few more international takes on the Johnnie Walker brand; the Rob Roy from New York, the Blazer from London (or Sydney’s Victoria Room) and a carved sphere of ice from Tokyo, Japan.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the long pour. A healthy dram too, by the looks.

For once at least, this is not a program limited to the Metro’s on the East coast. Whichever state you live in, there is an option for you.

· The Loft – King Street Wharf, Sydney
· Eau de Vie – Darlinghurst
· The Union Hotel – North Sydney
· The Mean Fiddler – Rouse Hill
· Macquarie Hotel – Surry Hills
· Verandah Bar – Sydney CBD

· Long Room – Melbourne
· Galley Room – Melbourne
· Exchange – Port Melbourne
· Imperial Hotel – South Yarra
· Baden Powell Tavern – Collingwood
· Baranows – Hawthorn

· Port Office Hotel – Brisbane
· Fox Hotel – Brisbane
· Ice Works – Paddington
· Melbourne Hotel – West End
· Cellar (Cloudlands) – Fortitude Valley
· Story Bridge Hotel – Kangaroo Point

· General Havelock – Adelaide
· Lakes Resort – West Lakes
· Maid and Magpie – Stepney

· Tiger Lils – Perth
· Burswood International Resort – Burswood
· The Flying Scotsman Bar (Defectors) – Mount Lawley

Head to the Johnnie Walker Australian website to see this list, with the added bonus feature of being able to book yourself a session as well. Signing up to the site will also give you the chance to win some pretty amazing stuff related to the sponsorship properties Johnnie currently maintains, F1 or the Ashes anyone?

Legends of Bartending, Sydney, Training

Trading Punches with the wonderful David Wondrich

What an experience yesterday. A little under three hours with the Civil War General of Cocktails, Mr David Wondrich.

Dave is a walking encyclopedia of all things intoxcating, having gained fame for his lively drinks column in the american version of Esquire magazine and his amazingly well researched Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar, the Mixxit team had flown him out to pass on a little knowledge and in his words, ‘to do the tourist shit.’

Twenty or so bartenders crammed into the back bar of the Argyle to learn a little and laugh a lot. Wondrich has just wrapped up writing a book that explores the history and development of the Punch, precursor to the cocktail and tasty shared beverage of the sporting classes in auld New York. As such it was apt that the session started with a short history and a long drink.

Punch starts as a sailors beverage. As voyages began to stretch between continents and over months and years, more than a few problems evolved. First of all was with Beer, traditionally used to sake the thirst of the general rabble on board, when kept in barrels it didn’t last much beyond a few weeks, developing all manner of horrendous moulds and fungi. The officers too, were not exempt, their expensive wines ruined in the heat of the tropics, reduced to vinegar, or worse.

Somewhat unsurprising then that all eyes turned to the few barrels of medicinal spirits, seemingly unencumbered by the problems of the lesser ferments, they often appeared to improve with the length of journey. Continue reading

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.

Cocktail, Training

They’ll always have Rio: The Naren Young and Jacob Briars Experience

See Jacob Briars eat the sand of Leblon Beach. Hear him lost for words atop the Sugarloaf. Feel his disappointment at being woken with a vegetarian Bloody Mary in episode 4.

This series of videos were produced a wee while back, but thanks to the best head waggling, curry munching, mango bitters wanting bartender I know, it was bought to my attention again. Those of you who know Jacob or Naren will find this a hoot, those that don’t are in for some of the funniest, on-the-fly scripting about drinks and drinking culture available anywhere on earth.

More episodes after the jump.

Continue reading


Back to the Club

Well, its taken me a full week to get around to it, but I thought I’d quickly run through what went down at Rum Club last monday.

It was the Ron Zacapa tasting, and the team from Diageo’s Reserve brands did a great job, (although, when you pour Zacapa over ice, there is very little else you have to do really) We tasted the 23yr old and the XO. Before the tasting a little lesson on where the rum is made and what makes it special, with a freshly charred barrel stave and some botanical samples passed around, activating the nose before the tasting certainly improved the flavor of the spirits. I have a draft of a post on the XO going so I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice to say it was a truly fine experience.

There were a few new faces there. James Hudson, of the Rum Diaries and Curtis York from Quittin’ Time. Curtis imports a stack of rums from around the world. Brinley (St.Kitts), El Dorado (Demerara), LA Mauny (Martinique) and Riviere Du Mat (Madagascar) to name them. Prices go up quite high, but you’re getting top quality for your dollars.

Bar, Sydney, Training

Rum Club November


Join the Sydney Rum Club on Monday 16 November, 2009 for an in-depth, interactive presentation from rum guru and Reserve Brands Ambassador Nick van Tiel.

This Rum Club will give members the opportunity to taste one of the world’s finest rums, Ron Zacapa, as well as learn about the intricacies of the spirit.

Rum Club has been running for over five years and has members in London, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. Session host Nick van Tiel has previously worked at London’s Trailer Happiness Bar where Rum Club was founded.

Come along to learn, ask questions and enjoy a few drinks with other like-minded rum aficionados.

The Rum Club will meet at Eden Bar & Restaurant at 6.30pm. The session costs $10, which includes membership.

Eden Bar & Restaurant

Shop 2, Level 8

MLC Centre

19 Martin Place


To RSVP for the evening, email

Sydney, Training

Rum Club Redux

BacardiLast night at the Eden Bar and Restaurant in Martin Place, the Sydney Rum Club gathered for a tasting of the Bacardi portfolio. After a refreshing Mojito made by Bacardi Ambassadors’ Jeremy Shipley and Loy Catada.

After a short and somewhat informative presentation on the history of the brand and the innovations Bacardi bought to the rum industry (parallel process, where two base rums are produced at the same time and blended; charcoal filtration, to smooth the rough edges of the Devils Kin; La Levadura, the use of a specific yeast to ferment the blackstrap and water mash & deliberate aging, to add character, body and a smooth finish to the product.) it was time to drink the sweet, sweet liquor.

Starting with Carta Blanca (the famous white rum; banana, almonds and icing sugar on the nose; brunt wheat and vanilla on the palate with a smooth finish,) followed by Bacardi Oro (a gold/yellow rum; green banana’s on the nose; orange peely to taste and a warmer finish,) next came Bacardi Black (a brown/black rum; raisins and paint on the nose; rich caramel to taste running into a smooth finish,) next up was Bacardi 8 (a rich brown/amber rum with a nose to match, the 8 is smooth in taste and finish, perfect in old school cocktails like the old fashioned and smooth enough to drink on its own,) the penultimate selection was Bacardi Limon (clear, flavoured spirit not legally allowed to be called rum in Australia, macerated lemons give the spirit a heady zest, sweetening the final product to an almost liqueur like consistency.) The last rum in the tasting was Bacardi Reserva Limitada. This one was so good, it’s getting it’s own post.

The evening wrapped up with the announcement of the winner of the naming competition for the Rum Club’s barrel. Astonishingly, I carried off the win, a share of the barrel and a Rum cocktail experience at Eden. In 12 months time, the Governor’s Downfall will be ready, bottle with the owners name and serial number. There is enough rum for 33 bottles, and there are still a few left. $50 and a visit to Eden would probably secure you one, or you could email and make your case.

A quick hand shaken Bacardi Daiquiri and I was out the door before 9pm. A really enjoyable night, highly recommended.

Cocktail, Training

Tales of the Cocktail begins!!!

Some of you might have wondered what the Green Eyed Monster I posted earlier today was up to. Tales of the Cocktail, the world’s foremost conference, mass tasting and cocktail festival begins again today, in N’Awlins or New Orleans, to those who don’t speak Creole.

Part education, with icons like Imbibe! author, David Wondrich; 1806 owner and barkeep, Sebastian Reaburn; International Playboy bartender, Alconomist and Tanqueray 10 Ambassador, Angus Winchester; King of Cocktail, Essentials author and maker of the world’s best Irish Coffee, Dale DeGroff & not least of all moderator, bar chef and Professor of Vodka, Jacob Briars.

Part industry show, with pretty much every alcohol on my Oh My God list presenting, speaking or offering tastings at the show.

And part four day party, with events planned all the time.

I’ve got my ear to the ground, and I’ll try and post as much as I can about the wonderful events, while I start saving my pennies for next year.

Spirit, Training

The Rum Club Quiz.

If anyone makes a comment, I’ll supply the answers…



  1. Who said “Don’t talk to me about naval tradition. It’s nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.”?
  2. Who is said to have ‘invented’ the daiquiri in 1896?
  3. Who said “There’s naught, no doubt, so much the spirit calms as rum and true religion.”?
  4. Who is the Master Blender of Appleton Estate Rums?
  5. Who named Antigua after “Santa Maria la Antigua, a  Chapel in Seville?
  6. Who said “But why is the rum gone?”?
  7. Who is considered the father of Martinique Rhum?
  8. Who said “I’m not entirely sure I’ve had enough rum to allow that kind of talk.”?
  9. Who ordered that the daily British Naval rum ration be watered down?

10.  Whose body was famously stored in a barrel of rum after he was killed in




11.  What is Bagasse?

12.  What is a Duppy?

13.  What Rum must be used to make a Dark’n’Stormy?

14.  What animal appears on the front of a Bacardi Bottle?

15.  What is 31st July known as to rum fans?

16.  What is Blackstrap?

17.  What three ingredients are used in a Daiquiri?

18.  What animal is on the front of a Bundaberg bottle?

19.  What is ‘Pusser’ the naval slang for?

20.  What is the Spanish name for Rum?



21.  Where was a  country’s government was overthrown in 1808 in the Rum Rebellion for the only time in its history?

22.  Where is the Conch Republic?

23.  Where was the Pina Colada invented?

24.  Where is a rum called ‘Screech’ made and drunk?

25.  Where is sugar cane supposed to have originated?

26.  Where is Dunder most famously used?

27.  Where did John Pemberton invent Coca Cola?

28.  Where does the Rum Stroh come from?

29.  Where is the Demerara river?

30.  Where is English Harbour?

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At home, Cocktail, The Glorious Recipe, Training


Part One in a Four Part Series called The Glorious Recipe


One of the most common elements in modern cocktails is the smoothing and sometimes insipid sweet element. Learning different methods for sweetening cocktails and how to make your own syrup is an essential step to being able to make quality drinks for your guests when you are entertaining. Here are a few to get you started:

Simple Syrup.

The most basic if the sweet family of ingredients. Simply take equal parts white sugar and water and combine. There is much debate over the merits of hold vs. cold, but I have experimented and am yet to find a difference. I generally take 500 gms of sugar and add it to a pot of boiling water, that I have measured out to 500 mls (bless the metric system.) Take the pan off the heat when you add the sugar, and after about ten minutes and a couple of stirs the liquid should be free of sugar crystals. Bottled, it can be kept under refrigeration indefinitely, but you will most likely blow through the 800 odd mls that result from this recipes in two or three nights of irresponsible entertaining.

Demerara and Brown sugars, plus the new low GI cane crystals can be used, with differences in the way the final product will taste.

A note on infusion. Perhaps my single greatest revelation in mixing my own drinks at home was infusing the simple syrup with the flavors of fresh fruits, herbs and spices. Material should be chopped to small, but not obsessive slices or cubes and left to sit for an hour or more. Adding heat will speed the process but can add a stewed or caramelized note to the flavor that is not always welcome in your finished beverage. Personal favorites of mine are Lemon/Lime, made with peel and juice of each fruit; Ginger, with the skin left on to save both time and sanity; Lemongrass, with the stalks chopped and roughly smashed; Fresh Apple, I have found Fuji’s work particularly well; & Fresh Fig, which is surley one of the foods of the gods. (or god, depending on your stance.) The key here is experimentation, and remembering to remove the organic material with a sieve.


While most modern recipes consider gomme and  syrup the same thing, they are in fact somewhat different. Gomme is made by combing a paste made from equal parts Gum Arabic and water with a 2:1 (less sweet) version of the simple syrup above. Gum Arabic comes from unhealthy trees in the Sudan, it was used in the past to adhere ink to newsprint and is one of the constitute ingredients of jelly babies. It can be found at specialty food stores. 

The principle reason for adding Gum Arabic was to stop the sugar in the syrup from crystalizing with the lack of cold storage. It did have a side effect of adding a silkiness to a mixed drink, something now achieved by the addition of raw egg, making gomme the vegan alternative I suppose. Probably only made for notoriety rather than necessity.

Agave Syrup

Equal parts so hot right now and reviled because of the uneconomic nature of having said syrup slowly crystallizing on the rack, Agave Syrup is a low GI alternative to using Simple Syrup. The product is made from the Agave Plant, or more specifically, it’s core, ‘sweet cactus juice’ would probably be quite an accurate description of its provenance. Agave Syrup does carry a little hint of the sawdusty note found in Tequila, but a Tommy’s Margarita, which is made with this stuff, is possibly the nicest, smoothest, most incredible drinkable elixir I have ever laid my lips on.

Corn Syrup

Basically the reason America is fat, corn syrup is great at making things sweet, and ridiculously cheap to produce. It can be found flavouring everything from your Coke to your Cheetos. It should never sweeten your drink.

Agricole Syrup

Essentially the cane sugar syrup that is used to make Agricole rum. Can be used to great effect, especially if you can buy a bottle of both the Rhum and the syrup it came from. Tikilicious!

Artificial Sweeteners

Are acceptable, but are generally not used in bars due to the pesky nature of the complex chemicals and the way the streak up glassware, even when its put through a high temperature cycle.


Are basically syrups with some booze added.

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Bar, Melbourne, Training

If I were in Melbourne tomorrow…

I’d definitely be going to this, Sebastian is a legend: 

Mixology Management 5 Day Cocktail training Course 

The Mixology Management 1806 cocktail bar training week is conducted at 1806, a fully functional, modern cocktail bar and training facility.
As well as taking students through the basics of bartending and customer service, we educate our participants in all the components of modern cocktails.

Course Objectives and Outcomes
The course is designed to take candidates with little or no experience and prepare them with knowledge and practical skills to comfortably begin an entry level bartending position in a bar or cocktail bar. Our course provides all the necessary knowledge and skills required to work happily, safely and efficiently in a modern cocktail bar.
Students who show willingness to succeed and excel will become part of Mixology Management’s casual and event staff database and will be given opportunities to gain experience. Those students will also have the opportunity for their details and CV to be distributed through Mixology Management’s extensive hospitality venue database and will be recommended for bar positions as they come up. There is no guarantee of work, but there is access to details about Melbourne’s best bars, bar managers, venue operators and advice on the best way to enter the hospitality industry.
There is currently a shortage of skilled bartenders in Australia, most venues in Melbourne are looking for reliable and competent staff, so there has never been a better time to enter hospitality, and there is no better cocktail community resource than Mixology Management.

169 exhibition Street

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