Around the World

A couple of faces were conspicuously absent the launch of Diageo’s Australian finals of World Class last night.

Chris Hysted was busting out cantinero style drinks on the island of Cuba. The man from Melbourne took out third spot in the global comp. Well deserved recognition at a global level.

 The second omission from proceedings was Jess Arnott of Victoria Room in Sydney, who was at that moment in flight as a wild card entry for the G’vine global comp kicking off in Cognac today. Can’t wait to see her name in lights at the end of the week.

Great to see Australasian talent stepping up on a world stage.


David Cordoba has a pretty sweet gig

David Cordoba is the global ambassador for Bacardi. He mixes a pretty sweet daiquiri, knows most of the brand lore and is happiest when is getting a chance to share it.

It looks like now he has been given some budget and a video camera to go and explore the parts of the brand he doesn’t yet have encyclopaedic knowledge of.

Check out this little piece of true originals content and learn a little bit about where the Bacardi story really begins.


The Second Drink of Christmas: The Festival Cocktail

It would be fair to say that as a group, cocktail bloggers aren’t the hugest fans of vodka drinks. Maybe its the fact you don’t get to talk about the lignin phenols that leech vanillin as they age. Maybe its that as a group they got told to by the bar team at Pegu Club, or maybe it’s simply because it was the drink of preference they would have chosen before their very own cocktail enlightenment led them to the boisterous aniseed wrongness of a sazerac with rum switched in.

I myself fell out of love with vodka for a very different reason. I drank a fuckton of it. I was lucky enough to be involved with the development of the 42 Below Vodka brand in China and slung more vodka cocktails than a bartender at the Ivy Pool Club. I drank plenty too.

Anyways, enough about vodka snobs and why I don’t post more vodka cocktails.

The fact remains the neutral spirit is simply the most versatile tool in a bartenders toolset. It lays down with almost every type of tincture, extract, juice or liqueur. It can be lengthened in a fizz or simply chilled down and enjoyed short.

The second drink of Christmas is the Keystone Summer Festival Cocktail. The signature drink of the summer long extravaganza taking place at Keystone venues across the city, and will be the cocktail of choice at the Sydney Festival bars that will also be run by Keystone as part of the Sydney summer festival. For those of you who don’t work in the hospo industry, you’ll know the Keystone venues as Gazebo, The Winery, Manly Wine, the Loft and many more, all listed on their website.

The drink itself is the brainchild one Jason Williams, one time Australian Bartender of the Year who leads the beverage program across these mighty venues and is a champion of the vodka based cocktail in a way little seen among men of talent behind the stick these days. You might remember him from such posts as the Spring Sherry Cobbler which will hopefully be making a comeback as the summer sherry cobbler soon.

Anyway, here’s what he had to say about his creation.

“It’s an easy, tall cocktail with some really fun flavours. The pomegranate packs a flavour punch with sweetness and tartness in equal measure. The vanilla syrup tempers that and the ginger beer not only gives it a spritz, but matches up with the vanilla. It is going to be a winner while sitting out in the sun or checking out a band at Sydney Festival.

Plus I got to order 10 000 branded umbrellas. Fun times ahead.”


Festival Cocktail

GLASS: Highball
GARNISH: Mint, a cherry and a Keystone parasol

45ml Absolut vodka
10ml Vanilla syrup
30ml POM Wonderful
15ml Lemon
Top with ginger beer (house made at selected venues)

Shake everything but the ginger beer and strain into a highball. Fill with ice and charge with ginger beer. Garnish the shit out of it.


The Former Glory

With all the speakeasies, dive bars and bodegas popping up around the city, did you ever stop to wonder what the local drinking legacy was in this, the lucky country?

While the rest of the world was sternly frowning through prohibition, or masking the taste of bathtub gin with lemon and cherries Sydney had its very own scene, as did much of the rest of the country.

The Algonquin Cocktail - Bourbonesque deliciousness

Everyone has heard of the six o’clock swill. Licensing laws called for the taps to close hard on six and pushed drunken angry men home to sit quietly or perhaps beat their wives to a pulp.

Aside from this there were the sly grog joints. Often these were the local butchers or corner store, who hung their tile for the night and poured a warming whisky for any willing to walk in close and whisper the right words. “Is Mum In”

Coopers Big Botts, served in a bag and two for one from five till six on thursdays. wife beatings discouraged

It’s a common misconception that cocktails weren’t being drunk at these times, the Broken Hill rag in the early 1900’s was publishing the results of many a contest and the implements of general cocktailery (shakers, strainers and spoons) were being manufactured for local consumption around that time.

Tequila tastiness, all dressed up in a long glass

For the next few weeks, you’ll be able to experience a little slice of Sydney’s sly grog past, on the second floor of the East Village Hotel in Darlinghurst. The Hotel is steeped in the city’s Underbelly past, having been the watering hole of choice for one Tilly Devine and her crew. The floor of the main saloon was covered in sawdust, and was known to the locals as the Bloodhouse.

Skins, Dips and Dollops - Devine

Chef Adam Spencer has pulled his inspiration from the twenties, serving up some tasty little morsels that nod to the past but play to a Sydney that has developed a decidedly more refined palate.

Soul food for those with some temporal displacement

My pick is the Undergound Mutton Rillettes. Back in the day mutton was the most sophisticated of meats available to your average or not-so Sydneysider. Rabbits and Chickens would be mixed up in the pot and sold as underground mutton to those who couldn’t get their hands on the real deal.

I'll forgo Mutton for the Underground for looks like this

It’s a good slice of escapism for anyone who has been watching Underbelly, or simply wants to drink some cracking cocktails that you won’t find on every list in Sydney. Come drink wine from a teacup, step back in time without the risk of razor attack.

The Former Glory
Second Floor, The East Village Hotel
234 Palmer St, Darlinghurst

Open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 till it’s no longer safe to clamber down the stairs.

(02) 9331 5457

On Google Maps, here.
DISCLAIMER: I am employed by the East Village Hotel to provide them with PR Services as part of my day job as Creative Director at Hill & Knowlton, which just quietly, I enjoy perhaps a little too much. Most of my meeting are at mealtimes to make the most of their ridiculously great food and drink.


TimeOut – Bar Awards 2011

Watch out Sydney, next Monday night is the annual TimeOut Bar Awards.

To celebrate the city’s bar culture, and to launch their brand new 2012 Bar Guide, the Time Out team is set to throw one helluva party at brand new Taylor Square venue, The Standard.

Toast Sydney’s amazing bar culture with fine and delicious cocktails including a Buffalo Trace Maple Old Fashioned, the Patron Perfect Margarita and Green Fairy Original Czech Absinth Wicked Party Punch.

To many eating is cheating, but I for one will be suspending such intemperant folly, as world-renowned chef Lennox Hastie of Spain’s Etxebarri will be at the helm of a one-off pop-up restaurant in partnership with Sydney restaurant gun John Fink (Quay, Otto). Even if that means naught to you, expect some tasty, tasty morsels.

More details, plus the nominees over at TimeOut.

Already convinced? Tickets are $99, there are but 48 left, so get in quick. Purchase yours online here.








The Chocolate Flip

It’s drinks like this that win contests.

The last drink that Tim Philips made in his journey to taking out the Australian leg of Diageo’s World Class was a Chocolate Flip.

My god, it was World Class.


A picture of concentration. Just kidding, that's a picture of Tim

A flip, for those who don’t know, is any wine or liquor shaken up with sugar and a whole egg. There are some out there who will believe that this type of drink is somehow unhygenic, and that there is some type of risk involved in the consumption. While I’ll not be having a ten flip evening any time soon, done right the drink delivers an amazingly silky smooth and rich finish, the consummate parts bound together in an altogether greater whole.

What’s also amazing is that not every flip I’ve had was as good as this one. Miss the double strain and you’ll have stringy eggy tendrils in your drink and between your teeth.

Perhaps the most amazing thing was that Tim managed to produce the beverage without wearing the contents of the shaker.

Robb Sloan buries his nose in the flip.

The Chocolate Flip

An ounce each of Sloe Gin and Talisker (Embury’s recipe calls for Cognac,) a spoonful of sugar and a whole egg. Shake with long sharp shakes and double strain it up or down. Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg.




To have a drink at the best new cocktail bar in the world, you can go to New York, or Darlinghurst.

Heartfelt congratulations to Sven Almenning and the team at Eau de Vie, picking up not one but three nominations in the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards overnight.

These awards really are the global stage and nominations for Best Cocktail List, Best Drinks Selection and Best New Cocktail Bar are a testament to a bar that sets out for perfection and delivers it to both a capacity room and lonely drinks nerd, perched at the bar.

Time to start practicing your Sazeracs and book a ticket to N’awlins boys…

Southern Hemisphere also represented by Naren Young for Cocktail Writing – Author & Sam Ross for Best International Bartender, but you’ll have to visit New York to see either of them.

You can read the full list of nominations here.

Competitions, Uncategorized

Advance Australia Fair

What a great couple of weeks for Australian bartenders!

First, Daniel Gregory took out the Bols Global Cocktail Masters, and possession of perhaps the world’s most tropical trophy with his Highway 75.

The Highway 75

50ml Bols Genever
20ml Bols White Creme de Cacao
15ml Passionfruit Juice
10ml Fee Brother Grenadine
4 drops Orange Blossom Water infused with dried Lavender

Add all ingredients to a vintage cocktail shaker and shake hard. Strain into a chilled coupette. Garnish with a lemon twist and vanilla macaroon on the side.

Next, Andy Griffiths took out the Angostura Trophy in Trinidad. (that’s him on the left)

Rumour has it he got one of the girls out of her bikini and is now wearing it himself, partying down Carnival style in Trinidad.

A truly great result for the land of Oz and hopefully a precursor to more global wins.

Spirit, Uncategorized

Marvelous Mezcal

An idea, a song, a discovery, an invention, may be born anywhere. But if it is to be communicated, if it is to be tested and compared and appreciated, then someone has always to carry it to the city.

Max Ways

New York City has long been a place to set the trends for the industry at large, be it printing, building, fashion, food or fun. In booze terms it still places itself at the pinnacle of cocktail style and that enduring hipster catch-cry, authenticity. The city has a pull on many around this world, its shining towers and grimy streets, the ultimate testing ground for talent and resolve.

While one could argue that the city does not possess the best examples of taste and discernment on show globally, it does without a doubt contain the largest number of individuals willing to part with hard earned dollars to show what taste and discernment they do, indeed, possess.

The latest trend to be called out in a voice so large is the ancient spirit, Mezcal.

Naren Young, Australia’s most successful cocktail scribe and Bar Awards lifetime achiever wrote in January professing his love for the Mexican spirit and talked about how it has been taken to heart by the best and brightest behind the sticks of Manhattan’s best boozers. I’d encourage you to give it a read.

My Antipodean alumni might find themselves a little shocked at this epistle, as the selections in this country do not yet match the levels Young mentions in New York, or the many more to be found in San Fran and the other cities with a much closer proximity to provenance (and potentially a much more likely claim on setting the global trend for the spirit.)

Essentially, Mezcal is indie scotch.

Made for centuries by the various civilizations that have risen and fell on the isthmuth of the Americas, mezcal has its base, like tequila, in pulque. This milky looking liquid is literally the fermented sap of the maguey. To avoid confusion in a very confusing subject area, maguey is used to collectively name the various subspecies of agave used to produce mezcal, where agave is generally used to denote the blue agave which is legally required to produce mezcal’s more famous brother, tequila. Aren’t you glad we cleared that up?

Where the success of marketing tequila has pushed much production into industrial facilities that can slake the thirst of people eating Mexican food around the world, mezcal remains an artisanal endeavour, practiced by small group, usually in individual villages, primarily in the state of Oaxaca.

Maguey are harvested, either from the wild or from small cultivars. The outer leaves are cut down and the pinas are roasted in a ground oven, similar to the Polynesian Umu and Maori Hangi. This increases the smoky flavour and intensifies the earthiness of the spirit itself. The hearts are then mashed under an ancient volcanic stone and left, fibers and juices together to ferment in the open air. Both are then transfered to the still, either copper, introduced by the Spanish in their conquest, or the much older clay stills, thought by some to have been gifted by pre-Colombian Chinese traders.

Much of the modern renaissance for mescal comes down to one man, a New Yorker, Ron Cooper (which adds to the authenticity of the NYC claim)

In the 1990’s Ron visited Oaxaca and was astonished to find fine spirits being aggregated in larger towns, mixed together with the production of many villages in the area and sold cheaply in gallon jugs. He roamed the hills and offered to pay a premium for single village production and started bottling them for sale. Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal epitomises they indie-ness of the category. One of the products, Pechuga, is made with a chicken carcass in the still, which once cooked, decides when the distillation is complete. Tobala village leaves the pina in the earth ovens for an entire month. I have a bottle of the Chichicapa, which I guard jealously.

The worms too, while not the doorway to a pyschoactive world, do impart a mellowness of flavour to the drink and in aged mezcal expressions, a small handful of worms can be added to the barrel. Gusano de Oro and Gusano Rojo, the white or red catepillars (they’re actually not worms at all) that live either in the leaves or pina can also be ground up with chilies & salt to provide an enlivening addition to your mezcal ritual.

I know, I know, this all sounds great. But I am a blogger, obsessed by the effort that goes into the production of great spirits and the stories that surround them. Why should you even begin to give a fuck?

It comes down to two reasons really.

First, the indie nature. No two villages or brands taste the same, there are similarities but each producer has his own way, his own style and his own still. It is a spirit that offers you a connection to a founder, a family tradition and a long history, unsullied by a large and consuming conglomerate (for now at least)

Second, the ingredients. The Maguey captures the flavour of its surrounding. French wine snobs pontificate about the terrior, the taste of place that comes through the wines. With mescal, this unfolds a thousand times. The ten years it can take for a plant to mature exposes it to drought, hardship, bounty and love. The spirit is sometimes called gotas de tiempo or ‘drops of time’

As you savour the spirit, you can feel the time that went into it.

Australians can start to get excited at the upcoming visit of Steve from Ilegal Mezcal to all states in the lucky country, starting in March with Sydney.




Time for Elevenses

Welcome back.

The prevailing Hollywood interpretation of the Mayan calendar seems to hold that our blue green dot is set to shake itself to bits some time next year. As such, there has never been a better time to take up drinking. My friends, make 2011 the year that you  seek out sensual pleasure and revel in it.

When Europeans first crossed the ocean blue, there was a gentleman’s tradition that imbibing alcohol before the sun was over the yardarm was considered uncouth. What is less well known, was that the sun crossed the yardarm at 11am.

The internet is bursting at the gunnels with new techniques, modernisation of classic recipes and well told legends of the birth of many great drinks. This blog can be a (hopefully engaging) window to that world. I hope you’ll visit, read, comment and share some of these stories.

And remember, in an always connected world, it’s always 11 o’clock somewhere.


The perfect addition to your summer festivities.

The perfect addition to your Christmas Feast, backyard matches and lazy summer afternoons. This delightfully kitsch plastic punch fountain circulates your punchy goodness to the top of the three tiers of cascades, the bottom which has handy spigots to fill the hook-handled punch cups.

Yes, it is plastic. Yes, the cups as well are plastic. Yes, it is hideously tacky.

However, at just $19, I reckon its probably the best credit-crunch Christmas addition around. Kiwis can get one for $25, simply head to your local Kmart, or buy one from the comfort of your seat here.

Oh, and if you needed a clincher, those are indeed glowing lights in the base.

I would say the addition of four or five fist sized lumps of ice, and 3 or so liters of a tasty punch this would be a good time all round. I heard a recipe the other day that sounded grand, called Anchor Punch from the fantastic mind of Naren Young. Seven Tiki spiced rum, apricot brandy, juice of limes and guava puree, ginger juice a generous hit of nutmeg. I’m not privy to the exact method, but I’m going to have a play and ask some folks, so i’ll let you know how i get on.

You could also try the Garden Party Punch I wrote about last year.


The 12 Drinks of Christmas

Another year is tearing to its end, in case you haven’t lifted your head from the ledger for the past few weeks, Christmas is upon us.

For booze bloggers it is once again time to post cocktails that fit the holiday spirit, encouraging folks to eschew their fear of raw eggs and try nogs, fluffy sours and maybe even a flip.

Christmas is also a time when new booze comes into your life. Gifts from friends and family, a cheeky bottle of Napoleon brandy from your Nan, a thoughtful bottle of bubbles or maybe just an eleven twenty five of Jack grabbed in a last minute entry from the duty free.

As such I thought I might try a different approach to my holiday postings. I am going to write 12 posts covering what you might consider doing with your newly acquired alcohol collection.

Covering Champagne, Gin, Rum, Tequila, Whisky, Port, Brandy & Cognac, Beer, Bourbon, Vodka, Vermouth and of course those pesky liqueurs. I’ll try and get outside the favourites to the ones that just really work at Christmas, or offer a different way out after you’ve had 34 rum and cokes in a row.

Feel free to link to posts about your own drinks that match the themes, or just bung in a recipe if you’d like to be involved.

Happy Holidays.


Jerry Thomas: Alive and well, and living in Thailand.

I’ve seen both Dale de Grof and Dave Wondrich make a Blue Blazer, and heard them talk about their shared inspiration, Professor Jerry Thomas. There are tales of the man standing behind the bar, with white rats running atwixt his shoulders, as he flung the blue flame from glass to glass in the most amazing manner.

I get the feeling that both Dave and Dale have set the floor alight trying to emulate this feat, and I’ve heard them put it down to poetic license, as had I after setting my hands alight.

Check out this video from the markets in Thailand though, It does appear the laws of physics can be suspended, or at least appear to be, while pouring from glass to glass.

Time to get practicing?


Happy Birthday to me.

Hasn’t time just flown. Exactly one year ago today I started this blog, with a post on Victoria Room. I’ve learnt a lot about publishing on the interwebs since then, so much in fact that I now know that by adding the picture of the cute fluffy cat drinking a cocktail, my blog will soon be an internet sensation. All I need now is a video of a guy hitting himself in the nuts with a drink to truly take me over the top.

The only other thing that might end up getting passed around the net I can think of is a beautiful info graphic containing all the activities I’ve undertaken in the service of this site over the past year. Pretty much have to use Helvetica i suppose…

I hope that you’ve gotten some enjoyment out of reading my take on cocktails and their enjoyment. I love writing this blog and have got some fun new ideas of how to try and get some of you involved a little more in the site.

Must be time time for a cocktail.