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.


Thomas Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey

Thomas H. Handy used to sling Sazeracs in New Orleans. He must have been good at it, because Buffalo Trace have named a special release after him.

The Rye is uncut and unfiltered, I believe the bottle I tried was the 2008 bottling, but there are also 2006 ones out there too. It forms a part of the Trace’s Antique collection of Bourbons. While I never understood why the Buffalo is left off of the greatest liquors these guys unleash, this certainly is a fine product. Like all rare booze, it’s the ones that are no longer out there on the market that are the best, the ones from 2000 & 2001 are whispered of online.

There is a little talk out there on the web about only 22 barrels of this elixir being bottled, and it certainly not something I just run into everywhere. It will cut a wedge out of your wallet, but it is a tasty way to see it go.

There is a bottle at Sticky, here in Sydney.


Wanting what you can’t have.


Angus Winchester posted this picture on his facebook and it got me thinking.

First, I thought, I wish I was a troubadour, traveling the world, spinning lyrical on the wonders of Chartreuse, sampling and mixing fine drinks. Most importantly stumbling across delightful little gems like the three experimental bottles pictured above. They come from the Buffalo Trace Distillery, two are whiskeys, aged in Zinfandel barrels, for 6 and 10 years respectively; the one on the right is a 17 year old rum, something of a peculiarity for a boutique Bourbon distiller. There was obviously something unusual in the water running through Franklin County in the early 90’s.

For a good ten minutes I hated Angus, the envy of this discovery lingering in my throat like the finish on their whiskey. Then as I thought about it more, I decided there was something worth writing about here.

For a long time, alcohol brands were products. A consistent, reliable spirit that could be tried again and again, shipped in quantity around the globe. The experience was as much about the local you were in, glass in hand as was where the product had come from.

The google culture we live in now has changed that, search, and the value we place on finding out the story has led to a proliferation of special, crafted brands that succeed through word of mouth and the advantage of their scarcity.

These experimental editions of Buffalo Trace amount, to me at least, to great branding. Brand is no longer about the product, but about the connection and showing the passion and creativity of the team at the distillery builds another channel of communication to the core audience. It’s not trying to be better than their core offering and in my view it only increases the value of the standard product.

I only hope more producers take note of this and start to share little gems of thinking and love.

I’ll certainly write about anything like this.


The Sazerac

The Sazerac CocktailThe Sazerac is one of the world’s oldest recorded cocktails, there are many stories about its origin, but the modern version we drink today must be made with Peychaud’s Bitters. These Bitters were made by a Creole gentleman who arrived in the late 1700’s to New Orleans, and was commercially producing them in 1830. Bitters produced around this period were considered tonics for health and vitality, and traveling apocatheray and snake oil salesmen. They were sold mixed with cognacs, brandies and whiskeys as an ‘enlivening tonic’

The strict Sazerac is made by icing and washing a rocks glass with absinthe. Another rocks glass, or boston is used to contain a Peychaud’s Bitters soaked sugar cube, a generous measure of Rye Whiskey, Buffalo Trace, who manufacture Peychaud’s, offer Sazerac Rye as an original approximation, but the aforementioned Rittenhouse Rye would do just as well. The recipe does not stipulate the addition of ice to the mixture, but it undoubtedly makes for a smoother, more pleasurable experience. The absinthe soaked ice is discarded and the drink is served straight up, with a twist for a garnish. 

The best example of this drink I have ever come across was at Tara57 Cocktail Lounge in Shanghai, mixed by Lee Linford. It contained half a measure each of Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Martel XO cognac. The glass was washed with real czech absinthe and was made as a gift for my donation of my bottle of Peychaud’s Bitters before leaving Shanghai to move to Australia. 

They say free drinks always taste sweeter, but this was magnificent.

The Sazerac is a wondefully complex and strong experience, when made well it is also supremely balanced and a true classic.

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