A Proper Tonic


It seems like forever ago when I first wrote about Quina Fina. For Australian drinkers though, there is big news afoot, Quina Fina can be found lurking behind some of the best bars in Sydney (as well as at my house.)

Why should you care? Because you should really be drinking more tonic, and in sugar-obsessed Sydney, this is a much better choice than your stalwart Schweppes.

Most of you will be familiar with the traditional Gin & Tonic but you should also be considering pairing up a selection from the aperitif or vermouth sections of your drinking options. I’m loving Campari Spritzers right now. dress up a wine glass at home with a handful of ice and herbs from the garden, a measure of Campari and a splash of Quina Fina. Serve it up with a bottle so your guests can alleviate your heavy or light handedness as required.
Twitter4a8d810_jpgYou might also like to try the Queena Fina, equal measures gin and Dubonnet, tall over ice, topped with tonic and a lemon slice.

From the cavernous mind of Jacob Briars, the drink references HRH and her mothers preference for the delightfully frolicsome interplay between the two core ingredients. Again, typically for a Briars drink it comes with it’s very own historical conundrum over what sort of gin to use. While Tanqueray holds the Royal Warrant (a purchased peerage, rumour has it) the Queen Mother would have developed her taste for the beverage on Gordons, albeit at a higher ABV than currently ships around the globe.

Trying both seems the only sensible solution.

Talk to Vanguard if you’d like this in your bar in Australia, if you’d like this at home you’ll need a friend in the industry or to be willing to endure some Dad jokes. or go to Camperdown Cellars Parramatta rd, Elizabeth Bay Cellars, Salt meats Cheese in Sydney (thanks James)


Rosemary Redux

I’ve been a big fan of the effect that rosemary has on Campari since the official cocktail from Tales two years ago opened my eyes to what can be best described as flavour sensation.

It was with no small measure of excitement that I clocked a six foot rosemary bush growing at the back of the summer holiday home I spent much of my summer escape at. I knew the bottle of Campari would be getting acquainted in no short order.

I put together a thick syrup (2:1) of Demerara sugar and about a cup of chopped rosemary, you could use less, but when you have an abundance, why not…. Leave it to steep for a couple of hours under the warm New Zealand sun before you strain, bottle and refrigerate it.

I had laid my hands on some Italian Vermouth from Dolin as well before heading north along the coast, and the rose petal note I had been enjoying in my summertime Negroni’s seemed like they might make a welcome addition to a more summery interpretation of the Winter Sour. My soon to be mother in law, for whom I was making the drink, seemed to think it worked pretty well.

One for the Mother in Law.

45mls Campari, 20mls freshly squeezed lemon juice, 20mls Dolin sweet vermouth, 15mls rosemary demerara syrup.

Combine all ingredients over ice, shake and strain over a well iced rocks glass. In cases of abundant rosemary, it makes an appropriate garnish.


Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #11: The Boulevardier

I’ve written before about my love of the Negroni and also of Rye Whiskey, so it made perfect sense to combine these two passions in this wonderful drink.

The recipe calls for Bourbon, but increasingly I swap corn for rye in pursuit of a spicier mouthfeel. I’ve also made the drink with the red dipped Maker’s Mark, and while good, the rye wins in the end, at least for me.

Harry McElhone, who wrote it up in Barflies and Cocktails, was meant to have invented it for Ernest Hemingway, presumably while he was in Paris after visiting Spain to fire a couple of potshots at the forces of General Franco. I like to picture him blustering down the streets of the City of Lights, well stoked by a number of these.


  • 45mls bourbon (or rye)
  • 30mls Campari
  • 30mls sweet vermouth

Stir with cracked ice & strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry, or a lemon twist, or an orange slice.

Bar, New Zealand

On Tour: Agents and Merchants

A second little find for me this last weekend in New Zealand was A&M, partner venue to the esteemed Racket, hiding down a little alleyway just off Customs St East in Auckland’s Britomart development.

The laneways here are what is called contrived, like much of Birtomart’s development. BUT, and that is meant to be a big but, the team at A&M have done their level best to make their bar feel as though it is in Melbourne, and not the bottom of a Westpac office building. I believe they have succeeded.

Mid afternoon cocktails, a Corpse Reviver #2 & a Negroni were well made, quickly delivered and tasty as hell. The perfect questions on preference of gin for the negroni and 24 for the CR2 were unexpected but welcome discoveries.  The staff are attentive and friendly, and after tasting the pear, ginger and chili syrup from the team next door, Racket will be getting a visit on my next trip back home.

Perfect for an afternoon with friends and the massive outdoor fireplace means it would be a good hit for winterly conditions as well. Wine also looked great.

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Spirit, Sydney

Salve, Gruppo Campari

0000-2917-5Gruppo Camapri have just announced that they’re opening a Sydney office! They are looking to hire a whole team, from Marketing Director to Logistics and everything in between.

The group owns a largish family featuring a heavier than usual showing of Aperitifs, Camapri (the bitter orange classic), Aperol (made with both bitter and sweet, a slightly smoother experience), Cynar (again, a bitter aperitif, made from Artichokes and featuring one on the label), Cinzano (Italian vermouths across the colour spectrum) & BiancoSarti (the vigorous aperitif, largely unknown outside of Italy). On the spirit side, they’ve acquired Skyy, Wild Turkey, Cabo Wabo Tequlia and a whole range of Brazilian brandies and scotch.

You can find all of the job listings for Campari Australia here.


Friday Fix from Tales – The Winter Sour

Winter SourSomething nice and new to try from N’Awlins. This recipe is by Chris Odeja of Varnish. It belongs to an article from Tales that you can read here, with some home truths about starting a bar. Like all of the drinks recipes, it doesn’t have a method, just a description. So again, this is how I would make it.

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40 mls Campari, 20 mls lemon juice, 10 mls orange juice (both freshly squeezed) 15 mls rosemary syrup. Combine over ice in a shaker and go to work on it. Strain it up or over ice. garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Making rosemary syrup: combine 500g sugar with 500 mls of water. hot, cold, boiled, your choice. I like to boil the water, take it off the heat and then stir in the sugar. Add plenty of fresh rosemary to the mixture and let it steep for at least an hour.

The end result should be a bitter sweet spicy symphony that warms the cockles of your heart.

Good weekend everyone.