Cider, Cocktail

The First Drink of Christmas: The DeCider

I’m a huge fan of a nog at Christmas, but I do accept that the antipodean summer climes don’t suit raw eggs and cream heavy drinks particularly well. An alternative to the Northern nogs has been thunk up by Ed Loveday of the Passage in Darlinghurst.

The Batlow cider it uses is a drier drop than many of the sugar heavy bottles that have hit the shelves and shores of the lucky country of late and plays nicely with the herbaceous characters of the Noilly and the Yellow Chartreuse.  There are also not enough opportunities to add a start anise to a great looking cocktail.

The DeCider

40ml Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka
15ml Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
10ml Yellow Chartreuse
20ml Lemon Juice
1tsp Sugar
Dash Egg White
1 Star Anise Pod (Garnish)
Batlow Premium Cider

Combine all liquids (except for Batlow Premium Cider) in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Cover and shake hard. Strain out, and return to mixing glass without ice. Dry shake (without ice) for 45-60 seconds. Pour into wine glass and top with Batlow Premium Cider. Garnish with a star anise pod.

Bar, Sydney

The Flinders Hotel

Step over the pile of fixed gear bikes and past the bearded über swede in the crochet poncho, brush the past shoulder length hair out of your way, push in beside the tall, skinny cat, in tight jeans and a fur stole at a darkly lacquered bar covered in graffiti, some inspired, a lot not. You have arrived at the Flinders Hotel, now under new management.

While things do look as though a hipster bomb has gone off, don’t be put off if you’ve opted out of following the global fashion lead of trust fund babies channeling Kerouac in Williamsburg, beyond the shadow of Manhattan and her towers of finance. The Flinders delivers in wonderful, daggy charm.

Everything comes in a rocks glass or bamboo, but don’t let this apparent lack of polish fool you. The Laird’s Applejack Sour, a rarity on Sydney streets & the Nuclear Daiquiri were polished and supreme. The herby hint of my favourite green liqueur, Chartreuse, making this my fast favourite drink in the limits of this city.

A pleasant surprise on the other side of the bar, with the ladies outnumbering the men, perhaps the rarest experience in the Australian bar scene, especially at the pointy end where good drinks matter.

Arrive early if you want to carve your name for poserity or posterity. Arrive later if you’re looking for a achingly cool crowd and some of the coolest tunes I’ve run into this year. A 5 am closing means coming much later, when there simply are no other options is also on the cards.

I’ve heard talk of a boutique hotel and restaurant to open upstairs too.

63 Flinders St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia (02) 9356 3622

On Google Maps here.

Bar, Sydney

Pocket Bar


It’s time to leave Surry Hills and visit Darlinghurst. The coolest place in town no longer sits amongst the agencies and junkies. Happily you won’t have to tramp too far Sydney’s newest den of iniquity, walk north along Crown until you cross Oxford and the road falls down the hill into Darlinghurst (or the East Village, if you’re trying to be specific.) Right there on the corner of Burton St, you’ll find Pocket Bar.

It seems like everyone is writing about the fact the small bars are about to spring forth all over the city and we are about to enter a new era of drinking pleasure. Pocket is one of the first manifestations of this phenomenon, along with the Pond, Chingalings and Low 302, just a few steps back up the hill.

Pocket offers a gaggle of Frenchmen, assisted by a few great floor staff and an engaging and polite doorman (a real surprise for this city) I loved the cocktail list, where the Manhattan was listed with three base bourbons, at three price points encouraging a level of experimentation and education that has been ignored at most bars. The originals on the list make interesting reading as well, after a short perusal, I went for Cherry Aviations for the boys and the Rossini, which bears more than a passing resemblance to my Tokyo Strawberry Bellini.

The cherry Aviations were good, if a little sweet, but that’s the dominant French style, and since the Aviation is a bit of a personal favourite, I was always going to be looking for issues. The Bellini’s were quickly followed by a second round, and the Manhattan was bang on.

The walls are covered in graf styled illustrations. The place feels good, and the door policy keeps it full but not packed. The food looked great and I’ll be back to get amongst some crepes. Everyone in the place seemed to be drinking bottles of Tiger, which in a country with as good a beer selection as Australia seemed a little odd, but maybe its some hipster insider thing that I’m not privy too.

I liked it and I’m definitely going back.

Find pocket on Google maps here.

Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

Café Pacifico


Tucked in the wrong end of Darlinghurst, close to William St and a short downhill stretch from Oxford you can ascend a red staircase to the gods.

A crowded bar on most nights, packed to the gunnels on weekends, Phil Bayly provides the cities best collection of 100% agave tequila. Book for dinner, but arrive early enough for just a couple of libacious treats before you sit to eat. First on my list would have to be a Tommy’s Margarita, a heavenly mix of tequila, limes and agave syrup. It is quite simply one of the best drinks in the whole wide world. The bartenders here are great, so try anything with a reasonable degree of certainty. There’s a great selection of rums available behind the bar as well.

A visit would not be complete without taking a seat for real great Cal-Mex food. order liberally, add a few jugs of Magrarita or Mexican Sangria to keep everyone pounding along. The Fajitas are awesome, order a few different things to share.

Stay for the nightly shots, sangrita and streamers accompanying cheesy tequila tracks.

A great night all round.

95 Riley St, East Sydney NSW 2010, Australia
+61 2 9360 3811

Google map here.

Bar, Cocktail, Sydney

Low 302


This cosy little gem hides out amongst the Gaslight and the back alley’s of little Oxford. An expected find on my nightly walk home and a talked about venue by all the people who’ve told me they’re in the know…

Low 302 is quite close to the cross of Oxford and Crown, on the Surry Hills side, evidenced by the clientele and their clinging black jeans. A smart, small space with a bar inside, six or so tables  and a piano to sit around, four tables out the front, one of which that will take 6-8 of your closest friends with ease.

The list is good, and the bottles behind the bar speak of a venue that is trying for something special. I kicked off proceedings with a Tequila Manhattan, Herradura and sweet vermouth, garnished with a delightful port soaked cherry. Smoky, dusty, rich all poured up into an elegant glass.

My crew turns up and we are seated outside, the smart design of the terrace makes the most of being outside, while keeping you out of the busy Crown St Friday night menagerie. Table service is provided, but for a venue with so few tables, it seems to take a while to get drinks back outside to us. I follow up with a Negroni, with almost everyone else hitting the Pimms and Ginger Ale, which comes looking a bit sad and missing the cornucopia of fruit and leaves that it will, at best, be festooned with. The Negroni is as it should be, perfectly diluted and marvelous; equal parts gin, vermouth, campari and effort.

Dinner plans interrupted further investigation of the list, but I can say without hesitation that I’ll be back.

302 Crown St, Darlinghurst
Drop them an email at or give them a bell on (02) 9368 1548

Google Maps here.

Bar, Beer, Melbourne, Sydney

The Local Tap House

1039-2They say the best thing out of Sydney is the road to Melbourne, and anyone who has enjoyed the fantastic drinking culture of Sydney’s southern sister would be inclined to agree.

Lucky for Sydneysiders, Melbourne’s best is filtering to the top and making the long journey north to our benefit.

One of the newest Melburnian exports is the Local Taphouse. This boutique beer hall serves a stack of truly fantastic Beers from the tap. $15 $13 gets you a six beer tasting platter and a bloody good time.

The taphouse also runs a blog, just to keep you up to date with all things cold, bubbly and amber coloured.

The food looks good, and if my glowing endorsement isn’t enough, get a load of what is currently on tap:

Got a powerful thirst? Get along to 122 Flinders St to quench it.

Google Map

ANZAC special on Saturday, Microbrews from NZ and Aussie, really good, hard to find stuff. Come and play some two up! You might even find a Pink Elephant….

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Bar, Cocktail, Sydney

The Beresford

the-beresford354 Bourke Street

Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Tel: +61 2 9357 1111

Google Map.

The money spent on fitting out this grand structure is supremely visible. The quality of the finishes from the front bar, the bathrooms downstairs and the outdoor courtyard are stunning. I hear good things about the restaurant, and the food did look stunning. The menu is available on the website.

Happily the quality is matched behind the bar, with a fine selection of hard to find spirits and bar tending nouse ensuring that any libation that crosses the bar is tasty, balanced and well presented.

Blake Head, another fine kiwi export, whipped me up a great little drink to unwind a busy day at the office, the South Gin Southside. The Beresford has a vodka southside on the list, but my preference is for the extra lift that gin imbues. South Gin is made in New Zealand, by the same guys that make 42 Below. It is a very soft gin, meaning the hefty kick of juniper prominent in most English gin is softened considerably. The liqour is distilled with a couple of native botanicals, namely kawakawa and manuka.

The southside is essentially a gin sour. 3 parts gin, 1 part gomme (sugar syrup), 1 part fresh lime juice. About six to eight leaves of mint are added before the mixture is shaken, strained and served up. garnished with a mint sprig.

The taste is both sharp and cool, the mint hangs on your breath and the drink will also stand up to being made with something a little heftier, say a Beefeater perhaps. Probably not one to stay on all night, but a great way to freshen the senses before a meal, snack or another beverage.

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Bar, Sydney

The Victoria Room

Old World Elegance

Old World Elegance


Level 1, 235 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Sydney, Australia.

+61 2 9357 4488

Google Map.

Up a set of awkward but seemingly authentic warehouse stairs, lies Sydney’s Victoria Room

A stylish eating and drinking affair, the room gets a little crowded, so either get there early enough to get a seat or a pice of the bars real estate, or get your game face on and stare down any number of on-the-cusp tweentie somethings to mark your territory.

I started proceedings with a Rittenhouse Manhattan from the house list. A very generous measure of Rittenhouse Rye, stirred over ice with Cinzano Rosso. It was a smoky wonderful treat, perfect for cutting through the lethargy remaining from my meal. 

Rittenhouse Rye Whisky was originally launched upon the repeal of Prohibition by the Continental Distilling Company of Philadelphia , and was subsequently acquired by Heaven Hill Distilleries, the nation’s largest independent family-owned spirits producer and the second largest holder of aging American Whiskey in the world.

For a follow up, I ordered one of my favorites, the Aviation Cocktail. I prefer mine with Tanqueray stirred over ice with just a dash of Luxardo Maraschino Liquer and around 10 mls of fresh lemon juice. Strained up in a martini glass and icy cold is the way to drink this one.

Traditional recipes may call for the addition of Creme de Violet or as much as 15 mls Maraschino, but I find this overly floral and sweet. The drink originates from the prohibition era, when the gin was made in bathtubs, served in teacups and needed a lot of hiding. Use any of the new style premium gins and you’ll find this a delightful experience.

Overall, the Victoria Room was an average experience, with an overcrowded bar and long waits for service being offset by friendly, engaging staff. I’ll go back and try it again, hopefully on a quieter night.

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