Bar, Melbourne

On Tour: Sousoul

One of the things I’ve found to more true than anything else as I’ve moved through bars, sampling drinks and talking to bartenders, is that a list of twisted classics usually should be avoided.

Classics became just that because of the fine memorable taste the mix delivered. Take inspiration from the recipes sure, but you can’t improve on perfection.

Or can you?

On the mini crawl Jason Chan took me on after dinner at his, Sousoul was one place he’d mentioned a couple of times. The cocktails and their quality came up again as we crossed Chapel street and ducked down Greville St, beside the clocktower. As he popped his head into the new outpost of Ladro Pizzeria, next door to Sousoul, I’ll admit I was thinking “I’ve been drinking stuff you can’t buy anywhere, how is any cocktail meant to follow that?

Making it the door we were met by Nathan, our consummate host, Jason recommended and ordered the Chocolate Sazerac (below). The smoked cocoa is a triumph in this drink, I’m not sure if it has the fabled ‘wrongness’ of the rye and anise match in the original, but I’m sure Matt Preston would pull out his new favourite phrase “it’s yum yuck, a triumph” before hurling the glass at the back wall.

Well done Sousoul, one from one thus far.

My eyes didn’t get much further down the list before my eyes rested on the Aviation in 2010 (below).

Fuck with the classics, be my guest, but the Aviation is my personal favourite, opening a good gin up with citrus and the funky sweet lick that maraschino brings. Frankly I don’t care if they used to drink it with Creme de Violette. Most of the new liqueur approximations of this floral throwback stamp out any of the subtlety of the simpler ‘modern’ version (although none of my books have a violet version, isn’t that the Blue Moon?) Sousoul have updated the cocktail but my three ingredients are the ones in the glass.

That’s a tremendous tick in my book.

The boys behind the bar have captured an essence here. The Creme Yvette’s that are coming in the second wave of production are greatly improved. Adding it to the liquid in the glass might be dicey, so what’s the other option?

At Sousoul, the other option means spherification of the liqueur in a tidy little caviar spoon on the side. After the astringent brilliance of a perfect Aviation in the glass, these purple pearls wash your mouth with sweet floral goodness, ready for the next rinse.

I loved it. It is exactly what it set out to be: the very best Aviation you could put up.

I’m thinking of driving down again this weekend, just so I can have it again. If you are in Melbourne and only are going to have one drink, this, in my opinion, should be it.

I stand by what I said. Don’t fuck with the classics, unless you can do as well as this.

160 Greville Street, Prahran, VIC, Australia, 3181 (03) 9529 5670

On Google Maps here.

Cocktail, Spirit, Sydney

Moore’s Vintage Dry Gin

GIN-700mlOne of the real gems that I found at the Bar Show was Moore’s Vintage Dry Gin, produced only an hour’s drive (on a good day without traffic) outside of Sydney at the St. Fiacre Distillery on the beautiful central coast.

Handcrafted by self proclaimed wizard of the still, Philip Moore, this Vintage Dry Gin is the product of a sevenfold blend of vapour infused distallates. These are produced in a Carter Head still.

Now you may have noticed a level of explanation that I don’t usually go to, and there is a very good reason for that. There are only reckoned to be five operational Carter Head stills on this green earth and guess who has used one to produce a delightful, delicate Gin that has taken the world by storm? who else but Hendricks, of course. They too blend a number of infused distillates together to create their masterpiece.

Where Hendricks could be taken as a Scottish thumbing of noses at the bastions of English Gin conventions, Moore’s is an unashamedly Australian affair. A strong and pleasantly oily citrus base of grapefruits, Tahitian limes and wild limes from Queensland forms the base flavour and takes it towards Tanqueray Ten or Beefeater 24 territory. Setting this Gin firmly on its own in the marketplace is the addition of four Australian botanicals. Cinnamon Myrtle, Coriander seeds, Illawarra Plum and Macadamia nut give a very different finish, smooth, subtle and pleasurably different.

The branding is a bit crap, it certainly doesn’t do the product inside the bottle justice and with my marketing hat on it’s going to be tough for the brand to have the sort of success that Hendricks has, with the way its speaking now.

However, you should still find yourself a bottle, because (1) its great to have a local product that has been made this well and tastes this good, (2) you can be the cool kid introducing something before everyone knows about it, (3) It will be amazing in a long G&T or Collins this Sydney summer and (4) you can’t buy this in America (and with FDA approval of non-US native botanicals being what it is, you maybe never will be)

Philip Moore also produces a range of Australian liqueurs (38.00), which are on sale alongside the Gin (49.95) on the St. Fiacre Distillery web store if you can’t find it in a local store, or make the trip up the coast.

There’s a reason I mention the liqueurs. I’d like to update a David Wondrich cocktail to make something a little more local.

The Central Coast Classic.

60 mls Moore’s Vintage Dry Gin, 10 mls Native Plant Spirits Mandarin Liqueur, a couple of dashes of Fee’s Rhubarb Bitters. Give that a good stir over ice in a tin, and strain it over a couple of big ice cubes in an old fashioned glass and I have been garnishing pretty much everything with the peel of those amazing blood oranges that are in season right now.