Bar, Sydney

Vasco. Go.

254864_366744006749117_2098921301_nSmall bars have been the making of Sydney’s nightlife in the past few years, as licensing limits have fallen and allowed those whose passion exceeds their bank accounts to get into the business for themselves.

Seeing curated concepts come to life is an utter joy, and nowhere is that more true than at Max Greco’s Vasco on Cleveland St in Surry Hills. The awesome rock’n’roll space is covered from top to bottom in ephemera, from the drum kit built over and around the bar, to the fender stools or the record on the roof. Max has always had one of the biggest personalities in Sydney bartending, and with Vasco the venue, experience and drinks positively radiate his essence. A few drinks in, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re inside Max, in a totally platonic way of course.

The drinks are excellent, from fruity lady-killers laced with tequila, to my favourite listed drink in Sydney today, Coffee & Cigarettes. Greco’s World Class partner behind the bar, for now at least, came up with this incredible beverage, tying coffee infused gin with bitter amaro and oranges. The on-the-rock drink is everything i’m looking for in a glass.

The snacks too are epic, homestyle inspired italian favourites. The gorgonzola smothered polenta chips haunt my dreams, calling in their sweet siren song for my return.

Vasco is one year old today. Take a date, and Max’s shameless flirting will break the ice on even the most awkward of outings, take a client and get the cred for an out of the way gem, take your parents and they’ll love the vignettes to their youth and the boozy connection to your present.

Go tonight.

Vasco. 421 cleveland street surry hills nsw 2010 australia | map

 

 

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Event

Making drinks and not just getting a suntan

Diageo Reserve World Class Global Final 2013 - Day 6 - Bartending Challenges

The winner has been announced, and it is not Luke Ashton. Making the top eight is a huge achievement and one he should be proud of, and Luke also was named winner on the Tapas challenge at the awards ceremony a few hours ago in Barcelona.

I can’t wait to hear from Luke about his experience and what his bar is going to look and feel like. I’m sure he’ll be buzzing after an epic few days on the Love Boat.

David Rios from Spain took out the overall title and I’ll write about him shortly.

Anyway, I’ve been chasing images of Luke actually making some drinks and I’ve finally got some. Enjoy.

Diageo Reserve World Class Global Final 2013 - Day 6 - Bartending Challenges Diageo Reserve World Class Global Final 2013 - Day 6 - Bartending Challenges Diageo Reserve World Class Global Final 2013 - Day 6 - Bartending Challenges Diageo Reserve World Class Global Final 2013 - Day 6 - Bartending Challenges

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Awards, Competitions

This Guy is World Class

1011778_10151724959668689_760137718_nHe made great drinks, he won a hundred grand and in a few weeks time he’ll be on a mother fucking boat.

Huge congratulations to Luke Ashton on taking out the Australian finals of Diageo’s World Class tonight in Sydney. You can get a drink off him at Vasco on Cleveland St in Surry Hills, and soon at his new bar. Can’t wait!

Huge props as well to the Gourmantics, for this photo and many others, by far the fastest photo journalists in Sydney if not the world. I’ll write a feature on Luke’s dronks once the shots come through from the PR agency…

 

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Cocktail, Competitions

Is one of these cocktails worth $100,000?

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The World Class summer round  came to its conclusion  with 12 bartenders from around Australia as is fast becoming tradition, on a motherfuckin’ boat.

The overall quality of the drinks, the presentations and the event itself had stepped up from the previous year, and the addition of the American Cocktail with Bulleit Bourbon was simply the tastiest damn thing ever.

I wrote a couple of months back that Diageo have put up a hundred grand for the Australian winner this time around and you could see that the call has been answered by the bartending community with some well thought out drinks that certainly bring the brands to life in the mouths and minds of drinkers.

There were plenty of standout drinks, but this is a post about winners, and the folk who’ve done enough to be in the running for the big prize.

First up, let’s talk favourites, and mine was the Modern Love cocktail from Luke Ashton, of the Roosevelt.

The use of a unique acid (extinct Phosphoric), the ability to customise the drink in the masculine or feminine, the allusions to the perfume industry and the techniques in common with the botanical production of modern Gins like Tanqueray 10, the glassware and technique on a rocking boat were all great. I’m not sure it had the boozy hit or history that the rat pack category was meant to elicit but rolling the hint of Parfait Amour around my mouth I’m not sure it mattered.

Luke Ashton_Modern Love

Luke Ashton_Modern Love_2Next in line, Jessica Arnott from Portneo with her rockabilly twist of a drink, 1956.

A bottled cocktail and very much on trend, with a real connection to the essence of the venue she now manages, the drink comes either as a tasty Old Fashioned or optioned up with a series of upgrades. The ginger beer and dulche de leche float was a cute idea that would have shifted drinks in venue, if being a little long for my own slightly more boozy tastes. Jess has stepped it up from last year and I can’t wait to see her shine in the finals next year.

Jessica Arnott_1956 an American 2 Jessica Arnott_1956 an American

The Ron Zacapa After Dinner Drink was taken out by Christian Blair from Eau de Vie in Sydney. A gorgeous looking serve that managed to still taste of dreamy boozy goodness despite the load up with creamy additions. Christian had a good confidence behind the bar booth boatside, and it’ll be good to see him shine in the extended format at the finals.

Christian Blair_Finca La Perla Zacapacino Christian Blair_Finca La Perla Zacapacino 2

Which brings me to Krystal Hart from Canvas in Brisbane. The story behind the Beholden Martini was tight, connected to the brand but not just a retelling of the Nolet story, I’m also a sucker for a meat garnish and the pickled herring was unexpected but totally refreshing after 10 or so drinks on a less than mirror glass flat Sydney Harbour. She’s gained a lot of confidence since last year, and she’s got a creative flair that will make her a real contender come finals time.


DWC Brisbane Oct 2012DWC Brisbane Oct 2012

While the quality across the board was better than last year, I’m not sure there was a Tim Philips amongst them. That said, none of these guys have had the benefit of being exposed to the Global Finals and the knowledge of just how good the other bartenders who will be travelling (potentially to San Fran?) from their home countries for a shot at the title and the benefits it confers.

There aren’t any bad drinks at that global level, just great, really great and insanely great ones. It might have been the cash prize on offer but it seemed like the nerves were heightened at a few stations round the room. In Rio, all the competitors could stand behind an unfamiliar bar, with a  TV camera in their face and an absolute fucking bartending legend sitting in front of them, and make it feel like it was their bar, performing a comfortable, confident shtick while banging out a tasty beverage.

I’d also love to be surprised a bit more. The training program that Diageo has in place is insanely and award-winningly great, but I wonder how much the tasting notes and trainings are pulling people into a very samey set of flavour profiles in terms of end drinks, all the while using some complex and beautifully crafted spirits.

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That said, the only qualifications I’ve got to make the criticism above is that I’m obsessed by great drinks and love to share stories about them. If I learn anything from being a judge at World Class, it’s how far away I am from being able to conceive and present drinks of this standard. It’s not going to stop me from trying, or accepting kind invitations to be involved either.

Also, big props to Diageo and Behind Bars for continuing to raise the bar with this competition, for opening it up to the public to be involved, for backing off the spammy social media that irked a few last year and most of all for believing enough in the creativity, passion and talent of Australian bartenders to put up 100k for one of them.

The Gourmantics have got some great photos of the consumer part of the event here.

 

 

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