Bar, Melbourne

On Tour: The Black Pearl

Last week I jumped a plane to Melbourne for a weekend of shopping, eating and drinking. You know, the things Sydney’s southern sister does so well. Top of my list was a trip to the charmingly disheveled suburb of Fitzroy and Australia’s award winningly best bar, The Black Pearl, to catch up with Australia’s award winningly best bartender, Chris Hysted and the other members of Australia’s award winningly best bar team.

Sometimes when a place wins a slew of awards, things start to fall apart. The foot comes of the accelerator and the drive that propelled them to such giddy heights falls away leaving a sad, lame duck. Painfully mixed metaphors aside, this is most certainly not the case with the Pearl. Perhaps because there has seemingly never been a foot on the accelerator, but more likely that the bar is stocked with fine spirits, both in the bottles on the back bar and inside all the staff, the Pearl delivers a level of comfort that’s hard to come by and pretty much impossible to fake.

This then, is place to feel at home.

The bar itself is a tardis of soft seats and couches, but if you’ve come as a one or a two, take a seat at the bar, hang your coat and bag on the hooks under the counter. The bar team are all tremendous fun, the patrons a close second and if there is a tiny moment you’re not fully engaged, the cycling CCTV screen can prove to be entertaining.

Continue reading

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.


UPDATED: Jim Beam Small Batch Bourbon

Jim Beam Small Batch Bourbon I received a very special little present yesterday. The newest in the line of small batch bourbon’s from Jim Beam. I am a big fan of Basil Hayden’s and this bottle at least matches that. It was even signed by the Fred Noe, 7th Generation distiller of these fine Kentucky bourbons.

This latest small batch has port added to the spirit. The small batch website hasn’t been updated to talk about this new release, so I’m not sure as to how much port has been added, but the spirit still carries 40% ABV so I’m guessing not much. If you’ve tried the port finished Glenmorangie, which is single malt finished in a port cask, the addition of liquid port is noticeable in the Jim Beam product, but it works very well.

I’ve just been contacted by the Jim Beam team here in Sydney. This little beauty has been developed out of this market, which is why it doesn’t make an appearance on the website. Hopefully that means that it will only be sold down here, adding to the modest haul of great products that are exclusive to, rather than excluded from, this market.

Anyone who has tried a Ruby Manhattan before will know that port deepens the cakey, sugary, fruity flavours in a good bourbon. This bottle from Jim Beam certainly delivers on that front with a complex, rich, almost Christmassy flavour to the spirit.

The bottle is the same as the one used for the Knob Creek, and the wax seal feels very plasticy. Unwrapping it uncovers what looks like a piece of duct tape and I ended up cutting of the bottom part of the wax, as it just seem to get in the way.

You’ll forget about all of that as soon as you smell the product though, so let’s not get too hung up on the little things.

It makes an excellent Old Fashioned with Peychaud’s bitters and a truly wonderful Manhattan with an amazing colour and one of the richest spicy finishes I’ve ever been lucky enough to experience. It’s very well distilled, and the port makes it incredibly smooth.

At $46.99, this is the bargain of the Small Batch range. You can pick it up online here as well. Shipping Australia wide. This would be the perfect little glass to be leaving out for Santa this Christmas Eve, just don’t be surprised if the bottle is gone by morning.


Woodford Reserve

Picture 15

Bourbon is all about the good old days; plantation punches, juleps for breakfast and Colonel Sanders as the pinnacle of sartorial excellence and refinement.

A lot has changed in the South, but the Labrot & Graham’s Old Oscar Pepper Distillery is still producing small batch bourbon under the Woodford Reserve banner. Each bottle is labelled with both a bottle and batch number.

Others will unpack the nuances of taste, I will say only this, the very best Manhattan and Sazerac I have ever tasted were made with Woodford reserve.

Just in case that wasn’t enough to make you buy a bottle or call your order, it’s also the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, and makes a mean Julep.

You can buy it online in Australia here.


Bookmark and Share

At home, Cocktail

Manhattan (Perfect)


60 mls Blanton’s Gold Bourbon, 15 mls dry vermouth, 15 mls sweet vermouth.

Add all ingredients to a shaking tin over ice, stir between 12-15 rotations, trying to make all the ice move as one. strain it all into a martini glass and luxuriate over this delightful cocktail. A twist of lemon will finish this one beautifully.

Bookmark and Share