Bar, New Zealand

The Golden Dawn

Hospitality has a new home in the Auckland Supercity and it’s called the Golden Dawn.

New Zealand has been nuclear free since the triumphant proclamation by Rt Hon. David Lange that New Zealand ports would no longer welcome U.S. Ships either powered by reactor or carrying nuclear weapons. Despite this, there was a tiny location that flouted this stance; The Open Late Café gained more than a trifling reputation with the city’s drunk and degenerate for serving Nuclear Nachos among their daily fare. Conjecture reigns on the presence of actual radioactive materials, but opinion is generally behind their assignation as toxic.

You’ve come this far dear reader, so allow me now to make my tenuous link, so slightly alluded to by the otherwise extraneous paragraph above.

This erstwhile nuclear hotspot can be linked again to a New Zealander 0f rare wit and courageous repartee. Mercifully free from Lange’s obesity, (but with his recent visits to Fergburger this may be all about to change,) and claiming a leftist position while his actions speak to more firmly rightist economics, I speak of course, of Jacob Briars, Bon Vivant, Brandsman and now a Man of Business.

Jacob has teamed up with Sam Chapman; a ghost from his Matterhorn past and Stephen Marr, hair stylist to the starry universe that is Auckland’s gleaming elite to open doors to the Golden Dawn. Rock-stars all.

Named for, or possibly nothing at all to do with, the Ancient Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a quasi pagan, path-to-spiritual-enlightenment-and-keys-to-the-magical-kingdom-type arrangemnet, who have been sucking in the dregs who couldn’t make it as part of the Masons or had been put of the Ka’balah by Madonna’s wrinkly hands.  If this type of thing interests you, I’m sure Jacob will be happy to make up a farcical story to keep you entertained, or perhaps it is actually all real, and if you slip behind the fireplace down the darkened alley you’ll find a secret loose brick with Benjamin Franklin’s spectacles, a lost Da Vinci Manuscript, the last shred of Nicolas Cage’s acting talent and Dan Brown’s penmanship, or maybe none of those things ever existed.

Names aside, the space is broken into two areas. Inside a DeGroff regulation bar, 42 inches high with a 4 inch foot-rail runs along one wall, with tables along the other which can be folded down for evening that are filled with that particular  brand of revelry that only the finest cocktails and accompanying hospitality can provide.  Outside a second bar, the pinkest toilets in Christendom and ample outside seating take the space from good to overwhelmingly great.

Food is going to be limited but tasty, and served in enamel ex-Prison department plates. Vegetarians will be well cared for, given Jacob’s leanings. Nuclear Nachos too, are rumoured to be making a comeback.

The drinks then. A fantastic list, daily punches, and perhaps tghe first time in my life I have been drawn to a mocktail, with the Lapsong Sour. Designed for the local set, cocktails that won’t necessarily nail you to your seat, but instead add a warm glow to the quick walk home to the villa, the family and another tasty home cooked meal.

Here’s a Dec 10 draft of the list so you can get the idea, the prices are in New Zealand dollars, so unless you’re a global superpower who has horribly devalued your currency through financial market racketeering and quantitative easing, they represent tremendous value:

Cocktail Menu – The Golden Dawn

December 2010

House Punch – $10

Long before the Cocktail became the bar staple, taverns and eating houses the world over would offer a bowl of ‘Punch’ to guests. Like most great drinking rituals it was designed to be shared.

We make up a different Punch daily, reflecting the seasons, notable events of past and present or maybe just our mood. Prepared before service and served in the traditional fashion – small glasses, a communal, flowing bowl, at a lovely price. Best enjoyed as a halfway house between the trials of work and the pleasures of home. Come early to ensure you get your chance to pull the punches.

Blackboard punch eg: ‘Fish House Punch’

Martell VS Cognac, dark rum, peach brandy, lemon juice, sugar, water.

Tried and True Classics

Some drinks stand the time for good reason – they are just very, very good, and better than anything we’ve yet come up with. For December, a list of fresh easy classics that can be enjoyed as a respite from the rigours of the party season.

Hallertau Boilermaker – $15

Traditionally the ‘boilermaker’ was an American ritual for men who did far more taxing manual labour than you or I. Their after-work ritual was more about quality than quantity, but we offer both.

We are lucky to be able to offer Auckland’s own Hallertau beers, delivered fresh and enjoyed on draught as they were supposed to be. We offer a glass of chilled Hallertau with a small glass of our spirit of the month.

For December, smooth amber Hallertau No 3 with a glass of Appleton’s Extra for a summery pick-me-up.

Americano – $12

The fore-runner of the bartenders’ favourite, the Negroni, this is a pleasant taste of Olde Europe that is wonderfully refreshing yet complex.

Campari, Martini Rosso, juicy oranges, soda water.

Pimm’s Punch  – $15

James Pimm kept an oyster house in the middle of the City of London, and his ‘cup’ became famous across the city as the best glass to be enjoyed with oysters and whores by men who enjoyed oysters and whores. We like our Pimm’s long and refreshing and laced with a little gin, as we lie back and think of England.

Pimm’s, Beefeater gin, summer fruits, ginger ale and refreshing cucumber.

Lagerita – $16

Tequila and beer, together at last. As ‘Chopper’ Read might have said, ‘I love a Margarita, but do they make ‘em for men?’ We do, as this modern classic from LAB bar in London shows. Hello, summer!

100% agave Cuervo Tradicional, agave syrup, fresh citrus, Hallertau pale ale, over ice.

Floridita – $15

A classic Cuban cocktail from the Golden Age of that country’s cocktail craft, and unlike the Mojito this drink has not been rendered passé by a thousand marauding hens’ parties. Unlike the hens, this is a marriage made in heaven. Rum and lime softened with elegant sweet vermouth and a hint of chocolate.

Havana Club, sweet vermouth, chocolate liqueur, lime, grenadine.

Sangria – $15

Forget what you think you know about Sangria and glasses of terribly sweet red punch enjoyed in Spain or in bars pretending to be Spanish. Our Sangria uses fresh fruit, good wine and is enlivened with a little rum and Grand Marnier for good measure.

Finest cheapest red wine, Stolen Rum, Grand Marnier, fresh citrus, Angostura bitters, soda.

Moscow Mule – $15

Our desert island drink.

42 Below vodka, lime, ginger beer, cucumber.

Aviation – $16

The Martini may be more famous but for our money this is the best pre-Prohibition cocktail yet to appear in a James Bond film. Clean and invigorating, a drink that makes you smarter. Icy-cold and enlivening.

Plymouth gin, maraschino liqueur, crème de violette, lemon juice, house-made brandied cherries.

Aperol Spritz – $15

The classic aperitivo of the Veneto region, a light and sophisticated drink for the early afternoon or later if you keep Venetian hours, as we do.

Aperol, white wine, soda, a chubby olive.

Proper Gin with Proper Tonic – $10

We use top quality gin with Wellington’s own Quina-Fina! Tonic water, which is made in the traditional way with hand-harvested chinchona bark, together with organic lemons and cane sugar. More refreshing than any gin and tonic you’ve ever had before.

Tanqueray gin, lemon, Quina-Fina! Tonic water.

New to You

Some of these cocktails you may be familiar with, some you may not, some are new classics and others may one day be. The best are lifted from our favourite bar menus around the world from bartenders far better than us, others are our own which we hope you’ll enjoy just as much.

Newton – $12

Apples two ways, laced with stronger stuff that may inevitably exert its own gravitational pull.

42 Below vodka, mint, apple, elderflower, Hallertau organic cider.

Batanga – $12

In a small old bar in the town of Tequila sits a small old man who creates this tasty drink on a daily basis. Don Javier Corona blends tequila, cola and lime and stirs it together with a knife because even at 84 years old, he’s the baddest bartender on the planet. We’re not that bad but we do add a little Kaitaia Fire because everything tastes better with hot sauce.

Sauza Hornitos tequila, fresh lime juice, Kaitaia Fire, Phoenix organic cola.

Corpse Reviver Number Blue – $15

Blue drinks went out (so to speak) with Tom Cruise but we are bringing them back in this electric twist on a classic from London’s Savoy Hotel. Perfectly balanced, icy cold and good at any hour of the evening/morning.

Plymouth gin, Lillet Blanc, blue curacao, lemon juice, absinthe, lemon peel.

Boulevardier – $16

v. One who walks the streets, particularly of Paris.

Supposedly there was an Italian nobleman called Count Camillo Negroni who liked his Americano (see above) strengthened with gin. This story, though repeated as fact by generations of bartenders is nonsense, here instead is the forebear of the Negroni; a complex, grown-up way to start or end an evening.

Maker’s Mark bourbon, Campari, Martini sweet vermouth.

Penicillin – $18

The first classic drink of the 21st Century, created in New York’s best bar by the city’s best bartender (who of course is Australian). A splendid marriage of whisky with ginger, honey and lemon, finished with the most powerful, smoky Islay single malt. A cure for whatever ails you.

Ballantine’s, lemon, honey and ginger syrups, Laphroiag.

Trindad Sour No.2 – $15

An insane amount of Angostura bitters with Trinidadian rum and orgeat, finished with lime. Full of Christmas cake richness and with all the goodness of Dr Johann Seigert’s famous curative bitters.

Angostura bitters, Stolen Gold rum, orgeat, lime juice.

Hemingway’s Special – $12

The grumpy writer. Who worked only in sentences. Like this was a famous drunk but. Occasionally he showed discernment, such as in. His choice of evening refresher inspired. By Paris.

Martell Cognac, lemon, soda.

Falling Water – $12

Hailing from Wellington’s Matterhorn, a New Zealand classic, if there can be such a thing. A refreshing marriage of our own Feijoa vodka with Ch’i mineral soda, easily the best thing to have emerged from Glenfield since Rachel Hunter.

42 Below Feijoa, Ch’i, cucumber.

Frisco – $15

Many of our favourite things hail from San Francisco, including Bullitt and this forgotten cocktail. Rye whiskey and lemon, sweetened with glorious Benedictine and bitters, served up in the classic fashion.

Jim Beam Rye, Benedictine, lemon juice, lemon peel.

Sherry Cobbler – $12

This may have been the first Cocktail ever to be drunk in New Zealand, for it was first recorded as having being made in Richmond, Nelson in 1851. For 150 years it fell out of fashion but this was the Mojito of it’s day and it deserves to be in the spotlight once more. We use solera sherry muddled  with fresh fruits, served over ‘cobbled’ ice.  Smooth and soothing.

Hidalgo Cortado sherry, summer fruits, sugar, lemon.

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

There are many reasons to choose drinks without alcohol, and we respect most of them. Whatever your reason, we don’t consider these drinks to be an afterthought and have tried to offer grown-up flavours that are crafted with as much care as our ‘spiked’ drinks.

Porch Lemonade – $8

Old-fashioned Lemonade made in the traditional American fashion, often never made in America any more.

Fresh lemon juice, cane sugar, lemon juice, chilled water, lemon peel.

Bambina – $8

Fresh, floral, tart lemons muddled with summery elderflower cordial and mint, and the cooling taste of cucumber.

Elderflower, cucumber, lemon, mint, soda water.

Iced Tea – $8

Not how it’s drunk on Long Island. Properly flavoursome tea with lots of lemon and local honey, over ice, cold and refreshing.

Chilled organic Green Tea, lemon, mint, honey.

Stromboli – $8

Juicy and easy on the eyes and on the mind.

Pineapple and cranberry juices, peach, bitters, lemon.

Lapsong Sour – $8

The unique and smoky taste of Lapsong Souchong tea balanced with lemon and sugar. Like a Lagavulin for drivers.

Lapsong souchong tea, fresh lemon, sugar, optional free range egg white.

No question, the must visit venue of this Antipodean summer.

134 Ponsonby Rd, Auckland.

On Google Maps, here.

Bar, New Zealand

On Tour: Mea Culpa

Tucked beside Snatch on Ponsonby Rd, Mea Culpa is the sort of bar I wish I had downstairs from my house. Tucked away just a few doors down from the very beery but popular Chapel and Crib metropubs on Ponsonby Rd, Mea Culpa is a world class gem of a cocktail bar.

Five coffe coloured pages hold the cocktail and wine list, chock full of boozey goodness. Any venue that lists the Corpse Reviver #2 gets a high score in my book, and the addition of La Floridita #4, a selection of tribute drinks from around the world and across the centuries, plus a number of tasty well crafted originals put this place over the top. This is a place where drinks are truly crafted, served in a handpicked glass and presented with nothing but love.

A good bar experience rests on the crew your hanging out with and all signs were pointing to yes on Saturday night. A Professor of Vodka, the father of Power Dub, a seasoned water and wine exporter, my gorgeous girlfriend, a bloke in a super cool F<3NK t-shirt and a currently unemployed ex-TGIF bartender.

Outside seating is at a premium, but the carpet on the pavement makes it feel like it should be. I ordered the Consilieri, an absolutely delightful mix of Makers Mark, Almandine (that’s Amaretto to you and me) a spritz of Angostura (sorry UK) shaken well with the white of an egg to achieve velvety heaven. Happily the drink was originally made (and the one i drank) by none other than my tablemate and companion, Jacob Briars, during his previous incarnation as the bartender at Motel in Wellington. I also snuck a sip of the Miyagi Mule my girlfriend had ordered, a refreshing mix of vodka, cucumber and a pleasing hint of wasabi.

If you’re in Auckland, this has to be one of the stops you make while you’re in town.

3/175 Ponsonby Road
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