A Proper Tonic


It seems like forever ago when I first wrote about Quina Fina. For Australian drinkers though, there is big news afoot, Quina Fina can be found lurking behind some of the best bars in Sydney (as well as at my house.)

Why should you care? Because you should really be drinking more tonic, and in sugar-obsessed Sydney, this is a much better choice than your stalwart Schweppes.

Most of you will be familiar with the traditional Gin & Tonic but you should also be considering pairing up a selection from the aperitif or vermouth sections of your drinking options. I’m loving Campari Spritzers right now. dress up a wine glass at home with a handful of ice and herbs from the garden, a measure of Campari and a splash of Quina Fina. Serve it up with a bottle so your guests can alleviate your heavy or light handedness as required.
Twitter4a8d810_jpgYou might also like to try the Queena Fina, equal measures gin and Dubonnet, tall over ice, topped with tonic and a lemon slice.

From the cavernous mind of Jacob Briars, the drink references HRH and her mothers preference for the delightfully frolicsome interplay between the two core ingredients. Again, typically for a Briars drink it comes with it’s very own historical conundrum over what sort of gin to use. While Tanqueray holds the Royal Warrant (a purchased peerage, rumour has it) the Queen Mother would have developed her taste for the beverage on Gordons, albeit at a higher ABV than currently ships around the globe.

Trying both seems the only sensible solution.

Talk to Vanguard if you’d like this in your bar in Australia, if you’d like this at home you’ll need a friend in the industry or to be willing to endure some Dad jokes. or go to Camperdown Cellars Parramatta rd, Elizabeth Bay Cellars, Salt meats Cheese in Sydney (thanks James)

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.

New Zealand

Global Product Exclusive: Quina Fina Tonic Water

I mentioned in my tribute to Prof. Jacob Briars that he was looking to add a little effervescence to the tonic market. On my recent trip across the Tasman, I was lucky enough to try the first production run of this fantastic little product.

Quina Fina refers to the highest grade of Loxa or Crown Bark available to European commerce during the Colonial Period. You can read about all that here in an 1854 manual of natural medicinal extracts, should you wish.

I digress however, from the purpose of this post. The tonic itself is rather grand, my sample was a touch low on the presence of bead, a malady that should find remedy when production runs are the same size as the vat in which they’re mixed.  The taste is less sweet than most, with a conscious choice to cut the level of sugar. Balance is achieved by the addition of more Quinine, the end product nestles into Gin like the Colonies to Mother England’s bosom.

Any of you who’ve ordered  Gins & Tonic in an Asian nightclub or a Stripclub will be aware that Quinine fluoresces in the presence of UV light. It is a mark of the sheer volume of the bark extract that Briars has included that his product has a hefty bluish tinge in the presence of an overcast Auckland evening. The brown bottle, more than a point of visual difference, protects these elevated levels to ensure anyone lucky enough to be sipping one of these beauties outside will experience this angels touch. Golden Dawn at 134 Ponsonby Rd might be a good place to start…

Currently you’ll only find this gem behind the bars of the finest New Zealand watering holes. Jacob’s entrepreneurial flair should see  distribution increase directly, so keep a vigilant watch and ask your trusty bartender. If you do find it, they’ll give you the rest of the bottle alongside your drink as part of the ritual.

Plymouth was delightful in a pairing with my sample, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays with a host of others over the Christmas period.

Legends of Bartending

An era ends, but there are certainly some new beginnings too.

Professor Jacob Briars has spread the 42Below brand right across the globe.  His trainings, his sharp tongue and fantastic barside manner have won him the enduring love of a generation of bartenders around the world.

Yesterday marked the end of an era for both Briars and the brand, with his announcement of his final day inside the fold. The New Zealand offices for the brand have passed back to founder, Geoff Ross and his new Ecoya venture, the brands direction resting now with the Princes of Darkness in Bacardi Global Brands in London. The Professor’s departure seems like the final piece of kiwi madness has gone from the now global product.

Jacob is rumored to be offering some advice and support to Stolen Rum, adding some effervescence to the Tonic offerings with Quina-Fina and given his love for Wellington and kiwi products, there’s sure to be more from this erudite young man soon. He’ll also be basing himself in San Fransisco for the medium term. My fingers are crossed that he’ll solve Australia’s, or at least my, mezcal shortage.

He’ll also be back with 42Below for a swansong performance at Carnival of the Cocktail next year.

Those of you lucky enough to be in Auckland this Friday will get the chance to experience the first of the now ex-Professor’s ventures. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he is opening a bar. Called the Golden Dawn, Jacob has paired up with Sam Chapman, of Matterhorn fame to bring a craft beer and tasty cocktail venue to life.  You’ll find me there, chugging down Lageritas. 134 Ponsonby Rd, the old Open Late Cafe premises.

For any of you who don’t know Jacob, he has spent the last decade travelling the world, spreading vodka love and collecting an extremely grand spirits collection.  I’m told the back bar at the Golden Dawn has been supplemented by this trove.

Competitions, Event

Are you Spirited?

It’s just on a month until Tales of the Cocktail kicks off in New Orleans and I’m already three days late in pointing to the nominees for this years Spirited Awards.

Just in case you’ve not heard of Tales before, the conference is the shining light of the global cocktail calendar. It combines makers of fine drinks with the makers of fine spirit, those who hone their pens and twist their prose, the few and mind passionate enough to chase their passions around the world. Held in New Orleans, it is Mecca to the faithful, with Sazeracs.

There’ll be a few Australians and Kiwi’s making the journey and I’ll be channeling their coverage, thoughts and hopefully a little from behind the scenes.

Back to the awards.

Hat tips to Naren Young, once at the leading the bar at the Matterhorn Bayswater Brasserie and now up for recognition of his writing, most of which you’ll find on imbibe; Sam Ross, once of Ginger in Melbourne and more lately of Milk & Honey, NYC.

Also a tip to Jacob Briars, up for Global Brand Ambassador against some mighty company. Well deserved, best of luck and hopefully being a judge will help, pity Angus and John are judges too but.

*changes due to the Professor’s sharp eyes.

Cocktail, Event, MixMarch, New Zealand

MixMarch #25: The B&B

The second drink that Simon Difford made at his Masterclass session was the B&B. A fusion of vodka and tequila, the B&B is named for Professor Jacob Briars and Julio Bermejo, of Tommy’s Restaurant in San Franciso.

The drink features another of Simon’s soon to be released range of cocktail bitters, this time Lavender. It also uses Agave Sec, a Triple Sec sweetend with the syrup of the fruit of tequila itself.

The B&B

30mls 42Below Manuka Honey vodka, 30mls Herradura tequila, 22.5mls Agave Sec, 15mls lime juice, 3 dashes Difford’s Lavender bitters. Shake over ice and strain up.

Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #17: The South Ireland Sour

No, there hasn’t been a terrorist attack, it St Patrick’s Day. A day for everyone on earth to pretend they’re Irish, hang up their moral compass and run naked through the streets of common sense. In Chicago, they like it so much they’ll poison their rivers with “organic” food colouring. In order to properly honour this day of days, I present to you, dear reader, The South Ireland Sour.

This drink is the brainchild of Jacob Briars, enfant terrible of the international bar cheffing community, voted second most likely to blow up the Houses of Parliament by his year 2 classmates and 42Below‘s Professor of vodka.

Briar’s came up with the idea for the drink whilst undertaking a walking tour of Ireland’s bog snorkelling arena. Up to his eyeballs in Bog Violet and tadpoles, the most unusal pairing of Feijoa and Guinness entered his mind, and stayed there, despite numerous attempts to scour it out with Bushmills at a Cork Hotel later that evening.

It was not until Jacob made it back to New Munster that this curious recipe got to see the light of day. And so it was, at the 2007 Cocktail World Cup in Queenstown, New Zealand, the drink was shook. And poured, and supped.

The first remarks were “that has the look of filthy pondwater” quickly followed by “that’s a hell of a drink”

So, go on, get a little Irish in ya.

The South Ireland Sour*

Take equal parts Guinness, 42Below Feijoa Vodka, Simple Syrup and fresh lemon juice. Add a dash of fresh egg white. Ice and shake like you’ve lost ownsership of all your lands and you’ve naught to eat but pa-tay-tas. Strain up. Obvious garnish choices would include a four-leaf clover, a leprechaun or the false hopes of a technology led economy.

*Just in case there’s Americans reading this who otherwise might miss the witty subtext: Cork, where the drink was conceived is in the county of Munster in the Emerald Isle. The South Island in New Zealand was once called New Munster, by our first Governor, William Hobson, largely due to the abundance of pots of gold and wee folk. By using the words ‘South Ireland’ for a drink made in the ‘South Island’, Jacob has alluded to the connection between the two places and the ingredients in the beverage. This is what is called a homophonic pun, but has nothing to do with gay rights. It is exactly this type of considered, intelligent wordplay that prompted the North Seatoun Bowling Club, Domino Shack and College of Cardinals** to award Jacob his Professorial Degree.

**I realise this name is quite a mouthful and sounds a tad made up, in all honesty though, it is proof of what happens when a mixed member proportional system of government, devised by an invading power and meant to cripple a country, is instituted in a small shire like New Zealand. Special Interest groups quickly combine, unholy trinities result and the next thing you know, Winston Peters is the country’s Foreign Minister.

P.S. Should any of you plowed on this far, prepare to reap the reward of your efforts as I weld one more tenuous link in the chain that has become this article and link the drink with the otherwise incongruous photo the beginning. Before it was named New Munster, the South Island had another name Te Wai Pounamu, or, The Waters of Green Stone. Which links nicely to those green waters at the start. No loose ends here then, move along.