Legacy by Angostura

Is the bottle in middle the world’s most expensive bottle of rum?

It is certainly pretty special by any account.

A select blend of seven of the brand’s most special and rare liquids have been bottled to celebrate 50 years on Trinidad’s independence. They have been aged in once used American Oak ex-Bourbon casks at the Angostura facility in Trinidad. The youngest rum has been aged a minimum of seventeen years. It all sounds rather tasty really.

The product of a six year experiment in blending, the Legacy arrives in a quite incredible decanter, made by Asprey, the Prince of Wales’ jeweller.

There are only 20 bottles available around the world, and only one available in the lucky country, it will be auctioned and the expected price will be in excess of $25,000

If I’ve piqued your interest, the online auction will be held by Langton’s, Australia’s leading liquor auctioneers from Friday 29 June and closing on Friday 13 July at 6pm.

I’m going to get a taste of this apparently, so look out for a second post covering what exactly a $1000+ tot of rum tastes like.


David Cordoba has a pretty sweet gig

David Cordoba is the global ambassador for Bacardi. He mixes a pretty sweet daiquiri, knows most of the brand lore and is happiest when is getting a chance to share it.

It looks like now he has been given some budget and a video camera to go and explore the parts of the brand he doesn’t yet have encyclopaedic knowledge of.

Check out this little piece of true originals content and learn a little bit about where the Bacardi story really begins.


The lady has a beautiful nose

What an absolute treat to get to spend a few hours with Lorena Vasquez on her recent visit to Australia. The lady whose palate, nose and passion are behind the Ron Zacapa 23 Solera and the XO.

This was Lorena’s first visit to Australia, having tried and failed to get approval to visit during the last bar awards. It was definitely worth the wait. Lorena has the type of deep familiarity with the processes of production and answered each of the question the team threw in her direction. I’ve written before about Ron Zacapa and their extremely complex Solera aging and blending processes and thankfully I had managed to get the basics right just on research.

I did pick up a couple of other tidbits as she spoke extremely in depth about her rum.

Guatemalan law requires barrels to remian sealed for at least a full year when they are aged. Each barrel is sighted, signed and sealed by a government representative. There is an age statement written on the barrel as well. The official gets changed every few days so there is no chance that the full year aging can be avoided or interfered with.

Partial year aging is possible, but only if you are not “aging” the rum. The upcoming Zacapa Black release, which is finished for a partial year in a heavily charred barrel is a perfect example. The finishing stage is not to age the rum, merely to flavour it, so this practice sits outside of the legal framework set up to govern rum production in Guatemala.

Sugar cane honey is a slightly caramelised form of sugar cane juice. Lacking a sugar refining industry, Guatemala does not have a ready supply of molasses. The refinery is some distance form the fields, so the producers cook the juice to remove water and facilitate transportation.

Some of the barrels are extremely important. Lorena said the bourbon barrels weren’t important, and while she wouldn’t name producers of sherry in Spain, or the cognac producers in France, but she would say that they prefer to deal with the smaller houses as the big ones are just too hard to deal with.

There are more great things coming. Lorena and her team are constantly experimenting with new styles, so expect more new products to come out of the House in the clouds soon.

The final part of my time with Lorena was a blind blending test. She married a selection into an interesting savoury blend. Ever the perfectionist she worried it wasn’t up to scratch, but seemed happier when she was allowed a measure of the Solera 23 to even out some of the more glaring aspects in the much less smooth rums she had been tasked with playing with.

Cocktail, Wine

The first drink of Christmas: Champagne

“Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, content and sufficient champagne”

Dorothy Parker

Like no other product, Champagne epitomises a collective celebration. Weddings, success and life’s little highlights, the bubbly amalgamation of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier is seen by many as the perfect accompaniment to good old times. What happens however, if you’re lucky enough to have a glut? There are certainly many out there who would believe that there is no such thing.

Regardless, here are a few options to get you underway. These will work just as well, and in some cases greatly improve the product if you’ve got Methode Traditionelle or something else that bubbles.


Perhaps the greatest aspect of the now quasi-religious holiday is that drinking becomes socially acceptable or even expected before the traditional 11 o’clock start point. Hitting the heavier stuff might not be such a grand idea, especially if you’re entertaining an older crew. Cut back the booze with some fruity goodness and get the day started right.

Mimosas & Bellinis

Mimosas mix bubbles and juice together. At the most traditional, use orange juice. I’m always astonished by the number of people who will mix a fifty dollar bottle of bubbles with a two dollar tetrapak of OJ. Show your guests a little bit of love and squeeze the juice fresh. The results will be better than you’ve ever imagined.

1/2 glass Fresh OJ, top with Champagne. For something a little brighter combine 10mls Grand Marnier with 20mls Fresh OJ.

Bellinis call for a puree of fruit. The Italian who came up with the drink used fresh white peaches, if you’d like to do the same, be aware that if you try and make the puree ahead of time it will oxidise and turn a funky brown colour. You could try adding an anti-oxidising agent, like lemon juice, but you’re best just to do it the laborious old fashioned way, to order as they are needed.

1/3 glass White Peach puree, top with Champagne

With both of these, there is huge room for experimentation, use whatever local, ripe, amazing fruit you can get your hands on. The Tokyo Strawberry Bellini is worth a crack too.


Personally, i think lunch is the absolute perfect time for a sparkling glass. But if you must have something that’s been adulterated, let me suggest the Imperial Mojito, The French 75 or perhaps a delicious punch.

The Sparkling Ginger Daisy & The East Hollywood Sparkling Sangria over at Sloshed! also are going to be making it on my Christmas drinks list.


While the classic Champagne cocktail is a great way to start any night, I’d also recommend changing the Gin for Cognac in your French 75. Alternatively, try this:

Ritz Cocktail

22.5mls ounce Cognac (Hennessy), 15mls Cointreau, 15mls Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, 15mls  Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice,  Champagne (approximately 90mls) stir all but the Champagne over ice, strain up and top with champagne.   Garnish with a flamed orange peel



Cocktail, Legends of Bartending

So you’d like to make a Mint Julep?

I managed to get each step of David Wondrich’s Jim Beam Black Julep on Monday. I think it makes a good story, and shows each part of the compounding process in turning out a pretty epic drink.

Mint Julep

You’ll need: Some fresh mint, more is always better than less. Sugar, water, bourbon, rum, ice, mallet and a bag. You’ll also need a straw, and a silver julep cup wouldn’t go amiss either. I never said it was a simple process.

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Ron Zacapa 30th Annivesary

The two most popular posts on my blog are for the Solera 23 and the Centenario XO from Ron Zacapa. Partly because of its contribution to my stats, but mostly because of it’s unbelievably smooth finish, the brand has become one of my firm favourites.

There will be some out there who say the rum is more liqueur than spirit. They will say the mass produced column stilled products of the Caribbean offer a truer interpretation of what rum should be. They might even be right.

Whatever your feelings on the subject of what the best rum in the world is, Zacapa is undeniably very special. This is their most special product. It is Ron Zacapa Centenario 30 Anniversario. Identified by the blue label on the traditional glass bottle with the pecate relief that the XO come packaged in, and delivered in a velvet lined blue box with two custom commissioned Reidel crystal glasses, this bottle is so rare it’s almost a myth.

Most bottles give up a little history when you start down a path of research. Not so this one. Bottled in 1996, 30 years after the brand’s inception, the blue labeled bottle predates the blog powered liqoursphere that holds much of the worlds information of all aspects of things alcoholic. Jason told me it is actually 23 yr old Zacapa, as opposed to Solera aged Zacapa that contains rum as old as 23 years. It does lack a little of the Limousin that the XO carries, so it could potentially be the right answer.

One of the interesting little snippet I found in trying to find definitive answers on this bottle was a fella who’d talked to a company that analysed the Zacapa product and noticed a higher than expected percentage of heavy alcohols, usually present because of pot stilling. The guy also talked about the fine press sugar syrup standing a lower proof run in the still and carrying across more of the flavour (and sugar, presumably) which might be why it tastes a bit more liqueury.

Good luck finding one of these. I’d suggest a standing bar in Tokyo, or the Japanese end of eBay would probably be you best bet.


Mount Gay Tricentennial

A Rum of Rums from the Rum that created Rum. Only 3000 bottles of this, purportedly the finest of Caribbean spirits, were released to market in 2003, to commemorate the 300th Anniversary of the Barbadian brand.

Inside the bottle is a master blend of Rums from 1969, 1974 & 1976. Interestingly for a distillery that claims 300 years of history, these are the oldest stocks they have. Conveniently they can blame Piracy for any losses I suppose…

The rum itself is extremely fine. The Mount Gay standards of Vanilla, Coffee and Bananas are there, the slight nuttiness too. The scent is absolutely intoxicating and both it and the taste have a depth that is only matched by the finest aged spirits. Utterly and completely delicious.

As for purchasing one, they occasionally come up online, and I’d be happy for anyone to share a link in the comments. For Sydneysiders, there is a single bottle perched atop the shelf in Duty Free. Supply being what it is they’re asking $2,500 for it, a ten fold increase of the release price.

Is it worth it? Well price is always a subjective measure. As the existing bottles are drunk, supply diminishes. What is inside is the pinnacle of a distillery that has tremendous experience, a worthy addition to any celebration.

Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

The Rum Diaries

Last Friday I made the trek down the Bondi Rd to get around to doing something I have been meaning to do for some time. Visiting the Rum Diaries.

If I’m totally honest, I was going with more than a small sense of trepidation, having been told that the service had slipped, the place had gone downhill and things just weren’t what they used to be. That said, I had picked the restaurant and I was going to stick by it.

Overall verdict for the night: They absolutely nailed it. I don’t where all those naysayers were talking about, but they obviously weren’t at the same place I was.

We got the fantastically beautiful table cocooned in wood just by the door, and while the service can be a touch slow to come to attention I felt it matched the style of its surroundings, Bondi is a laid back sort of a place. I ordered The Planter’s Punch for the table and asked our waiter to order for me on the food. The Punch was great, not oversweet or strong, the lists said serves two but four would probably be more accurate. The passionfruit syrup in it makes the drink.

The food was wonderful, and while this is very much a blog about drinking, it would be remiss of me not to mention the scallops and the special of the day, seared tuna sashimi. Amazing, perfectly cooked, flavourful, delicious. James, the owner joined us for a quick drink and a few words about the spiritual home of his fledging cocktalian empire (re:love also runs white revolver & cream tangerine in Bondi) He obviously loves what he does, and the staff pick up when he is there leading things from the front. The food is a sharing concept, not quite tapas, but very familiar. It lends itself to a boozy, chatty dinner very well.

Mid-meal we sipped on hand shaken daiquiris, tart and strong not over sugared. A touch later Blazers hit the table, overproof rum mixed with freshly grated herbs, spices and peels. The story was spun that the drink is from Prohibition days, which my experience with Dale deGrof tells me is incorrect and about 80 years late for Jerry Thomas’s gizzard shaker. But a less informed or cynical group (like my guests) lapped it up. The tatse is like christmas, rich and deep. Warming to even the coldest soul.

We finished on Ron Collinses, the balanced mix of rum, sugar and citrus, teased long with soda. served in glass tea/punch cups. Again, balanced.

My sum up: If you’re looking for a relaxed place with good drinks, tasty, well prepared food in a room full of well dressed 20-30 somethings, this is your place.

I will be back to try the rest of the list and to sit outside by the phonograph, a smile on my face.

288 Bondi Rd, on google maps here.

Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #12: The Bumble Bee Cocktail

This drink comes from the second volume of Charles H. Bakers Gentlemans Companion. Charles was a bit of a legend, travelling the world, partying with both royalty and ruffians and documenting it all in neat prose.

The Bumble Bee is a really lovely drink, silky smooth, with a wonderful balance of sweet, sour and strong that opens up the flavours in the rum. It might just be my favourite non tiki rum drink.

The Bumble Bee Cocktail

60mls good quality rum (I used Mount Gay XO), 2 tsp honey, 2 tsp egg white, 2 tsp fresh lime juice.

Add the rum and the lime juice to the drink and stir in the honey until it dissolves. Spoon in the egg white, ice the glass and shake hard to make it fluffy and delightful. Garnish with a couple of drops of Angostura, the peel of an orange and a flower to attract a real bumble bee.

I think this might be the best shot of a cocktail I’ve ever taken, by the way.

Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #8: Alamagoozlum

Okay, so the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and the recipe isn’t exactly what you’d call a “standard”. It comes from f Charles H. Baker, Jr.’s  The Gentleman’s Companion or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask, published in 1939.  Baker described this cocktail as:

“J. Pierpont Morgan’s Alamagoozlum: the Personal Mix Credited to that Financier, Philanthropist & Banker of a Bygone Era.”

I’ve included this drink as in a post GFC world, JP Morgan simply has less to play with, like the man and his enduring Bank, Northen Hemisphere bartenders must also do without, as they are held on rationed stocks of Angostura Bitters, the addition of half an ounce to a Cocktail would seem indulgent to the extreme.

The drink itself is different to be sure, but I reckon it does actually work. The Genever should be the Oude variety, as it really needs the malty kick. The bitters deliver a real Christmas cake feel, backed up by the Chartreuse, Curaçao & the Rum. I think this is one I’ll have to roll out again when I track down some gum arabic and  get round to mixing up a batch of old school gomme.

The Alamagoozlum Cocktail

60mls genever gin
60mls water
45mls Jamaican rum
45mls yellow or green Chartreuse
45mls simple syrup
15mls orange curaçao
15mls Angostura bitters
½ egg white

Yield: 2 large or 3 small cocktails
Shake very hard over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glasses.

This cocktail and the wonderful photo come from the amazingly colourful, well-read & considered Sloshed.


Bacardi Reserva Limitada

bacardireservalimitadaIf you’ve visited this blog before, you’ll know I’m a big fan of a good story and an even bigger fan of using special products to promote a brand.

Last night at the Sydney Rum Club, the boys from Bacardi bought along something that’s pretty special. Bacardi Reserva Limitada.

This rum is the jewel in the crown of Bacardi’s rum empire. Aged rums are blended after as many as 16 years languishing in the Caribbean sun, the result is a rum not quite as robust as Bacardi 8, and not quite as smooth as Ron Zacapa Centenario XO. Reserva Limitada wins the race in terms of how fine a spirit it is. Subtle, with nary a trace of heads nor tails, Bacardi’s masterpiece is comparable to a cognac or a great grappa, it is distillation at it’s finest.

Where can I buy a bottle? I hear your say. This wonderful rum is only available at two locations (although the guys from Bacardi Lion claimed only one.) Both are are fair trek from this, the Lucky Country. Your options are  (1) The Bacardi Distillery in Puerto Rico and (2) The Bacardi Store in Nassau. You will save yourself a whole 5 bucks if you’re in the Bahamas.

I think it’s going to be a while between drinks on this one. I’d love to try it in an old fashioned with some Fee Brothers orange bitters.

Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

Café Pacifico


Tucked in the wrong end of Darlinghurst, close to William St and a short downhill stretch from Oxford you can ascend a red staircase to the gods.

A crowded bar on most nights, packed to the gunnels on weekends, Phil Bayly provides the cities best collection of 100% agave tequila. Book for dinner, but arrive early enough for just a couple of libacious treats before you sit to eat. First on my list would have to be a Tommy’s Margarita, a heavenly mix of tequila, limes and agave syrup. It is quite simply one of the best drinks in the whole wide world. The bartenders here are great, so try anything with a reasonable degree of certainty. There’s a great selection of rums available behind the bar as well.

A visit would not be complete without taking a seat for real great Cal-Mex food. order liberally, add a few jugs of Magrarita or Mexican Sangria to keep everyone pounding along. The Fajitas are awesome, order a few different things to share.

Stay for the nightly shots, sangrita and streamers accompanying cheesy tequila tracks.

A great night all round.

95 Riley St, East Sydney NSW 2010, Australia
+61 2 9360 3811

Google map here.

Spirit, Sydney

Name the Rum

Barrels_Warehouse C

The Sydney Rum Club have an interesting little contest going at the moment. They have turned their hand to making Rum, and have produced a barrel of the stuff to help Sydney’s drinking public to understand the process of making and aging the sugar spirit. You can purchase a share of the barrel for $50, getting you access to tasting as the Rum ages and a personalized bottle at the end of 12 months when the Rum is deemed ready. If you want a shot at saving yourself $50, you can submit a name for the Rum, and win yourself a share. Send in your names to rharris@intermedia.com.au and get in the draw.

I’ve submitted an entry.

Governor’s Downfall.

Rum has been a part of the Sydney tradition for as long as european settlement. By the start of the 1800’s,  free settlement was creating pressure for the Australian penal colony to be treated as a partner in Britannia’s realm. The Governor, William Bligh, failed to convince her Majesty’s Treasury to provide appropriate currency to provide liquidity to the fledging economy. A barter economy quickly developed, teasing development outside the mandate and tax system, culminating in the Rum Rebellion and the early demise of Governor Bligh.

In 2009, New South Welshmen are once again faced by a crisis of liquidity, and while one barrel might not be enough to bring about open rebellion it should at very least soothe the tensions.


Of Rum, and Rebellions.

Sydney 1808Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the islands the South Pacific will have read at some time tales of armed insurrection against the powers of sovereignty. What I had not fully appreciated, was the story of the Lucky Country and their coup.

The year was 1808, the word ‘cocktail’ had appear in print on the other side of the world a triflingly short two years previously. New South Wales was in its twentieth year of operation as an ‘open prison’ for those transported from good old blighty. The years of neglect had taken their toll on the inhabitants of Port Philip, the money supply was tighter than a Scotsman’s purse strings and a vigorous black market bartering economy had sprung up. Chief among the bartered goods was Rum, the golden tipple of Pirate Kings.

So prevalent was its trade, the local militia had cornered the market, controlling all the Rum and taking all the proceeds. The British Crown had shown many times before that it would take strong measures to protect the tax revenue of the empire, and barter was a strong threat to this. The Lords in England choose William Bligh, of Mutiny fame, to head to the colonies and sort the militia out.

Getting all preachy to a gang of men with guns has never been a winning strategy and quickly Bligh found himself under a matteress with musket trained on his privates, by, well, privates. The whole story got written down later by another total prude who called it the Rum Rebellion, when really it should have been called the ‘not going to slave in a prison, but want to actually grow a real economy’ Rebellion.

Five years down the track, the next Governor of the colony had a similar problem with not having enough coin in circulation to support commerce, so he took a leaf out of the Canadian rule book and punched out Mexican silver dollars, creating a little coin or “dump” and a large donut, called at the time, a holey dollar. The Governor was called Lachlan Macquarie, who was so good at creating money his family ended up doing over and over again and might just be why the merchant bank uses the holey dollar as its logo…

Which sort brings me to the point of my post, some enterprising gents have once again started to influence the market with Rum, and Holey Dollar will start to undermine the Crown’s economy very, very soon. With their triple overproof coming in at a whopping 75% abv, I hope someone will trade me a bottle for a post.


The Creole Julep


Each year before Tales of the Cocktail, there is a contest to find the cocktail of the conference. This year the theme was Juleps and this is the little silver cup of perfection that took the prize. Why a Julep? David Wondrich summed it up pretty nicely on the tales site.

“The Mint Julep was the drink that put American mixology on the map, the thing that foreigners pointed to when they wanted to say something nice about the rough-and-tumble new nation on the western shore of the Atlantic. And originally, like most American inventions, it allowed for plenty of individuality and improvisation. With this contest, the Julep is back,”

But, I digress, Here is the recipe, created by Maksym Pazuniak, Rambla/Cure

2 1/4 oz. (70 mls) Cruzan Single Barrel Estate Rum
1/2 oz. (15 mls) Clement Creole Shrubb
1/4 oz. (7.5 mls) Captain Morgan 100 Rum
2 dashes Fee Bros. Peach bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
8-10 mint leaves
1 Demerara Sugar Cube

They haven’t put a method up on the site, probably because everyone at Tales could make this drink in their sleep. For the benefit of those that couldn’t I’ll go out on a limb, probably get things wrong and put down on the page how I would make this little tasty beverage.

In a silver julep cup, like the one pictured above, add the sugar cube, both the bitters, the mint and the Captain Morgan 100 Rum. Stir until the sugar starts to dissolve, but gently enough that you don’t bruise the mint and render the drink bitter. Next, I’d add the Creole Shrubb and some crushed ice. stir some more, a minute or so should do. Now I would add the Cruzan, and enough crushed ice to fill the drink to about half an inch below the rim of the julep cup. Stir until the flavours are well mixed. Top the cup with ice, not so much as to look like a sideshow ice shaving but enough that the drink is solid. Slap a piece of mint over the top, releasing the oils over the drink for an extra burst of flavour, add two straws and a garnish of mint from the top of the bush (so it looks nice.) Sip it down. Repeat.

This sounds like a labour intensive drink, and it is. But oh, so worth it.

For those of you that are wondering what Creole Shrubb is, and if you can’t find any where you are:

Take a bottle of Rhum Agricole (Rum made from sugar cane juice, as opposed to Blackstrap.) Add a handful of Creole spices (paprika, chilli, file, dried thyme & basil, cayenne pepper, garlic and onion powder) Also add the peel of ten oranges, preferably dried in the Caribbean sun. It should taste, orangey, sweet and maybe even a little coppery or metallic.

I’m going home to make one now.


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The Old Fashioned

Picture 4

On May 13, 1806, The Balance and Colombia Repository printed the first known definition of the word “cocktail”

`Cocktail, then, is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters it is vulgarly called a bittered sling`

This somewhat unsavoury sounding mix is what we today call the Old Fashioned. 

Like almost all things alcohol related, there are disputes as to who coined the name instead of it just remaining ‘Cocktail,’ the members of the Pendennis Club claimed for some time in their blustery Colonel Sanders way that the name belonged to a Bourbon Cocktail made in the club. David Wondrich, who looks not dissimilar to a member of the Pendennis Club, discounted this theory by uncovering a wealth of examples of the use of the word prior to the Club’s foundation in 1880.

But I digress.

The Old Fashioned Cocktail

Take a sugar cube* and douse it in three or four belts from a bottle of Angostura Bitters, slide this into the bottom of an Old Fashioned glass. I use at least 60 of good quality Bourbon in my version, Maker’s Mark would be a fine choice. Add a little of the Bourbon, with a couple of pieces of ice and start stirring. Keep adding a little more Bourbon, a little more ice and perhaps around 15 mls water. 

The result is an amazingly balanced, rich and seductive elixir. 

*I prefer to use a cube of sugar as the time it takes to get it to dissolve is around the same time it take to mellow this drink to a superior level.


This cocktail is amazingly adaptable, you can change out the spirit for a Rye Whiskey, Brandy, Cognac or Rum.

At Toko on Crown St they do a Old Fashioned with Junipero Gin and there is a fashionable trend for Tequila Old Fashioneds around the world right now.

Once you’ve tried a variety of spirits, perhaps making a move on to changing out the bitters. Peychaud’s, Fee Brothers Peach or Orange Bitters, even Aperol or Campari. I’ll post an article later in the week about the process of homemaking bitters as well, to really change things up.

This really is a drink for the ages, we’ll be putting this up against the Trans-Galactic GargleBlaster when we make it to the restaurant at the end of time.

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At home, Cocktail

Fog Cutter Friday Fix

a_SmallerGirl-3228It’s a rainy crappy old day here in Sydney, so I’m going home to make a drink that will improve my sodden spirits and to cut through the length and breadth of another week in advertising.

The Fog Cutter is a tiki drink that’s not as sugary sweet as many in the class, but packs the punch of a zombie.

Start with a well iced shaker, add to it 45mls of Havana Club light rum, 15mls brandy, 15mls gin, 45mls orange juice, 15mls lemon juice and 15mls of orgeat. Shake the living fuck out of it.

Strain it into a tall iced glass, or better yet, a Tiki mug, float between 10 and 20 mls of Sherry on the top of the drink, garnish it with a South Seas maiden.

A couple of these and you won’t even notice the cold.

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Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

Spice Temple.

Picture 16

Tucked under the Rockpool grill, behind an LCD panel door and down a stairwell best described as circuitous, Sit the luxuriant bolt hole of Spice Temple. Chili, vinegar, szechuan pepper and other scents of the orient pervade the room. It is, quite simply, intoxicating.

Picture 17

Before dinner started we had a short wait and made good use of it by ordering a selection from the cocktail menu. Being a horse year, I ordered a horse.

Fresh pomegranate, molasses and Cuban rum sounded like me. While the finished result didn’t necessarily conform with my idea of what a balanced drink should be, it was a perfect way to ready my palate for an incredibly spicy encounter at the table.

Go to this restaurant, the cocktails are interesting if not great, and the food is amazing. 

10 Bligh St, Sydney 2000. Downstairs.

+61 2 8078 1888

Google Map.

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Part Three in a Four Part Series called The Glorious Recipe.

The most important part of any cocktail is the delightful elixir that gives a libation spirit. 

Crude distillation has been practiced for around 4000 years, with the first cab off the rank being in Iraq, where the technology was later used by the incumbent dictator, Saddam Hussein, to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.225px-jabir_ibn_hayyan The ancient Greeks really pulled things together, as they discovered man love, mass debate and tipsiness really did go hand in hand. An Arab by the name of Jabir ibn Hayyan was the man who really set the path toward the high grade ethanols we use to fuddle our brains today. Earning the mantle polymath, his techniques allow for the production of quality chemicals without ‘heads or tails’ so prominent in cheap liquor to this day.

Pretty much every culture that has managed to pull together a political system has also managed to master the technology of refining spirit. Because the refining part is secondary to fermentation, the breaking down of organic material and sugar in the presence of yeast to create alcohol, each country, region and tribe came up with recipes based on local taste and more often, local ingredients.

I’ll cover off the most common types of spirit in this article, to give you the sparest understanding of this wonderful, variety filled world.


The world’s most popular spirit. Originally from Poland, vodka is prolific in Eastern and Northern Europe and production has spread to countries as far away as New Zealand (42BELOW, 20000), The United States (Skyy) and Scotland (Smirnoff).

Primarly made from grain, vodka is also made with potato, grapes and milk whey. The spirit has become popular as Absolut has flooded the market with made up flavours supplied by the big assed building just off the Jersey turnpike. Other producers flavour their vodkas with perfumery techniques or the addition of Bison Grass.


The spirit of rum can only be made in a country that grows sugarcane. There are two basic types. The first is made from molasses, an extract produced in the refining or sugar for export. The second is Agricole or Cachaca, which is made from the juice of the sugarcane, unrefined. This approach can produce smoother rums, but aging evens the playing field.


Perhaps the spirit that has spread the furtherest around the world, probably on the backs of Irish migrants and Scottish sea captains. The name itself means water of life. Whisk(e)y is made from fermented grain mash; malted barley, barley, rye, wheat and maize are the most common types.

The Irish and the Americans use the (e) to spell the word, the Scots, Japanese & Canucks drop it.

Scotch Whisky is generally made from malted barley that has been treated with peat, giving it the taste it is famous for. Anything labelled Scotch must be distilled in Scotland. The age on the bottle must reflect the youngest whisky in the blend.

Irish Whiskey must be distilled in Ireland and aged in wooden casks for a period not less than three years. Generally made from unpeated malt barley.

American Whiskey must look, smell and taste like Whiskey. Bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn, Rye must be made from at least 51% rye, Corn whiskey must be at least 80% corn, Straight whiskeys are made with less than 51% of any single grain. Tennessee whiskey is made the same way as Bourbon, but is filtered through the charcoal of the Sugar Maple.


Mother’s Ruin is unmistakably English, the addition of quinine to tonic to ward off malaria made it the drink of an Empire.

Two basic types, Distilled Gin, which is made by re-distilling neutral grain spirit and cane sugar that have been flavored with the berries of the juniper bush. The other type, Compound Gin, is essentially a gin flavored vodka. 

Gin is my favorite spirit and will get it’s own article later, so I won’t trifle the history too much. The London style of Gin is the most popular around the world, which is identified by the addition of botanicals to the distillate. These botanicals have great names like orris root, cassia bark and angelica. Newer style gins also make use of rose, cucumber and other local botanicals.


Made from the agave cactus. much more to come on this later.


The spirit of China. a distillate of rice or sorghum mash. pineappley and petrol like.

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Spirit, Sydney

Ron Zacapa Centanario Rum

Ron Zacapa 23yr Old RumRum, for me, is very special. Often overpowered by post mix coke in bars across the country, the Tiki revival has seen the number, quality and popularity of Rum explode.

On the top of the ever growing heap sits Ron Zacapa. This Rum is from the mountain regions of Guatemala. What this means is that the sugar cane is grown at altitudes in excess of 23oo meters above sea level. The result is an exceptionally smooth Rum, beautifully packaged. Ron Zacapa comes in 15, 23 and 25 yr old versions and is now being imported and distributed in Australia by Diageo.

I cannot stress enough just how gorgeous this sweet nectar of the gods tastes. It is best served on its own, like a fine single malt. Add a little ice if you must.

Many would say that to use this, the finest of spirits in a cocktail is a waste. In general, I would agree with this line of reasoning. However, I have come across one recipe that does the flaxen bottle justice. The Imperial Mojito. 

Add a generous measure of Ron Zacapa to a highball glass. Twist off six or seven leaves of mint and rip them roughly in half and add them to your glass, you can add a little sugar or mint syrup but the Rum packs a good measure of sweetness as it is. Top it up with ice and give it a generous stir to release and mingle the minty oils. Top the highball off with Champagne, Bollinger for my preference but I heartily encourage experimentation. Garnish with fresh mint, a straw and a warm, hammock filled afternoon.

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