Bar

Dead Ringer

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It’s no secret that the team behind Sydney’s Bulletin Place are something of a supergroup. A series of old friends and successful solo artists, bought together by a creative endeavor they truly believe in. The raw impact hits you on entry, hospitality done well for the cities weary drinkers.

So then, what to expect when the group goes to ground for months in the creation of second offering? Would they be one-hit-wonders? Would this be full of experimentation and the things that simply couldn’t fit upstairs in their diminutive city haunt? Would Tim end it all by insisting that a pygmy orchestra be trained and flown in for the launch party?

It was with all, and none of these thoughts crowding my head as I visited Dead Ringer last week.

Built on the bones of other bars in Bourke Street, Dead Ringer is not Bulletin Place. Just the sort a solid second album you’d expect from a group of this caliber, things are noticeably more refined this time around. The boys are smart enough to have not wasted their money here but the finishes feel refined and well produced. Food is very much on the menu here, with twice as many dishes as there are cocktails. The pig jowl terrine and the chicken liver parfait are early fancies of the instagram crew, but even Tim’s signature $27 dollar olives (real price $7, but we all are watching Yelp for some outrage) are worthy of note, warm and textured, perfectly salty and demanding of the next drink.

And what drinks they are. The self-titled mainstay  Yuzu Breezer is set to be the most instagrammed drink in Sydney. The refreshing, yuzu and grapefruit acid nestles down with the rum and a little fizz. This update to the love-hate alcopop format is everything an RTD should be, the only conceivable improvement would be a hashtag on that label to try and keep track of the spread. The sherry cobbler and pineapple adonis showcase the soft spot the group has for sherry. The fresh elements that gained them fame are all present, but presented in ways that show the benefits of spending some time in the studio while the finer points of this opening were worked out. The cheek and chat can be more than seen in the nod to its Surry Hills environs, the obligatory – an old tequila, cold rip coffee and maple concoction which proves sarcasm can indeed be made to taste like heaven. The track-listing lends the drinks to be paired along with dining, I’ll be back to see how that works.

I’m not sure it leaves me as giddy and excited as the raw charm and refreshingly refined drinks concept on show each night upstairs at the original BP, but that said DR is probably better on many measures. Hands down my favourite feature is having more seats around the bar, with all the more chance to interact with the talent that resides behind it.

Early fans are like that though, always chasing the thrill of that first discovery, clinging to the fact they discovered it early as a way to stave of the personal and publicly identifiable madness that comes with fond obsession. For the bright eyed crowds walking the Hills of Surry, discovering the second one first will be as intoxicating as it was for those of us lucky enough to be there at the beginning. They’ll be blown over by the things that have become the signature sounds for this group, wherever they ply their trade: True hospitality and a feeling of welcome and enough staff to make sure everyone is looked after, really well made drinks that stand up to classics but showcase fresh local ingredients.

Keep rocking boys, I’ve put you on repeat.

413 BOURKE STREET
SURRY HILLS, NSW, 2010
02 9331 3560
Props to @callanboys @cocktailgirl @mixingdrinks @thedrinkbubble and @urbanchicguides for the pilfered instasnaps. Follow them on instagram for more drinks than you could ever imbibe on your own.
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Bar

The Backstairs Inn.

The BackStairs EntranceNot by any means the newest bar on the Sydney drinking scene but one that pour hospitality in good measure across their bar.

They will serve you fancy drinks, but for me at least this bar is about whisky. If you get bored, have a beer, then move back onto whisky. They have many whiskies here, different people have different stories. The only place you’ll find more of the aged liquid in one place is at a distillery.

My favourite seat is at the end of the bar near the door, the bar kinks and allows these two special seats a view down a bar. Keep watch as the drams are poured and you’ll see what a professional at work really looks like. They lean into a conversation, share an education or a friendly remark and pour.

Peruse the lists for a favourite, or feel free to drop your brand or your favourite style and let them be the firm hand on your tiller as you navigate their whisky sea. I’ve found that often the whisky I’m after isn’t available, but they do have a age above it, or some rare expression to gulp down. It’s enjoyable upselling, and the bar is a truly great place to go and drink with a good friend.

Head down the alley towards what looks like certain doom for the first time visitor. To your right at the end you will see the door in the picture above, if you’ve come drinking at the times that everyone else does, you’ll probably spend a time in the queue.

Head down the Backstairs and find a non-descript door that opens in onto drinking heaven.

An early mark from work will be rewarded with a swift entry. Stay until they carry you out.

The Baxter Inn. Basement/152-156 Clarence St. 4pm-1am.

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Spirit

Four Pillars Gin

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Four Pillars Gin launched last night in Sydney, a few days after bottles of the 1st batch began to drop into the mailboxes of Pozible funders around the country.

An obvious passion project between two lovers of the juniper spirit, it is a worthy addition to the current crop of homegrown spirits producers starting their journey around the country. They’ve made their home on the edge of the wine producing Yarra Valley in Victoria, sourcing water and a measure of inspiration from their locale.

Distilled to epitomise a modern style of Australian gin, juniper and citrus take a back seat to more subtle cardamom, star anise, coriander seed and cinnamon. Australian botanicals, namely the Tasmanian pepperberry leaf and lemon myrtle also make an appearance. Lovers of a London Dry will be disappointed with the lack of up front in this gin, but you’d be wrong to assume that a lack of juniper dominance signals a lack of complexity in the taste. There are classic matches, with orange, cardamom and cinnamon passing over the palate in an elegant fashion.

This gin is softer than the English batting line up. It will provide an elegant stage for the country’s bartenders to experiment with and will bring many Australians claiming not to be gin drinkers into the fold. The toned down citrus notes come alive when a squeeze is added to your gin and tonic. In a martini it can get lost a little in the vermouth, but I’m hanging out for a homegrown Australian version with Four Pillars and the Regal Rouge. It is good in a negroni, settling down into a unique, if slightly floral take on the drink.

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It’s an elegantly designed package, with foiling on the label and and individual batch numbering beneath the foil closure and cork. The copper foiling is a well planned allusion and story starter for the center of the brands universe, a gorgeous Carl still named Wilma. Copper is a key brand element again in the extremely covetable cocktail shakers the team have produced for launch.

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With only 420 bottles in each release, this is unashamedly small batch and craft in every imaginable way. There are plans afoot too for a barrel aged Old Tom, calling on the local vineyards for some ancient aging stock, whispers of a fresh take on Sloe and a series of seasonal releases based on local botanicals, like the unbelievably delicious native finger lime. Plenty then to get excited and keep an eye out for.

You should buy a bottle to enjoy over the Christmas period, it’s a local passionate project that will be the perfect foil for long, lazy afternoons watching the Australians school the English on something they took to the world. Something of a metaphor for the ambition of this gin.

Look for this on the back bars of anyplace small, or at Camperdown Cellars Parramatta rd, Elizabeth Bay Cellars, Salt meats Cheese in Sydney. Trade distribution again through the team at Vanguard. RRP in the high sixties.

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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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Awards, Spirit, Sydney

Dram it! Whisky will flow on the streets of Sydney.

You could be a lover of whisky, or just wanting to learn a little more about the Scottish spirit, or maybe you’ve realised that it takes more than a little of Obama’s tailoring style to pull off a convincing Don Draper.

Regardless of which bucket you sit in, the 2012 Whisky Show is the place to scratch the itch that a dram or to in your past delivers. 17 exhibitors, 150 whiskies, $50 gets you in and 10 tasting vouchers. Delicious.

For tickets and more info, I’d suggest a visit here.

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Competitions, Event

Who’s keen for a World Class Sunday?

Each year, Diageo spend a lot of time, money and effort finding a World Class Bartender to represent Australia at take a shot at taking out the global crown. It’s a phenomenal event, packed full of talent and full to the brim with crazy good drinks. Check out the video above of last years finals for an idea of what it all entails.

It all kicks of with the summer round.

There are three categories: Gentleman’s Drinks (think boozy, perfectly balanced seriousness – the kind of thing Don Draper would be into,) Punch (big-bowled fun for the whole family and possibly the most resurgent cocktail category last year,) and Seasonal (The best of what’s fresh local and showcasing an Australian Summer, you can guarantee then, that they’ll all start wet and finish dry. Pretty much whatever your preference, you’ll find something delicious.

The finalists for the summer round are:

Jason Williams, theloft, Sydney
Collin Perillo, Zeta, Sydney
Phil Gandevia, Eau de Vie, Sydney
Thiago Santos, theloft, Sydney
Sarah Miller, I Know a Place, Melbourne
Perryn Collier, The Laneway, Brisbane
Adam Smith, Press Club, Brisbane
Anita Strother, Malt Dining, Brisbane
Fred Siggins, Kodiak Club, Melbourne

So, how does an afternoon (next Sunday, the 22nd) in a glass box on Sydney Harbour, filled with beautiful people, eight of the country’s best bartenders and Jason Williams sound?

Tickets are $65 over at Moshtix. It’s on a motherfucking boat, so space is limited – book yours now!

Sunday 22nd January, 3-6pm. You get to try the 9 drinks, plus some snacks.

I’ll see you there.

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