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.

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.

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.


Four Pillars Gin


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.


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.


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.

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



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.

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.

Bar, Sydney

Gardel’s. Upstairs at Porteño

The secret of Sydney’s Argentinian altar of meats is already well known about town. Porteño has achieved this feat by roasting entire lambs over an open pit of coals, staffing its floor with characters from a fifties sock hop and generally delivering a slice of Buenos Aires magic to any and all lucky enough to grace its doors.

Less well known was the cocktail bar, replete with an elegant lounge, upstairs on the second floor. Bars that are a part of a restaurant often struggle to attain recognition and a personality of their own. The team at Porteño have decided to give their upstairs offering a separate identity, rebranding the space Gardel’s Bar, after Carlos Gardel, the Argentine tango legend.

Sometimes a split like this drives a wedge between the offerings, severing the link and allowing two very separate offerings to develop. The boys at Gardel’s do not seem in any danger of letting this happen. The number of bars in this town who make the most of having access to cooks and the kitchen seems few and far between. The Americans call this approach “The Beverage Program” and perhaps that’s something their Canadian talent behind the bar has bought with him from North America.

The smoker, used for kingfish and the some of the meat offering no doubt, has been put to great use smoking vermouth and maple syrup. Test out the result in the frankly wonderful Thank you for smoking. A good measure of spicy Buffalo Trace bourbon, coaxed gently with smoked vermouth and syrup, and a dash or two of the Bitter Truth’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters. I had goosebumps on finishing it and I can’t wait to go back, drop the maple syrup and maybe some of the achingly perfect balance to deliver a booze forward version I imagine will put the Man very much in a Manhattan. The Smoked Adonis also gives a taste of the teams smoky goodness, albiet in a more apertif style. The almond side garnish is a nice touch too.

The proximity to the kitchen delivers some of the best bar food available in the country. I dare you to stop at one chili dog.

For the first time in quite a while, there is a bit of competition in my heart and on my palate for what I would call my favourite bar in Sydney. I’ll be back again soon.

358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010

(02) 8399 1440

On Google Maps here.

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.


Tanning Lamps, Grit & an impending crash

Last night at the Beach Rd Hotel in Sydney’s internationally fashionable Bondi District, the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup rolled into town. After deftly talking my way past the door staff, I was in, a part of it, hanging with Sydney’s glitterati, or it’s bartneder’s at the very least.

The theme of the now semi annual event is Love, Drinks and Rock’n’Roll, which like the title of this article, references something that’s well known but isn’t really the same as saying it out loud. The Bartenders, however, were right into it, helped in no small part with the local obession of drainpipe jeans and rockstar chic. The level of fashion must come at the expense of nutrition, if the skeletal silhouettes and the level of interest in the food was anything to go by.

I was once again stalked by my nemesis, the  plastic tumbler, although thankfully not fresh from the wash. And I must say in all fairness, that the Falling Water brought back a flood of fine memories, despite being sheathed in petrochemicals as opposed to Silica.

The contest itself consisted of heats of mystery box challenges, where contestants are asked to make a drink using an extremely varied list of ingredients. The kiwifruit vodka was boxed with muscat wine, green grapes, cucumber, tarragon and balsamic vinegar. Most contestants seemed to be making liberal use of the available Campari, Aperol and Lillet Blanc bottles.

Professor Jacob Briars, New Zealand’s 8th best bartender and legendary blue drinks enthusiast kept things moving masterfully, having had lots of practice as the regionals have rolled around the world over the past few months. The judging panel had nabbed the best view in the house, local barmaster Blake Head was joined by two locals and unemployed Pete Dougherty impersonator, Martin Newell. Deliberations were swift, although Mr. Head was heard to request more lychee based beverages on a number of occasions.

Noriel Calub from Goldfish managed to leap from his bowl and be crowned the nights winner. Hamish from perennial cocktailing wonderland, the Bayswater Brasserie came in an admirable second.

The format for the NZ is definitely changing, taking place in Summery March instead of the wintry months and will travel from Queenstown to Wellington over the course of the week. Keep your peepers peeled for more info, and you can also head here for the word as 42 tells it.


Cocktail, In Memoriam

The last testament of Gregor de Gruyther

attention to detail

* * * * *

Bayswater Drinks 2009

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It is proper, when a person steps up to the bar, for a bartender to set before him a glass of ice water, and, then, in a courteous manner, find out what he may desire.

The Ideal Bartender, 1917, Tom Bullock.

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Unmixed drinks

A Schooner Darkly

 Schooner of beer with a jolt of Aperol or Amer Picon in its bottom.


Schooner of beer with a shot – we recommend:

  • Creature’s Pale Ale with Makers Mark
  • James Squire Amber Ale with Cazadores Blanco
  • Cooper’s Porter with Grand Marnier
  • Tequila con Sangrita

    This is how the Mexicans drink their Tequila, with a spicy non-alcoholic shot on the side. It’s how we drink ours.

    Absinthe Fountain

    Feel the history in action as the spoon hits the glass, the tap opens and the water drips down to the Absinthe. Watch in awe as the potent brew ‘louches’ (clouds up) as the wormwood opens its arms to you. Drink the green fairy deep down… and let her in to heal your twisted soul.

    * * * * *

    Depression, Prohibition & Echoes


    A drink to rival the Margarita. Young Tequila with peach bitters, apricot liqueur and freshly squeezed lime juice.


    The drink, legally available during the Great Depression, from which sprang the Milano-Torino, the Americano, the Negroni, the Bicycletta, the Spagliato… the list goes on. Homemade sweet vermouth with Campari and soda.

    Cecil Baker

    London Dry Gin with fresh coriander and lime, kaffir lime syrup and soda.

    Between the Sheets

     This was as risque as it got in the 1930s. So we pimped it some. Rhum Agricole, VSOP Cognac  and citrus in a sugar rimmed glass.

    Millionaire #5†

    The first four? Not so great. This one’s lovely. Jamaican Rum, Sloe Gin, Apricot Liqueur, fresh citrus.


    Vodka, citrus, and this week’s fruit preserve, lengthened with soda. This is our tall fruity pink vodka drink: there’s quite a lot of vodka and fruit in here, but it’s not too sweet.

    * * * * *

    King’s Cross Tributes (with thanks to William Oxenham)

    Knife Tricks‡

    An Absinthe-laden sugar cube with Calvados and peach liqueur, topped with Prosecco.

    Man on Fire∫

    A Malt and Mescal – Talisker 12 year old with fresh lime with twin licks of agave syrup and honey. Served on the rocks, rocking a smoked chilli salt rim.

    Eureka #2º

    Rye, Calvados and Sloe Gin with fresh lime and sugar. A rediscovered classic, pimped!

    Electric Avenue

    Vodka, Cognac, Bourbon, passionfruit, orange blossom and a big sac of sexy goodness prevail here. A filthy disco drink.

    (Eastern Suburbs High Maintenance) Lady Sour

    London Dry Gin shaken vigorously with peach liqueur, fresh lemon juice and egg white. Crowned decadently with a lovely Côte de Rhone.

    5 Buck Back Alley Quick Buck

    Single malt and sweet vermouth, lime juice and sprigs of fresh mint, topped off with ginger ale.


    Three tequilas, Mescal, Chartreuse Juane, Falernum, grapefruit, pineapple and lime juices shaken up into a ridiculous glass with fire and stuff. For two.

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    Refreshed and Restyled

    Cuffs & Button

    M.W. Heron based his famous ‘Southern Comfort’ liqueur on this awesome drink. Woodford Reserve Bourbon with puréed peach and orange and lemon pieces.

    Bayswater Cup no. 32

    James Pimm created his cup to complement the seafood in his Covent Garden restaurant. Ours works great with everything. London dry gin with Amaro, Dubonnet, Chambord and lemonade, garnished with seasonal fruit.

    Bayswater Cream

    Baileys is a mix of chocolate, coffee, cream and crappy Irish whisky. Our version is fresh and vibrant with Kahlúa, Crème de Cacao, cream and great Scottish malt whisky. You can have it with or without extra milk¤.

    * * * * *

    We don’t want to dumbfound anyone with a ridiculous long list. If you’re reading this far, your date’s probably late or dull, in which case we recommend naked Twister. Failing that:

    Ask your bartender for different odes to the Collins family (capsicum, hibiscus etc) or a Grapefruit Rickey. Test him on Martinis and Manhattans. Enquire about Russians, Cold Wars, Bucks, Blinkers, Bulldogs, Breezes, Drakes, Marys, Juleps, about Fixes, Flips, Fizzes, Spritzes & Spagliatos. Luscious Highballs from all over – 7 & 7s, G&Ts, C.C. & Cs, Presbyterians, Horse’s Necks, Piscolas, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy, the Cuba Libre, the Fudpucker, the Greyhound, the Fernet Cola, the Kir, the 75, the Peg, the Suicide Blazer, the horrors of sunrise and the glory of the last light before dawn…

    …and of course, the humble Cocktail.

    * * * * *

    House Spirits

    Beefeater Gin

    Wyborowa Vodka

    Cazadores Blanco Tequila

    Havana Club Light Rum

    Appleton V/X Dark Rum

    Maker’s Maker Bourbon

    Chivas Regal 12yr Scotch

    Hennessy VS Brandy

    * * * * *

    † Based on Harry Craddock’s ‘Millionaire Cocktail’, The Savoy Cocktail Book, 1930.

    ‡ ‘Got tight last night on absinthe and did knife tricks. Great success shooting the knife into the piano’. Ernest Hemingway.

    ∫ Based on an original drink made by our mate Rich Hunt.

    º Based on the ‘Avenue Cocktail’, Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, 1931.

    ¤ Fellas, If this looks a little bit girly, think of it as whisy & milk. Like quiche is fried egg pie, yeah?

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