Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time Out Sydney Bar Awards

Barry Chalmers 'en-trophied' at last year's Time Out Sydney Bar Awards  
Bartenders - they're a sordid bunch.What with the boozing, rubbish chat and... no that's about it really. But boy howdy are they a fun bunch to party with! Having your own drink in hand not only makes them tolerable but a heck of a lot of fun too boot. And this coming Monday (October 24) you'll get you're chance to raise a glass with them and to them at the Time Out Sydney Bar Awards held at Sydney's latest live entertainment venue The Standard.

It's a great chance to celebrate Sydney's dynamic and quite frankly booming bar scene with a load of great bars and fine chaps nominated for a gong. Stand outs include Shady Pines Saloon up for, well everything, Gardel's Bar for Bar of the Year and Best Bar Food, Eau De Vie for Cocktail Bar and Bar of the Year and of course all those up for the People's Choice Award - an award voted for by the people for the people. The Finalists for the People's Choice Award are: Corner House, Eau De Vie, Grandma's, Love Tilly Devine, Pocket, Passage, White Hart, Shady Pines Saloon, Stitch, and Time to Vino.  

Even if you don't care a hoot about who wins on the night Lennox Hastie (Etxebarri) is doing a pop up restaurant at the event, not to mention the fact that you'll be able to drink your skin full of Buffalo Trace cocktails with amazing bands and DJs pumping out some beats. There will also be the unveiling of the Time Out Bar Guide 2012 which includes a couple of reviews by yours truly.

It will be a gas. Grab your tickets ($99 for snacks and drinkies - $69 for Time Out subscribers) here

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Sex Panther

It's got real bits of Panther in it so you know it's good...
Here's a couple of things you might not know about me: I'm a huge Anchorman fan and I like Stingers. The way I see it when Ron Burgundy isn't enjoying three fingers of Glenlivet with some pepper and some cheese he'd surely be sipping on a brutally cold and minty Stinger (brandy and white creme de menthe you philistine). Or even more likely - he'd be sipping on a Sex Panther.

Inspired by the deadly feline grace of the panther (actually it's meant to be a puma) embossed on every bottle of Meukow Cognac, The Sex Panther is a predatory beverage found stalking the bar at Gardel's. It's a well know fact that 60 percent of the time this beverage will get you laid every-time - it's that good and it's powers are only enhanced by it's not-so-secret secret ingredient - Branca Menta - Fernet Branca's minty sibling.

But what about the real bits of panther? Well that comes from the coffee beans that this wee beverage is stirred down with - a technique I've seen ol' Chris Hysted rock out a couple of times this year. And it works a treat. Thanks Chris.  

Here's a Sex Panther spotted in the wild
The Sex Panther
60ml Meukow VS Cognac
10ml Branca Menta
1 doz. fresh coffee beans (we use Vittoria's Cinque Stelle)

Stir down and serve up with a fresh slapped mint leaf and the roar of a wild jungle cat.

The beverage has a formidable scent that stings the nostrils - fresh mint with lifted citrus, chocolate and coffee. It goes down smooth with just enough minty freshness from the Branca Menta to refresh the slightly sweet palate. It's perfectly balanced by a little tannin provided by the coffee beans.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Happy 5th Birthday to Gazebo!

Gazebo is one of the first bars I ever visited in Sydney. October 2006 - I had just come fresh off winning New Zealand Bartender of the Year and David Spanton - Bartender's editor had kindly invited me over to Sydney to judge the Australian Bartender of the Year Competition alongside the likes of Dale DeGroff and Angus Winchester.

It was a beautiful spring day - one of those Sydney stunners - and sitting outside at the brand spanking new Gazebo Wine Garden drinking German Riesling I thought to myself - yeah I could live here. Of course I wasn't to know that Gazebo's space was unique in Sydney, in fact, this town was place that really under utilised it's near perfect climate. Why aren't there still more places which understand alfresco drinking and dinning in Sydney?

But I digress. Gazebo was a fore-runner and inspiration for the many wine bars now opening up in this fair city. Enomatic wine systems, Mosel by the glass, casual, but knowledgeable and slick service this place was always going to be a winning. Hats off to Gazebo for five fine years. You might just be of age to go to school, but you've been schooling Sydney-siders on how to drink for years. I wish the team many happy returns for the next five.

Here's what the birthday guests will be drinking this evening as Gazebo cuts the cake:

Gazebo's Giggly Rose
The Giggly Rose

(Makes 6)

Bunch of mint, leaves picked
Petals of 3 unsprayed roses, plus 6 small unsprayed roses to garnish
3 shots (90ml) gin
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
Ice cubes, to serve
750ml bottle sparkling white wine, chilled
Rose syrup:
150g caster sugar
1 Tbsp rosewater

Chill six tall glasses in the fridge. For the syrup, place sugar and 100ml water in a pan over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, then remove from heat. Stir in rosewater, then chill until it has cooled completely. 

Bruise the mint leaves and rose petals in your hands to release their aroma, then stuff them into the chilled glasses. In two batches, combine gin, lemon juice, rose syrup and plenty of ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well, then pour into the glasses and top up with sparkling wine. Tuck in a rose to garnish, then serve immediately with a straw.

NB. For the month of October $1 from everyone of these beauties sold will go in aid of the Wayside Chapel.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pale or Pure - Either Way it's Cascade this Summer

Mmm... Pale Ale
I love beer. And it ain't no secret. Indeed half of you have probably caught me mid-flight in a beer rant on several occasions. Beer has popular appeal, it's ancient - likely the first alcoholic beverage enjoyed by Man with brewing perhaps even pre-dating the invention of baking. Wine is infantile in comparison. And spirits barely even a zygote in the grand scheme of things.

Beer has a wonderful variety not often enough enjoyed in the Australian market which is awash with insipid, flavourless lagers. It's not that there's anything wrong with the majority of these mainstream brews - they're just inoffensive - deliberately so. But they are oh-so-boring. Imagine a world where you could only order Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and vodka - well the majority of Sydney's pubs & bars which offer only mainstream lagers are doing exactly that to beer drinkers.

Fortunately there is a way to combat this. Drink good beer - vote with your mouth. The beer revolution in Australia is already here - Fosters has given up any pretension of being Australian (a shame, but great for the shareholders I guess), mainstream labels are shedding market share and the choice of quality, flavour driven brews is almost as good as it was in Australia before Federation (no kidding).

This revolution isn't confined to small owned and operated 'micro breweries' - the big guys want a slice of the boutique brew pie too. And some,of Australia's oldest breweries like the independent Cooper's or Tasmania's Cascade (incidentally owned by Fosters) have always offered drinkers a flavoursome alternative.

Cascade's Pale Ale (pictured above) dates back to 1832. Indeed at this time it lager style brews were unheard of. It's one of the world's oldest continually brewed beer brands winning its first award back in the 1880s.

But what does it taste like? Well it has a light citrus and hay aroma, with a fruity mid-palate, light to medium malt weight and a cleansing bitterness. It's not revolutionary, but a great stepping stone for someone want to get a little more adventurous with their choice of brews. It's a what you'd call a great session brew - perfect for quenching your thirst around the barbecue this summer. It is, however, very lager like - I must question whether or not this is still a true top fermented ale.

Another release from Cascade for summer is the Cascade Pure. Unfortunately it's low carb, but fortunately its certified carbon neutral, but unfortunately it's low carb - I've said that twice haven't I? I really want to like this brew - but the lack of residual sugars means that there is no palate weight. No palate weight means that you you can't balance the beer with that really pleasing bitterness found in the Pale Ale. Look I think that commercially this will be a success. But this is a beer for your lady. 

Kudos Cascade for the environmental sensibility but can someone please invent extra-carb man beer? There's still men's men in Australia despite what the focus groups might tell you! 

Cheers for the beers Cascade. I look forward to future releases.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Woodford Reserve Rock Lily Private Selection

It wasn't so long ago that I was bragging to you about being involved in a rather unique tasting. And it's with great please that I'm able to share with you now the fruits of my labour - sitting in front of me is a one litre bottle of the Woodford Reserve Rock Lily Private Selection.

If you recall my previous post on this subject I was invited by the inimitable Dan Woolley to be part of a tasting panel to determine a private blend for for The Star's new(ish) Rock Lily bar and live music venue. Whilst Woolley has moved on to The Standard the Woodford Reserve Rock Lily Private Selection can still be found behind the bar. And boy howdy is it a doosey.

Here's what I reckon: The nose offers a decadent and heady aroma of cacao, drunken apricots, maple and marzipan with just a wee hint of oiled leather. Sweet breakfast cereal grains quickly give way to complex and chewy, bitter chocolate and almond flavours with the profile also featuring popcorn and beurre noisette. This palate staining drop finishes feisty and spirity - the lingering warmth providing evidence of this drop's 90.4° proof kick. Go buy yourself a dram at Rock Lily now. It's that good!

She's such a beauty that there wasn't simply no option except to make a Mint Julep post haste - especially considering the fact that I've been staring at the mint going crazy in my garden whilst I've been typing and tasting away. And yes it is before midday.

McGoram's Cordial Mint Julep

3 oz Woodford Reserve Rocklily Private Selection
(it's important that you use a bottle hand signed by Chris Morris the master distiller with 'Simon McGoram' engraved into it)
1 heaped teaspoon castor sugar
1/2 oz water
8 freshly plucked mint leaves (common mint not spearmint)
Crushed ice
1 or more large sprigs of mint
1 teaspoon of Inner Circle Green Dot or Holey Dollar Gold Coin 

For the preparation of McGoram's Cordial Mint Julep it is proper that a gentleman wield a rolling pin or wooden mallet to pound a canvas bag full of cracked ice with reckless abandon. Upon creating your crushed ice as fine as snow measure one teaspoon (rounded) of castor sugar into a pewter (or if you can afford the extravagance silver) tankard or julep cup. Add your freshly plucked mint leaves still glistening from the morning's dew and add to this one half ounce of pure water draw from an ancestral spring.  With skilful manipulation of a spoon dissolve the sugar whilst lightly pressing the mint to the sides of your chosen vessel. Add your private selection whiskey and fill two thirds full with crushed ice. Again employ the spoon to combine the ingredients. Cap with further crushed ice crown with a teaspoon of high ester rum and garnish extravagantly with a pristine mint sprig.