Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Booze Braggart Abuzz in the Press

Last week was a bumper week for BB in the press. For those of you who live under a rock Rachel Olding - bar writer extraordinaire for SMH - filed a couple of cracking stories of the growth of the bar scene in Sydney. She contacted yours truly for a comment. Below is what I had to say in Good Living's 'Take a walk of the small bar trail' piece. Olding asked me on my take on the new wave of bars taking Sydney by storm:

”Initially, people were perhaps being a little bit conservative and were trying to open venues in proven areas like Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, but people are becoming so confident that venues will attract the crowds that they’re spreading right out,” McGoram says.

”People are even looking to be the first venue in an up-and-coming area and to market that fact.”

”Look at Freda’s in Chippendale. No one ever thought there’d be a bar there and now everyone’s touting it as the next big suburb… I really like the CBD bars because it’s a real case in point to see how much Sydney has changed,” says Simon McGoram, who leads bar tours around Sydney, including a CBD trail that takes in Grasshopper, Grandma’s and Stitch.

 You can read the full article here.

But it doesn't end there - the previous day saw me get another shout out here.

In all it was a good week for BB, but a great week for Sydney's new wave of bars. There's a real positive vibe about what Sydney is creating in terms of bars at the moment and it's great to see that whole-heartedly supported by main-stream media. Thanks Rachel for your fine work! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Keystone Cocktails Come of Age

theloft's Western Expression with 'flavour paint'
I was lucky enough last week to get an invitation down to theloft by the inimitable Jason Williams - and I must admit that I was overdue a visit. My last appearance was during last year's Bartender of the Year Competition and before that the Time Out Shake Down. But it wasn't always special events that brought me down to the wharf.  

Opened in 2003 theloft is one of Sydney's more successful cocktail bars - the first time I ever visited the joint I was sipping Mojitos with Dale De Groff and the Bartender magazine crew on a scorching hot September day back in 2006. Nestled on sunny King Street wharf theloft at the time was the epitome of everything good about Sydney and it certainly played a part it moving me over here from Auckland. As the city's bars evolved over the the next five years, however, theloft looked sure to be left behind - fortunately the good folk at Keystone Group had the foresight to hire Jason Williams the Bartender magazine Bartender of the Year 2010.

Jason has been making huge inroads into the drinks programs at all of the Keystone venues (like Cargo, Kit & Kaboodle, The Winery etc) and his latest work - the new cocktail list at theloft - seems sure to restore some of the venues serious cocktail cred. With its sleek art deco design the menu advertises signature creations, old school libations and contemporary classics. It even includes a drink from my old haunt in Auckland - Mea Culpa - the Honey & Clove Margarita  which I created in 2006. The very year I first stepped foot in theloft I might add.

Honey & Clove Margarita
The Honey & Clove Margarita includes Tequila,lime and Cointreau with a cinnamon, honey & clove syrup and a ginger salt rim. Originally I was making this drink with a house made honey & clove tequila - Sauza Hornitos infused with clove and sweetened with an organic Beechwood honey from the South Island of NZ. The infused Tequila was tasty enough to even be our punters' shot of choice. At any rate the beverage in its current format is mighty tasty booze - thanks to Thiago Santos for introducing this one to Sydney.

I might add that the drink above is one of the more simple beverages on the menu. The next tipple I went for was the Beat Generation - having been a 20th Century Lit student I just couldn't resist.

The Beat Generation
The drink itself combines Ilegal Blanco Mezcal with pineapple, agave, ale, lemon and bitters. It's served with a tasting glass of Fat Yak Pale Ale on the side and some crisps then garnished with a peach and leather dry ice 'flavour fog'. It's perhaps the fanciest boilermaker you'll ever come across and the drink is beautifully balanced - though I'd have enjoyed a little more smoke through coming from the Mezcal. But then again I'm the sort of guy who would by smoky peat chewing gum if someone would only market it. 

Pan American Clipper
The list combines creativity and a few adavanced techniques with just some damn fine choices of classic cocktails. One of my favourites has to be the Pan American Clipper - Charlie Ainsbury perhaps makes the best I've ever had, but I'll be back to theloft to see how there mix of Calvados, pommegrante, lime and absinthe holds up.  

I suggest you all get down to theloft early to mid week to stay far from the madding crowd and check this list out. It's expertly constructed and evidence yet again that it's not just 'small bars' that are doing great things in this town.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Kiwi Treasure Trove #2- Lighthouse Gin

A shining light for gin drinkers - Lighthouse Gin
It's 11am and 27 degrees outside. The perfect time then to drink some warm gin. The tipple I've poured myself today is Lighthouse Gin - another fantastic award winning spirit that harks from New Zealand shores.

Produced in Greytown - about 75 kilometers out of Wellington - Lighthouse is a classic distilled dry gin batch produced in a 200L copper pot still made in Masterton.  The spirit is produced by Greytown Fine Distillates - the brainchild of Neil Catherall, the company’s distiller and master craftsman, and Andrew Wright, a local businessman and distiller James Graham.

Lighthouse Gin, named after the late 19th century cast-iron Cape Palliser Lighthouse on the southernmost tip of the North Island, combines nine different botanicals including zesty New Zealand navel oranges, Yen Ben lemons (an Australasian cultivar not dissimilar to the Lisbon lemon) and local kawa kawa leaves (they have bitter peppery/minty flavour that I enjoy when bush walking back in NZ).

Juniper,  slightly soapy corriander seed and pithy orange citrus dominate the nose, but there is an underlying spiciness of warm ginger, black pepper and floral oris root too. On the palate this gin proves to be incredibly well poised with it's resinous and spicy qualities giving way to a lingering, tingling, zesty tang. The spirit has a generous viscosity with a smooth release of alcoholic heat that belies it's 42% abv strength.

It's excellent in a G&T with lemon, not lime. And after testing proves to stand up well in classic gin cocktails like Aviations and Negronis.

In short, I reckon the folks from Lighthouse have done a bang tidy job on this one. Go to NZ and buy yourself a bottle or easier still check them out online.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

$8 Million Liquor Cabinet

World's largest old liquor collection includes over 5,000 bottles dating from 1789

Do you want a liquor cabinet to make Eau De Vie's groaning shelves look amateur? Do you want to be the envy of every liquor connoisseur in the world and sip on Cognac from the 1789 - the year of the French Revolution and the inauguration of George Washington?

Well your time is now. If you happen to have a spare $8 million dollars (in US pesos) lying around. A Netherlands national by the name of Bay van der Bunt is claiming that he owns the world's largest old liquor collection  - over 5,000 bottles of rare antique Cognacs, Armagnac, whisky, port and Madeira - and he's willing to sell.

Bay van der Bunt is a third generation collector

 63 years of age Van der Bunt, who doesn't touch a drop himself, has dedicated his life to massing his collection, but as he has no children with which to pass on this precious liquid inheritance.
“So sadly, I have to let it go,” he said with a sense of remorse.
“Over the last 35 years, I frequented worldwide auctions like Christie’s and Sotheby’s. I bought from famous restaurants like Maxim’s and La Tour d’Argent in Paris and Le Cirque in New York when they thinned-out their cellars. Some cognacs even belonged to the estate of the Duke of Windsor,” Van der Bunt added.
Van der Bunt notes that it would take generations to build up a collection of this like again having been passed on the collection himself from his father and his grandfather before him. 
“My grandfather had hundreds of bottles which my father passed on to me, so collecting is something I have grown up with,” explained Van Der Bunt. 

Van der Bunt has never had any intention of selling the collection which he has been sharing with the world via his website for the past 10 years. Age has forced him to reconsider though he's hoping that the collection will find its way into the hands of a similarly passionate collector as many of the bottles are the last of their kind in existence. 

Many bottles are the last remaining in the world

“Collecting cognacs and old liquors was very time consuming and cost a fortune, but it proves to be the best financial investment I have ever made,” concludes Van der Bunt.

For more in formation about the sale visit Surely this one is for you Mr Sven Almemning!?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Kiwi Treasure Trove #1- Herradura Antiguo 1870

I enjoy every trip back to NZ. The weather is lousy, there's nobody around and invariably everything is shut because it's a public holiday. I do however always manage to find a fair bit of loot and this Christmas holiday proved no different.

Herradura Antiguo 1870
This year I grabbed a bottle of tequila - one that's a rare find on Australian shores. It's not a new product to me - rather the bottle of Herradura Antiguo 1870 I came across is a piece of nostalgia for me. It had me reminiscing about those wild nights I used to have as a younger bartender. I used to annoy the shit out of older bartenders in Auckland. Now I irritate bartenders old and young alike in Sydney with ridiculous orders - like London's Calling I got Christian Blair to make me a Eau De Vie last night.

Anyhow I digress. I first came across this delicious reposado at a cracking wee bar called Tabac - it was their house pour. The bar is still there though it has been years since I've visited so I cannot attest to it's ongoing excellence or whether the still pour this beaut. But they poured plenty down my throat back in the day.

According to Hancock's who distribute and market Brown-Forman's Brands in NZ the Antiguo 1870 was released in 1995 to commemorate 125 years of Tequila Herradura. It's also meant to be a replica of the tequila that Casa Herradura was producing in 1924. It is rested in pipones for four months. At any rate, if you manage to pick up a bottle (it only costs 53 NZ Pesos or $41 AUD) you'll enjoy sweet agave and poached pear on the nose with fragrant cinnamon, vanilla and dried garden herbs. The palate's initial agave sweetness is is voided by a dry and complex mid-palate with plenty of savouriness as you'd expect from the valle de Tequila. Enjoy lingering black pepper, olive and minty notes from this well balanced drop.

If you enjoy it as much as I do you'll start pestering your Brown-Forman contact to get it brought into Australia. Unlike the last test match or Rugby World Cup, New Zealand having a better selection of booze is one thing you don't have to live with.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Awake from a Booze Snooze

Struth that was one hell of a festive season! 2011 finished with a whiz and a bang and a cocktail or three along the way. Stone the flaming crows! I totally missed out on sharing this beaut little festive tipple with you  (I'm trying to get used to the Aussie lingo again after two weeks back in NZ. Bro). Anywho I've now awoken from my booze snooze to share more tippling posts with you in 2012.

Smoky Kumquat Swizzle
The reason this pretty little number came about? Well my new local green grocer, Galuzzo's on Glebe Point Road, is an absolute rip-snorter. Their top-notch produce is locally sourced wherever possible and if from interstate they list the exact region it was sourced from. Kumquats were the local specialty before the break and the best way I find to extract their bitter sweet citrus flavour is to cook them in a syrup with some sweet spices like star anise, clove and cinnamon. And that's exactly what I did.

So without further dalliance here's my Smoky Kumquat Swizzle:

Smoky Kumquat Swizzle
60ml Johnnie Walker Double Black (a great Christmas stocking filler if there ever was one)
30ml lemon juice
20ml Spiced kumquat syrup
2 dashes Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter Bitters

Add all ingredients into a Julep cup. Fill 3/4 with cruished ice and swizzle with a long handled barspoon. Cap with crushed ice and garnish with a syrup soaked kumquat and a whole star anise.