March 20th, 2012

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

This Week's Column - Mixed Drinks

Published in the Inner West Independent and City News.

With Sydney mixologists currently shaking and stirring up a storm in the winter round of the World Class Cocktail competition, I thought it was high time I nipped in and tasted the efforts of last round’s winner, Phil Gandevia. Phil is one of Sydney’s best hopes in the competition, seeing as he’s already earned a place in the finals with his gentleman’s cocktail, The Continental. I’m happy to report it’s exceptionally easy to throw back, despite it being a martini-style drop. It features two of the required competition alcohols, Tanqueray No. Ten gin and Ketel One vodka, rounded out with dry vermouth, yellow chartreuse and bitters, then garnished with a grapefruit twist.

Perched on a stool at a long shared table, complete with a convenient, centrally placed ice trough, Phil also showed me how to make a decent punch at home. I’ll let you in on one of his secrets – nothing he puts in it comes out of a can or tetra-pack. This easily ensures it’s better than any punch I’ve ever made! If you’re keen to see some of Phil’s liquid nitrogen-based cocktail magic firsthand, make a booking for The Roosevelt’s five-course Cocktail Degustation ($150/head). They won’t tell me anything about it, lest I spoil your surprise, but I’m sure you’ll have a flaming good time!

While I was occupied, Alex Harmon headed in to Theloft to watch sommeliers and mixologists, or as the MC put it, “waiters and barmen”, battle it out. Alex explains: “It was a debate that raised money for the Animal Welfare League. Captain of the mixologists, Jason Williams (2010 Bartender of the year) got the crowd going with compelling arguments as to why cocktail drinkers have more sex; and a flaring routine which involved setting a whisky cocktail on fire. Meanwhile we sipped on his creation, the Eager Beaver, a feminine looking gin and violet liqueur cocktail. His team took a farcical approach, with photomontages, Kony jokes and calling wine-drinkers snobs: “if we want hints of raspberry, we put raspberry in the drink.” The sommeliers were headed by Keystone’s “wine superhero” Sarah Limacher, who came back with history and sophistication, equating mixologists with Justin Bieber, or “people who dick around behind the bar and stick umbrellas in drinks.” There were more theatrics; Sarah opened a bottle of G.H Mumm with a sword; as we swilled a 2005 Penfolds Grange. However the outcome was in the hands of the audience; and with a cheer squad from The Roosevelt on their side, the mixologists won by a decibel.”

With all this inspiration, you might like to let cocktails fuel your next shopping adventure one Thursday evening at the Victoria Room Tea Salon. They’ve partnered with Hendrick’s Gin for Thursday Evening Affairs, running between 5pm and 9pm. For the modest spend of $20, you’ll receive a teacup of Hendrick’s High Tea Tipple, a deliciously refreshing cocktail of Hendrick's Gin, English breakfast tea, rose syrup & fresh cucumber; with dainty cucumber sandwiches and rose scones with redcurrant jelly and clotted cream.

Also pushing the mixology envelope with smoking liquid nitrogen infusions, edible creations and the odd flash of flame, is Grant Collins at Zeta Bar. He’s just launched his latest cocktail menu, featuring the Gunpowder Plot, an autumnal selection of Gunpowder tea infused gin, fernet branca, dandelion and burdock bitters. It comes to you inside a smoking cloche for $22 (the experience of being enveloped in oak scented fog from your cocktail is however priceless)!

There's no time better than aperitivo to sink a few pre-dinner cocktails over at Sydney’s new it-restaurant, Neild Avenue. Their signature cocktail, Number 68 of gin, amaro, Aperol, bitters and lemon sorbet, was consumed by the bucket last week at an event held by Campari. Guests were treated to four Campari and Aperol-based cocktails, including my favourite, the Aperol Spritz. You can try out their bar any evening after six, perhaps for a Bosporus fish sanger and the Number 8 (Campari, vodka and grapefruit).

Newly Opened

Simmer Café: (Walsh Bay) Don’t let any of the remaining balmy evenings this autumn pass you by. Head down to this little pop-up wine bar and take in Walsh Bay by sunset with a list of wines mostly from Australia and New Zealand. Very reasonable food prices even include wine, from shared platters of antipasto, cheese or tapas with two glasses of wine for $39; to one glass with a main like caramelised pork with sumac for $25.