House of Correction #2

House of Correction #2

House of Correction opened last week and what a welcome addition to bar life in Melbourne. Industry legend Alex Ross has turned a former porn cinema into a sleek yet welcoming space, with seats aplenty at the bar, or cosy booths where you and your mates can catch up and work your way through the bar menu.

House of Correction #2
House of Correction. Image by Georgia Verells

I was fortunate enough to score an invite to the opening night where we sampled a range of the cocktails available. Dave Smillie has put together an delicious list of drinks with a mix of boozy and light (in ABV) and intelligent twists on classics. Dave is a long time admirer of Iain Griffiths and Ryan Chetiyawardana, so expect to see lots of house-made ingredients and a drive towards creating a sustainable bar.

house of correction #2

The cocktail that caught my eye (and my tastebuds) was the House of Correction #2 (all the drinks are numbered rather like the menu in a Chinese restaurant). Maidenii vermouth, Four Pillars Navy Strength gin, hopped grapefruit bitters are all stirred down and then topped off with Capi pink grapefruit. Garnished with a piece of grapefruit, this is a light, refreshing tipple that stops short of being too bitter at precisely the right moment.

House of Correction #2

I recreated it at home during the warmer weather and it was spot on in delivering a perfect summer cooler with masses of flavour.

Ingredients for the House of Correction #2

45ml Maidenii Dry vermouth
15ml Four Pillars Navy Strength gin
2 drops Bittermans Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
60ml Capi Pink Grapefruit

Method

Place a couple of ice cubes in a wine glass. Add vermouth, gin and bitters. Stir gently. Add a little more ice and top up with Capi pink grapefruit. Stir again and garnish with a wedge of pink grapefruit.

Enjoy!

love&dysfunction

Love & Dysfunction, Melbourne

I love heading into Melbourne for a night out. The diverse assortment of good bars and places to eat make it difficult to beat – and I’m saying that as someone who’s lived in London and Brighton (UK). Sometimes though, I like to stay closer to home, and discovering new bar Love & Dysfunction on my doorstep was a happy day indeed.

Owner Reg, a Gin Palace Alumni, named his bar after this fabulous quote from Will and Grace.

“Come sit. Join our little circle of love and dysfunction!” (Jack, Will & Grace)

With that quote as the inspiration for its name the bar naturally has a relaxed, welcoming vibe with plenty of space to sit and chat to the very friendly barstaff or tables if you are on a date or in a group. Step out the back and you’ll find a cosy den area, perfect for private functions but best of all is the cute beer garden, that I bet will be full all summer long.

The back bar is an eclectic mix of Reg’s favourites and an excellent range of gins. My gin-tenna was twitching before I even looked at the cocktail menu. I could sense a gin-lover running the bar.

Flicking through the menu (each one bound with a different op-shop book cover) I wasn’t disappointed, with 9 different gin cocktails to choose from (almost half the list). Amongst them were some great twists on the classics:

Love&Dysfuntion-Dysfunctional-Gimlet

 

Love&Dysfuntion-Gimlet

Dysfunctional Gimlet

Hendricks Gin shaken with fresh lime, elderflower & homemade lime cordial, served in an Absinthe rinsed glass & finished with a cucumber rubbed rim.

I get nervous around Absinthe (I blame my aversion to aniseed) but in this cocktail it is a perfect ingredient. It cuts through the elderflower and lime cordial to make a deliciously dry Gimlet.

G&T&T-cocktail

The G&T&T

Not on the menu, but I’m sure if you ask Reg nicely he’ll whip you one up, the G&T&T is the result of some experimentation while I was visiting. Zeiden Dutch Courage gin is shaken with homemade honeydew tea & tonic reduction syrup, and Maidenii Dry vermouth! Delicious!

Also worth a taste was the Rosemary and Basil Bramble. I love Brambles and I love herbs in cocktails. So this combination of Brokers Gin shaken with fresh lemon juice, muddled fresh rosemary, basil and finished with a crème de mure float hit the spot nicely.

In addition to the cracking cocktails, there is a good selection of wine and beer. If you are feeling a little peckish Love & Dysfunction has some very tasty offerings from picky bits to sharing plates (I  can personally vouch for the damon & gruyère croquettes with chipotle aioli).

Love & Dysfunction, 103 Grey St, St Kilda, Vic

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(Note: this review was not paid for, although when I visited for the second time Reg did shout me the Gimlet)
sebastian-costello-bad-frankie-bar-melbourne

Meet Sebastian Costello, Bad Frankie

I first met Seb last year, after one of my first gin-tasting events, just before he opened Bad Frankie in Fitzroy. This pioneering bar was the first to stock only Australian spirits, wines and beers, not to mention a bar menu entirely made up of jaffles!

This interview, with one of the nicest dudes in the business, is long over-due!

How long had you been in the industry before opening Bad Frankie?

About 14/15 years. I did work experience at a local sports club when I was 17 and went to England at 19 where started learning about mixed drinks.

I started getting into cocktails at Trinity (Canberra in 2001). At that time there was probably only 15 cocktail bartenders and we all knew each other.  We were all learning together at a time when mixology was beginning to really take off.

Then I went to Edinburgh to work at Tigerlily. When I came back to Canberra I worked at Penthouse Bar and Parlour wine room before moving to Melbourne to work for Suntory. My time at Suntory was good fun and I got to know a lot of people in the bar industry.

So you left Suntory to open the bar?

Yes. if you work in hospitality the dream is always to open your own bar. I wanted a place that I could love and enjoy working in. It wasn’t so much a money-making plan but something I had a passion for.

Why an Australian bar?

As you can see I’ve done a fair bit of travelling.  In 2011 we went to the States. I drank bourbon in Nashville before heading to Mexico to drink tequila in Tequila. What I love is about travelling is the local recommendations. While I was in Nashville all I wanted to do was get cowboy boots, go to a Honky Tonk and have the best time drinking local beer or local bourbon. People were recommending bourbons and when we asked why they liked that one,  it would be because they had a relative working there. I loved the connections.

When I came back to Melbourne I was thinking “oh wouldn’t it be great to do a bourbon bar or a tequila bar” but I knew I wouldn’t be true to myself if I did that.

I have a broad Aussie accent and I’m proud to be Australian. I noticed the trend for Aussie spirits and then the idea for an Australian bar came to me.

Would you say that was a risky choice?  There weren’t that many spirits around then?

We had seven gins and a few whiskies. Definitely not as much as there are now!

Did people think you were crazy?

It took me about 3 months to talk Ellie (Seb’s partner) around and when you tell people it’s an Australian bar they think of Walkabout (Australian themed bars in the UK). It took us a while to figure it out how it would look.

Sally Holborn, our designer, and I would come up with all these ideas and then we’d run them past Ellie who would often say “no too Australian or too ‘Ocker’”.

I wanted people to understand more about Melbourne history and culture. I wanted the decor to have a connection to my heritage.

Seb points out a few images on the wall:

There are a few family shots. That’s my mum’s side of the family in about 1963. That’s my pop on his bike in about 1912. I wanted to do that. If you are going to own a bar it might as well suit you. It’s like my lounge room!

What was the biggest challenge?

There were 3! No money, sticking to a budget and finding a space.

I found both convincing people it was a good concept, and then getting the idea in my head down on paper, very hard. I did 50-60 hours a week for a year trying to get the bar off the ground and from where we started to how we ended up is just unbelievable.

There were lots of hits and misses. It took 3-4 months alone to figure out our the name and identity. (You can find out more about why the bar is called Bad Frankie on their website)

How has the Australian spirits industry changed since you opened?

Obviously, the volume of Australian spirits available now is so much greater. The customer is also more aware and they are really keen to get involved and learn more about Australian products. In the beginning it was a little more difficult.

We spend a lot of time sitting down with the customers and talking to them. I think people can sometimes be nervous when they walk into a bar, especially if it’s somewhere new to them. They often call for a drink they usually have as it makes them feel safe.

We want people to feel comfortable, so we take some extra time. We ask people what they like and just get them smelling, tasting and trying the spirits. We just love what we do and we love talking about Australian products.

If a customer never tried Aussie gin before what would you suggest?

We usually take over a selection of 6 and get them to smell them as that’s what most people like about gin, the smell! We like to give people as many options as possible. When suggesting a drink, we ask them what people they usually order. Alcohol percentage plays a big part. For example, If they drink beer, we give them a G&T. If it’s wine we’ll give them a martini, but maybe diluted a little.

With our gin flights we offer tonic and water and I have nothing against people watering down their drink. It opens up the flavours more.

I don’t want people to just like Australian gin, I want them to have a favourite Australian gin.

How do you see the Australian distilling industry developing? Do you think there is room for more?

There is heaps of room for more products. If it’s people doing their own thing with passion and love, they don’t need to sell massive amount. It’s like any small business.

Are you tempted to go into distilling yourself?

No! We’ve talked about some Bad Frankie products, but the thing I like best thing is talking about other people’s stories and the stories behind Australian spirits are fantastic.

What’s next?

We’re happy. There’s a little bit more work to do here, but I’m happy in my lounge room. Of course I’d love to open two or 3 bars other bars, but the reality is it would take me away from doing what I enjoy, talking to people.

The lovely guys at BAR/D UP shot this great film of Bad Frankie. My thanks to them for allowing me to share it!

Bad Frankie 141 Greeves Street, Fitzroy Vic 3065

Follow them on Facebook, twitter, Instagram or visit their website.

beefeater-gin-visitors-centre

Beefeater Distillery

Having visited Sipsmith Distillery, the first gin distillery in London for 180 years, I had to visit Beefeater Distillery, the oldest continuously distilling gin producer in London.

Beefeater Gin is one of the most recognisable gin brands in the world, and is synonymous with London.  Master distiller, Desmond Payne is one of the most respected distillers in the UK, unfortunately for me, Desmond was off in New York when I visited, but Tim Stones, Global Brand Ambassador was on hand to show me around.

I began my visit with the excellent self-guided tour!

The detailed history of the origins of gin, James Burroughs (who founded Beefeater) and London has all put together by well-known drinks historian (and Sipsmith Master Distiller) Jared Brown. It was fascinating.

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One of the original stills at the Beefeater Distillery
jamesburroughsbeefeaterportrait
James Burroughs, Founder Beefeater Gin
An 'Old Tom' Cat.
An ‘Old Tom’ Cat.

I loved reading about the innovative ways people came by their gin. See the Black Cat above and the blurb below.

oldtomblurb

This might be why a black cat appears on some ‘Old Tom’ gin labels.

After completing my tour Tim caught up with me (actually he jumped out and scared me to death!) and took me through to the working part of the distillery.

The building has a distinctly 1960’s feel, (Beefeater moved from Lambeth to the current distillery in 1958) and most of the stills are from that era. They were all produced by John Dore & Co Ltd, one of the oldest still-makers in the world.

The stills!
The stills!

beefeaterstills beefeaterstill3

The stills were on a scale I hadn’t seen before and weren’t the usual shiny copper pots I’m used to seeing. And there were so many! Tim explained that they weren’t all running at the same time and that different stills produce different gins. Beefeater currently has 4 gins in its portfolio; Beefeater Dry, Beefeater 24, Burrough’s Reserve (a barrel-rested gin) and Beefeater Garden (limited edition, only available from the distillery.

They were producing gin while I was visiting and it was an impressive sight to see the gin gushing into the spirit safe. For some reason, I’d assumed the gin dripped through slowly!

Beefeater Gin gushing into the spirit safe
Beefeater Gin gushing into the spirit safe

Tim then showed me the variations of gin produced at different times of day. 10am, midday and 3pm. All different visually and also on the palate, with different botanical notes more pronounced in each variant.

Variants of Beefeater gin
Variants of Beefeater gin

We then moved to where the botanicals are stored.  The smell was incredible and the quantities were huge!

Sacks and sacks of juniper as far as the eye could see!
Sacks and sacks of juniper as far as the eye could see!
Scales for weighing the botanicals
Scales for weighing the botanicals

The distilled gin is stored in massive vats before heading up to Scotland for bottling. Tim pointed out that there has to be a short time where the gin ‘rests’, allowing all the botanicals to marry together.

It was eye-opening to see gin being produced on this scale. Whatever the size of distillery, the distillers are all similar methods and core ingredients dating back hundreds of years, but with differing results. Isn’t it amazing?

I could have spent much longer chatting to Tim (he has the most amazing office bar) but had to head off to visit Hayman’s which fittingly has family connections to Beefeater (more on that in another post). I’ll also be sharing my interview with Tim at a later date as well as delving into the Beefeater gin portfolio in more detail.

Beefeater Distillery 20 Montford Place London SE11 5DE

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duck-and-waffle-dirty-martini

Duck and Waffle, London

I began stalking  following Rich Woods from Duck and Waffle on Instagram a while back. His cocktail pictures are sublime, but it was this picture of his Nutella Negroni that made me sit up and plan how soon I could get to London.

Rich is Head of Cocktail and Spirit Development for Duck and Waffle and Sushi Samba (a global Japanese/Brazilian fusion restaurant chain, the London venue is situated in the same building). I’ll be sharing my fab interview with him at a later date.

Duck and Waffle has an enviable location, sitting 40 floors up with spectacular views across London. The restaurant serves modern British fare and is famous for its eponymous signature dish. On this trip I was on a mission to find out about the drinks, but when the food looks like this, you know you need to come back!

ducka-and-waffle-dish
Actual Duck and Waffle

The twists and bends of the Thames, the Tower of London and London Bridge are all visible from the bar, which has an unusual layout.

duck-and-waffle-view
The ‘Gherkin’ as seen from the bar
duck-and-waffle-bar
The bar

It feels more like a kitchen island than the ‘bartender behind the bar’ set-up I am more used to seeing. The staff work on the outside of the bar, with their stations and chiller cabinets all on display. It took me a while to get used to seeing the bartenders with their back to customers, but Rich explained that the idea was to get rid of the divide between staff and guests. Each person takes the order, makes the drink and then serves it, building a rapport with the clientele as they go.

I had the good fortune of visiting during Negroni Week (hurrah!) and an incredible line-up of the Negroni on the menu that week was offered up for me to sample. I know, tough gig.

ducka-and-waffle-negroni
Duck and Waffle Negroni

From left to right:

Summer Negroni

(gin, Campari, seasonal vermouth blend, pine needle infusion, grass, wild elderflower, lightly carbonated.)

Nutella Negroni

(Bombay Sapphire gin, vermouths, Campari, Nutella infusion

Truffled Dark Chocolate Negroni

(gin, Campari, dark chocolate vermouth, black truffle infusion garnished with truffle)

Ristretto Negroni

(Bombay Sapphire gin, vermouth, amaro, slow-dripped through coffee)

Negroni heaven, right there. These were insanely good and I would be hard pressed to pick my favourite from the line up, as they all offered such a unique slant on my favourite cocktail.

If I HAD to pick one though, it would be the Summer Negroni. I loved the addition of pine as an infusion and as a garnish. The light carbonation made it a refreshing alternative to a G&T on what was a warm summer’s day in London.

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Summer Negroni

Then Rich ordered the Filthy Martini.

duck-and-waffle-filthy-martini
The Filthiest Martini

Now, I adore oysters, but am unaccustomed to seeing them sitting at the bottom of my cocktail. The menu description highlighted further that this was no ordinary martini. Branston Pickle, Whole Grain mustard, vodka, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Noilly Prat vermouth, all slow-dripped through crushed oyster shells and served over an oyster.

The ultimate Gibson on steroids.

I LOVED IT. Seriously LOVED IT.

One visit to Duck & Waffle was never going to be enough, so I returned with my sister the next day. This time I was “off-duty” and able to actually finish the drinks, rather than just sample them.

Sam ordered ‘Mind Your Peas & Qs’  – Garden pea compressed Bombay Sapphire Gin and tonic, Rich’s winning drink that took him to the final of the 2014 World’s Most Imaginative Bartender Competition. So simple, but so delicious. Peas in gin. WHO KNEW.

mind-your-peas-and-s-cocktail
Mind Your Peas & Qs

After revisiting the Summer Negroni (still good) I ordered the Eden on the advice of our bartender, Bernard.

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Eden

The Eden is made with Bombay Sapphire gin, compressed vermouth, Inkspot EIPA reduction and beetroot paint. What liked most about this martini was the subtle flavour change as the beetroot paint diluted into the liquid.

Duck & Waffle is not a cheap date bar. This is a “wow your other half, celebrate the good times” bar. The drinks are truly spectacular and best of all, it (and the restaurant) is open 24 hours a day!

 

Duck and Waffle, Heron Tower, The Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY

Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

You can follow Rich on Instagram and Twitter

Note: I visited Duck and Waffle to meet Rich. On my second visit with my sister, they generously covered my drinks, (so kind), this has not affected my review in any way. It’s just a bloody fantastic bar.

 

Celebrating World Gin Day 2015

My picks on where you should be celebrating World Gin Day 2015!

Melbourne

Gin Palace

Gin-Palace-Melbourne

The centre of the Melbourne gin scene, Gin Palace puts the rest of the nation to shame with it’s stupendous line up of workshops. Not one, not 2 but 8 events will be happening at the Gin Palace on World Gin Day, starting with Breakfast Bubbles at 12pm and finishing with a Botanical Masterclass at 5pm The full listing can be found here. Remember to pace yourselves people!

Thomas Olive

Alan and Conor Thomas Olive
image copyright Tim Grey

You may have seen Alan and Connor from Thomas Olive stripping off in Broadsheet to highlight the high taxation on Australian spirits! From Tuesday 9th until Saturday 13th Thomas Olive and West Winds Gin will be covering all of the excise tax applied to West Winds Gin, meaning martinis and Gin and Tonics will be half price. Hopefully, these two will have found their clothes by then.

Bass & Flinders

bass-and-flinders-event

Bass & Flinders will be holding a gin-making session at Romulus and Remus in Richmond. Ticket includes grazing menu and a 50ml bottle of your gin to take home. More information here.

Four Pillars Gin

spiced-negroni-gin

This year will be the last time the Four Pillars crew celebrate World Gin Day at their current location. As part of their goodbye before relocating to the new distillery, they are holding a Pop-up from 10.30am-4.30pm. The gins will be available for purchase as well as some very limited editions, including the Spiced Negroni Gin pictured above. There will also be cocktails, pizza and afternoon tea. Plus Wilma!

More information here.

Sydney

The BarberShop

barbers-cut-gin

My favourite place to drink in Sydney has create it’s own gin! The Barber’s Cut comes in at 43% and is available from 4pm as a nip or in special World Gin Day cocktails. Remember to leave some for me!

The Powder Keg

powder-keg-event

The Powder Keg kicks off with early with festivities beginning on Thursday 11th June. There will be cocktail specials and giveaways over the whole weekend, their G&Ts are a must (see the featured image above for an example)

Perth

Enrique’s School for Bull-fighting

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Enjoy a dinner with a difference! On Tuesday June 16th, Tanqueray and West Winds Gin will be matched with delicious dishes to delight gin-lovers! More information here.

Adelaide

The Howling Owl

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Head to The Howling Owl where you can play the gin wheel (and win a FREE gin), enjoy special prices on gin cocktails but best of all make your own gin in a Bootlegging Masterclass lead by Kangaroo Islands Spirits Master Distiller, Jon Lark!

More information here.

Nothing here that takes your fancy? Head over to World Gin Day official website to see events in your area.

18o6-bar-melbourne

18o6

18o6 is a Melbourne institution that celebrates its 8th birthday in October. As anyone living in Melbourne will tell you, 8 years is an age in bar years!

The bar gets its name from the year that the word ‘cocktail’ first appeared in print. It’s a beautiful layout with a theatrical curtain as a backdrop, giving the bartenders a ‘stage’. The walls are decorated with images of bar tools and glassware, barware and books for sale are on display. There is also an upper mezzanine floor as well as a cute little bar downstairs called ‘The Understudy’.

While other great venues in Melbourne add their twist to existing cocktails, 18o6 is a classic cocktail bar keen to share the history and origins of the drinks they serve.

Such is their commitment to passing on their knowledge, that the team at 18o6 offer a range of cocktail experiences for customers. You can choose from a cocktail degustation , a two-hour ‘Make Your Own Cocktail‘ class or the Deconstructing Cocktails Masterclass.

Recently, Kevin and the team kindly gifted me a Deconstructing Cocktails Masterclass and I jumped at the opportunity to spend 4 hours learning about booze and cocktails!

Our host Morgan, talked us through 8 types of spirit: brandy, vodka, scotch, tequila, rye, bourbon, rum, and of course Gin. He covered the history and production behind each spirit and then made a classic cocktail with it (which of course we got to taste!). We tried a sidecar, an old fashioned, a daiquiri, to name but a few, all the while picking up tips on making better cocktails at home.

18o6-bar-deconstructing-cocktails

Then we were encouraged to get behind the bar ourselves. With the able assistance of the staff (on hand to make sure we didn’t injure ourselves!) we picked a cocktail to recreate. I chose a White Lady. I loved having a bottle of egg white on hand, but I don’t think I get through enough to justify keeping one at home.

After a delicious lunch – open sandwiches, dips and charcuterie we stepped back behind the bar once more, to make any drink of our choosing. (I went with a Sloe Gin Negroni!)

It was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday afternoon (The Deconstructing Cocktails class is the first Sunday of every month). As part of the experience I received a copy of the 18o6 book ‘Cocktails World History as Seen Through The Bottom of a Glass’ which is a fascinating read and filled with recipes and stunning illustrations. I have ONE copy to give away to a lucky reader…it is World Cocktail Day after all!

18o6-cocktails-book

All you have to do is leave a comment below outlining why you would be a worthy recipient. That’s it*!

Good Luck!

18o6, 169 Exhibition Street, Melbourne. Follow 18o6 on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

*terms & conditions. One winner will be selected by The Gin Queen. Open to all Gin Queen readers. GQ’s decision is final. Winner announced on Facebook on Monday 18th May 2015.
the_artesian_bar

Bars on my Bucket List (Part 1)

This is the first in a series where I share the bars on my bucket list. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it’s a start!

The Artsesian, London

Housed in the Langham Hotel, The Artesian has won best bar in the world 3 years in a row. Aside from a list of classic cocktails there is an opportunity to ‘unfold’ new experiences and ‘explore’ new ingredients on their ‘Unfold and Explore’ menu.

the_artesian_bar

What would I order?

Either a classic martini made with Tanqueray No. 10 and Artesian vermouth or a ‘Camouflage’, Tanqueray No.10, Americano, Carrot, Kombuca and Sandalwood.

The Artesian, 1C Portland Place, London

 

Bramble Bar, Edinburgh

Bramble Bar and Lounge was the first cocktail bar in Scotland to make Australian Bartenders Magazine Top 20 bars in the world in 2008, but is now recognised as one of the best bars in the world. In spite of Scotland being the birthplace of whisky, Bramble Bar boasts a great collection of gin (yay!).

bramble_bar_edinburgh

What would I order?

Stepford Sister – Beefeater Gin, St Germain liqueur, Amaro, fresh lemon juice and sugar

Bramble Bar 16A Queen Street, Edinburgh

 

White Lyan, London

White Lyan, rattled the industry when it first opened as it only serves cocktails with house made spirits and ingredients (no brands here) and all are batch made, in advance. Sceptics wondered if it would survive without the support of the big brands, but not only has it thrived, another venue, Dandelyan was recently opened at New Mondrian Hotel.

The cocktail list has some familiar drinks but with a White Lyan twist, while some cocktails are completely ‘out there’. A ‘Bone Dry Martini’, for example, is simply, vodka and bone!

white_lyan_bar
© Jamie Lau
What would I order?

A Southside Royale – Mr Lyan Gin, mint, lemon cacao butter, sparkling wine.

 

The Dead Rabbit, New York

The Dead Rabbit won Best American Cocktail bar this year at Tales of the Cocktail Awards and is one of the world’s Top 50 bars. It’s based on the old Irish-American tradition or bars and features craft beers, bottled punch and whiskies of the world.

Mixed drinks are split into different categories; fresh, fiery, sharp, strong, low-spirited, bitter, ambitious and cultivated, and as expected there is a strong emphasis on whisky cocktails.

the_dead_rabbit_bar

What would I order?

Steamboat – Green tea-infused Tanqueray Gin, lime, pistachio, eucalyptus, cream, egg white

Dead Rabbit, 30 Water Street, NYC.

(Dead Rabbit has published its own cocktail book.)

 

Please Don’t Tell, New York

One of the most famous hidden bars in New York, Please Don’t Tell (PDT) is accessed via a phone booth within Crif’s Dogs (a hot dog place). You can order food from Crif’s to go with your cocktails!

What would I order?

Probably the PDT Cocktail book from my Gift Guide for Gin-lovers, so I’d be ready to order when I visited!

Please_don't_tell_bar_new_york
Photo courtesy of www.eater.com
Please Don’t Tell 113 St. Marks Place between First Avenue & Avenue A, East Village, New York

Which bars would you put on your bucket list?

thomas-olive-bar

Thomas Olive

Saint Crispin on Smith Street, Collingwood opened with rave reviews earlier this year and Mr GQ and I had a great eveing there a few months ago. However, my plans to visit the upstairs bar, Thomas Olive, were scuppered by a private party. “I’ll be back”, I told Alan (the bartender), trying not to imitate Arnie as I did so.

Last week, the planets aligned and I returned.

Thomas Olive is reached by scaling a pretty ambitious flight of stairs. Steep is an understatement (if you’ve had a few cocktails, you’ll need to take extra care on your descent).

Dark and moody, with heavy drapes concealing a private dining room, it looks like the type of place created for secret assignations. Although it was a Wednesday there was nice bustle to the place, with some people waiting for their table at St Crispin to be ready and others enjoying a post-dinner drink.

thomas-olive-bar

The back bar is small, but a quick flick through the menu showed an eclectic list of drinks. ‘Running with Alice’ caught my eyeA selection of three drinks; a beer, a shot and a martini, that you can only to order once per night.

9 gins are listed and half of those would make my top 10, so I was happy. Alan made a dry martini with Berry Bros and Noilly Prat with a twist, that was deliciously dry and chilled to perfection. If martinis aren’t your thing there are other gin cocktails you could try. Alan then made a gin version of a Penicillin (as I don’t like whisky) and it was wonderful.

dry-martini-thomas-olive
Dry Martini

Cocktail prices range from $16-$55 . Wine, beer, champagne and small tasting plates are also available.

As the Saint Crispin website says, “Thomas Olive is a great destination in its own right” and I tend to agree.

Thomas Olive, 300 Smith Street, Collingwood. Open Wednesday-Saturday from 5pm (going to 7 days a week from 17th November 2014.

romeo-lane-sign

Romeo Lane

The latest small bar to open in Melbourne, Romeo Lane, is fast becoming one of my favourite places to go. A relaxed vibe and great cocktails, Joe and Roz (formerly of Lily Blacks) have created something very special.

Romeo Lane is a softly lit, front-room style bar, that is warm and inviting (am wondering if the fireplace will be in action over the winter months?). The swing music makes a welcome change from the jazz so often heard in cocktail bars and is fabulous for this divinely romantic (perfect first date) venue.

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There are crystal decanters on the back shelf in place of the usual branded bottles, and the small bar area is teeming with vintage bar ware and accessories (I covet the silver coasters).

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Joe mixes me a Sipsmith Negroni

On both of my visits I’ve been seriously impressed with the pleasant, prompt service and friendliness of the staff. The cocktails, a dirty martini and a Negroni, have been spot on and a glance over the cocktail list shows an impressive and inviting selection. (My friend raved about the Pollyanna).

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Pollyanna Gin Cocktail
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Dirty Martini

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You know a bar is good when your favourite bartenders talk about it, and frequent it themselves. Joe and Roz have created a brilliant little spot and I’m looking forward to my next visit to Romeo Lane.

Have you visited Romeo Lane? What did you think?

Romeo Lane, 1a Crossley Street, Melbourne. Open Mon-Sat 12 noon – 1am. Follow them on Facebook.
Please note this is not a sponsored review. All drinks were paid for.