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

Follow on Facebook, twitter and instagram

(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.

beefeater-distillery-old-still
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

Follow on Facebook and  twitter

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.
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.

romeo-lane-bar-melbourne

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).

romeo-lane-back-bar

 

Joe-Romeo-Lane
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).

pollyanna-gin-cocktail-romeo-lane
Pollyanna Gin Cocktail
dirty-martini-romeo-lane
Dirty Martini

negroni-romeo-lane

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.
Almond-swizzle-project-botanicals

Project Botanicals Pop-Up Gin Bar

Matching wine and food, has been part of the restaurant scene for as long as anyone can remember. Lately, a number of bars and restaurants have offered cocktail degustations where food is matched to cocktails, but as far as I know, Project Botanicals Pop-Up Gin Bar at 64 Sutton Street, North Melbourne is the first where food has been specifically matched to gin.

Project Botanicals is a collaboration between renowned chef and Masterchef judge Gary Mehigan and Bombay Sapphire Gin. Sean Forsyth, Bombay Sapphire’s Brand Ambassador for Australia has selected 10 gin cocktails with Gary creating matching tapas style dishes, each will pay tribute to one of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire. In their words, they are pioneering the art of “Ginstronomy”

project-botanicals-dishes
A selection of ‘Project Botanicals’ dishes.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the cocktails matched the food: Oysters, Blue Swimmer Crab Toasts, Tartine of Field Mushroom and Crunchy Chicken Slider were just some of the plates we sampled. Some of the sweeter cocktails weren’t to my taste, but this didn’t detract from the concept at all.

Favourite drinks for me were the Angelica Negroni and the Orris Aviation.

angelica-negroni
Angelica Negroni
Orris-Aviation
Orris Aviation with dessert ; Strawberries and Cream, Candied Violets with Lemon Cream & Warm Breton Crumble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gary’s excitement for the project was clearly visible as he shared how the warehouse space will be transformed ~ “bursting with colour and texture and brought to life with guest DJs, live botanicals walls and installations and special effect lighting”.

The Project Botanicals Pop-Up Gin Bar will open for 3 weeks between 19th November through until the 6th December (sittings from 6pm-1am Wednesday-Saturday evenings).  Tickets must be purchased in advance and at $35 (plus booking fee) per person for 2 cocktails and 2 matched dishes, represent great value.

I was a guest of Gary Mehigan and Bombay Sapphire Australia for the media launch of Project Botanicals Pop-Up Gin Bar, no payment was received for this post.

Hayden Lambert ~ Bar Americano

Bar Americano is like all the best things in Melbourne, secretively tucked away from the main attractions.

baramericano

The tiny room is fitted out beautifully, with varnished wooden shelves and pale tiled walls. Coffee is served through the hatch during the day with aperitifs and night caps available as the day progresses.

Bar Americano is so small any photographs taken could infringe customers privacy,  so no photos. (The ones you see here are borrowed from their Facebook page). There are other irregularities a seasoned bar fly might not be used to…

Firstly, there are no seats. Standing room only. Secondly, there are no alcohol brands visible. Everything is decanted into beautiful glass bottles on the back shelf of the bar. (I did ask which gin they were using -Tanqueray). Lastly, the drinks menu is recreated from original cocktail books from bygone eras. They strive to “serve classic cocktails in their purest form”. The Negroni I was served certainly lived up to that statement and I could see why it was a finalist in the 2013 Australian Bar of the Year.

Hayden and I only managed a quick chat while he made my Negroni, but luckily for me he agreed to answer my questions as part of Meet the Bartender.

1471150_593210214078657_895231289_n

Name: Hayden Scott Lambert

Where do you work? I’m currently the head bartender of the tiny yet inspirational Bar Americano.

How long have you been mixing cocktails? I have been making cocktails for about ten years. I have been making good cocktails for about 8 of those years!

Who/what inspires you?  My wife and my son!

What’s your favourite gin and why? I have always a big fan of Martin Millers Westbourne strength. But I’m currently working with Tanqueray and it’s wonderfully versatile.

What gin cocktail are you asked for most? Negronis, Aviations and Sensations

Your favourite gin cocktail and why?  I’m in love with Negronis, its just a drink that I love making. It’s very sophisticated, seductive and one just isn’t enough.

A customer has never tried gin before, what gin-based drink would you recommend? I think a well made gin sour like the Aviation is a great introduction. It also allows for them to gain their confidence so I can take them on a gin-tastic journey.

Best thing about your job? The people, the atmosphere & the intimacy of the Bar Americano.

Off-duty, what’s your favourite place to drink? I don’t get out much but when I have I have enjoyed great drinks and great service at The Everleigh. I love going to the Lui Bar and watching the world pass by at Chuckle Park.

If you could work at any other bar, which one would it be? I don’t think I could work in another bar except my own.

Bar Americano, 20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne. Open Mon-Sun 8.30-1.30am

(Bar Americano was created by Matthew Bax (from the trink tank group).

Please note I visited Bar Americano as a paying customer and was not paid for this review.

Eau De Vie Melbourne

Eau De Vie Melbourne is described as a prohibition-style speak-easy and the lack of signage as to its whereabouts certainly add to its mystique.

We almost gave up until a door opened, a glamorous looking couple exited and the sounds of happy people wafted on to the alleyway.

As we stepped into the dimly lit, jazz-filled, bar, abuzz with lively conversation, I immediately felt this was somewhere special.

We’d booked a booth (of which there is one large and two small) as it was our anniversary. There is also a main bar area with masses of seating as well as a long table towards the back for large parties to dine (and where their cocktail degustations take place).

Naturally, I’d already enquired as to the gins available and wasn’t disappointed (24 and counting), but there is also a separate whisky room if that is more your thing, plus you can buy a bottle of your favourite tipple and keep it on the premises in your own special cabinet to which you are given your own key. Fancy!

I started with a (slightly) dirty martini. One of the most dazzling serving experiences ever. Chilled to perfection with liquid nitrogen (dry ice) before me, it was accompanied by olives resting on a glass of ice.

Spectacular to look at (my photo certainly doesn’t do it justice) and superb to drink.

As I looked around the bar I could see lots of more smoke and flames as various cocktails were served. The sense of theatre was fabulous.

(Mr GQ sampled a Martin Miller’s Gin & Tonic before working his way through some of the craft beers. Verdict: Excellent.)

Next up I sampled a Scurvy Sailor. Weeks on, and the memory of that cocktail has stayed with me, so much so I devoted this post to it.

scurvy-sailor-eau-de-vie

Citrussy, ginny, and salty is the only way to describe the Scurvy Sailor. A bit like a gin margarita? Truly scrumptious.

We had a beautiful night. The service and the food (oysters, a cheese board, some antipasti and a shared dessert) was excellent and for a special occasion not too extravagant. Cocktails are priced between $14-22.

Eau De Vie, 1 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne. Follow them on Facebook or twitter.

Note: This was a personally funded visit to Eau de Vie to celebrate our anniversary. I was not paid for this review.

The Everleigh, Melbourne

There is something almost illicit about The Everleigh.

Tucked away, a flight of stairs above an American Diner, you’d miss it if you weren’t seeking it out.

The first thing I noticed was the low lighting. This isn’t a brash hip cocktail bar, but a unique experience where impeccably dressed waiting staff enquire to your tastes and mix you a cocktail accordingly. Table service means you can relax and enjoy the company while staff come and go with your drinks.

everleigh drinks

It’s worth noting, that in order to maintain its genteel atmosphere, The Everleigh doesn’t accept groups larger than 6 people, unless you have booked a function in their newly refurbished Elk Room. More about that later.

Four gins are available at The Everleigh. Martin Miller’s, The Melbourne Gin Company, a Geniver and another which can’t remember.

What I love most about drinking here is the attention to detail.

The ice comes in a glass length block, ensuring a slow melt so as not to dilute your drink. The straw is a chilled stainless steel affair, while the tonic (Capi) is served in a small jug, so you can add to suit your taste.

The Elk Room is a delightful addition to the original bar area. Concealed behind theatrical velvet curtains, it can be booked for functions (note there is a minimum spend), but fortunately is open to the public on Friday and Saturday nights. Large, leather chesterfield armchairs, old books and other assorted knick knacks create an inviting, homely place to put the world to rights while enjoying a cocktail or two.

elkroommenu

Elkroombar

The Everleigh, Upstairs, 150-156 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.

Follow them on Facebook, twitter and instagram.