The Powder Keg – Potts Point

The bartender’s worrying about the smoke alarms as he serves my cocktail – and considering it’s encased in a glass cloche filled with so much smoke you can barely see the drink itself, I’m not surprised.

I’m in The Powder Keg, a new gin bar in Potts Point located where Aperitif used to be. It’s the latest venture by Grant Collins, a bar consultant known for adding theatricality to cocktails – and so I couldn’t help ordering the most over-the-top cocktail on the menu.

The bartender lifts the cloche, and the smoke immediately sends me back to my childhood days of burning leaves in the backyard. I suspect my growth was stunted as a result of breathing in all those fumes as a kid, but I’ll leave that story for my therapist and continue with the review.

The cocktail is called the Gun Powder Plot ($18), which is made with gin spiked with gunpowder tea, Fernet Branca, gunpowder syrup (made by combining gunpowder tea with sugar syrup), dandelion and burdock bitters, lemon juice and egg white for froth.

It’s the best cocktail I’ve had in months. Continue reading

Ask the Dust by John Fante

Far before J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, there was an author writing about young misfits with flair and passion: John Fante.

In the 1930s Fante began a series of novels starring Arturo Bandini, a delusional, obnoxious, socially incompetent and penniless wannabe writer who is, I am afraid to say, someone I relate far too closely to. Fante’s first novel, The Road to Los Angeles, was rejected and unpublished until after his death in 1985. The second, Wait Until Spring, Bandini (1938), gained critical praise but it was his third – Ask the Dust (1939) – that was a work of genius.

Far ahead of its time, Ask the Dust didn’t shake the literary world on its release and went out of publication. If not for a young Charles Bukowski, who stumbled upon it in a public library after running out of drinking money, it may have remained that way. Continue reading

EDV Apothecary – Darlinghurst

I never touched the equipment in my high school chemistry lab for two reasons. The first was that I grew up watching The Muppets, in which Beaker, the poor schmuck of a lab assistant, inevitably gets tortured in Dr Bunsen Honeydew’s experiments. The second was that one of my classmates spilled acid on his crotch one day and we never saw him again. Needless to say I valued my own equipment far too much to ever get near the school’s.

So when I sit at the bar counter at EDV Apothecary and watch the barman clamp some beakers onto a laboratory retort stand, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cross my legs.

Located right outside Eau De Vie (in the corridor leading up to it), EDV Apothecary is run by Phil Gandevia (aka Dr Phil), whose encyclopaedic knowledge of cocktail lore is almost as terrifying as the science equipment. However, although the drinks are prepared in vials and beakers, the main emphasis is on using botanicals – even the iced water here is infused with beetroot.

The most unusual cocktail is the What’s Up Doc (see pic below), a concoction that somehow creates beautiful alchemy from mixing pickled carrots, ginger and tequila – and I say this as someone who believes vegetables should have no part in cocktails (I even refuse to have celery in my Bloody Marys). Continue reading

Neighborhood Bar – Bondi Beach

Neighbourhood Bar in Bondi
As a pretentious alcoholic snob who (perhaps deludedly) thinks he makes the best cocktails this side of Hades, I rarely order cocktails in bars unless they’re really special.

Unless, for example, someone else is paying for them, or where the combination of ingredients is so batshit crazy that it just might work, or where the ingredients are too hard to prepare, such as bourbon washed with bacon. Hell, I can barely be bothered washing myself, much less my liquor.

However, the Neighbourhood Bar in Bondi Beach is not your average gin joint. Yeah, sure, it has its own radio station (called Bondi Radio) in a tiny booth down the back, but for me it’s the Caramel Corn Old Fashioned that makes it special.

Made with buttered popcorn-washed Bulleit bourbon, Talisker 10-year-old single malt, salted caramel syrup, and a splash of orange bitters, this is the best cocktail I’ve had in months. Easy. Continue reading