Martin Luther King Jnr said we should never succumb to the temptation of bitterness, but I disagree – at least when it comes to cocktails. After all, it’s bitterness that adds complexity and saves us from the perils of saccharine sweetness, and you won’t find a better shrine to the dark side of our taste buds than Vasco.
This is partly because this small rock and roll bar on Cleveland Street has an Italian bent to it, and Italian liqueurs (from Cynar to Campari) are renowned for their bitterness – and partly because it’s run by two of Australia’s best bartenders (namely Max Greco and Luke Ashton).
The cocktail I recommend here is the Black Betty, which is made with Wild Turkey rye, Cynar, Braulio (an Italian amaro), and Herbsaint ($17.50). Continue reading
Maitland’s a town where the pubs outnumber the cafes. Some open at 7am, most were never renovated, and all are filled with locals who, for the most part, looked at me like I was an alien crash landing in their backyard.
The pubs also have a charm and beauty that too many Sydney bars have sadly lost. We’re talking original 1950s fittings, middle bars, troughs, tiled walls, and bar counters that have been gouged by time and countless stubbies. In short, they have an authenticity no interior designer could ever recreate.
My favourite pub in Maitland is the Grand Junction Hotel (88 Church Street): a beautifully dilapidated monstrosity near the train station that looks like something out of a movie. Possibly a horror. Continue reading
Temptation isn’t a topic to be treated lightly. It is, after all, the darker side of desire; the sensation of needing something we know we shouldn’t have. It struggles with our conscience, mocks our good intentions, and it’s a stronger man than I who has never succumbed.
I’m not talking about the temptation ice-cream commercials carelessly flaunt, and as far I’m concerned it has nothing to do with cupcakes or chocolate. Instead, I’m thinking of the ungovernable force of nature that leads to illicit affairs, broken dreams and disillusionment. The temptation that leads us down a dark path we later wish we had never found.
Few songs express temptation’s conflicting emotions better than Neil Finn’s tortured Into Temptation. “The guilty get no sleep, in the last slow hours of morning,” Finn sings. “Experience is cheap … I should’ve listened to the warning.”
Not many musicians can compete with this. In The Animals’ House of the Rising Sun, for example, Eric Burdon may caution against visiting whorehouses but when he smoothly intones how the experience ruined him it somehow lacks conviction.
It was a girl and a temporary bout of insanity that led to me owning a cat – and until that happened, I never understood how adults could become so attached to these tiny fur-covered psychopaths. Quite frankly, I thought it a sign of emotional, if not mental, deficiency.
And yet … I began to change.
At first I simply wanted to be a decent cat owner: I patted it, fed it, tried to do the right thing. But over time it grew on me: it even stopped becoming an it and became a he. And although his hobbies including slashing the soles of my feet as I slept and drawing blood from all my friends (and it isn’t like I had that many to start with), I began to regard him as more than just a pet – in fact, as readers of this site know, I became quite enamoured of him.
Everyone who met him thought he was a demon from hell. I’ve seen battle-hardened vets tremble in his presence and an ex-bouncer flee when my cat went for the jugular – but I saw my cat’s softer side. I alone knew how he looked when he’d curl in a ball after a long day of swiping at me, and I cherished the 15 minutes a day when he’d call a truce, leap into my lap and purr coquettishly as I patted him. Quite frankly, that’s still more than most of my ex-girlfriends ever allowed me to do to them.
In short, I adored that fat fiendish feline more than any grown man should ever admit to in public – and so I’m heartbroken to report that my muse, friend, bully and flatmate has passed away.
So to send him off in style in my last ever cat post, here is a photographic celebration of the sweetest vicious cat to ever inspire a bar blog: