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 Fante’s first novel, The Road to Los Angeles, was rejected and unpublished until after his death in 1985.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

Bar etiquette tips for the sub-human

To the bitch who spilled half a glass of red wine on me on Sat night:

What the hell is wrong with you?

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have an issue with accidentally spilling drinks (hey, shit happens when you party drunk) – but at least have the etiquette to apologise afterwards.

You don’t have to say, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I spilled wine on the hottest hunk of mancake (or should that be Dancake?) in this bar. You are a god and I will self flagellate myself for weeks” – although I don’t think that would be going too far. However, I would settle for you at least having the decency to look me in the eye and say, “Oh. Oops. Sorry.”

But no. Not even that. Instead, you nasty cow who drinks cheap sub-standard house red (I could smell it as it soaked into my shirt’s very fibres), you simply looked at me as if it were my fault for getting between your cheap excuse for liquor and the floor before soullessly turning away. To you I unleash the full voodoo curse of Bar Zine: may you never drink anything other than house red again. Continue reading