The Park Hyatt is now being refurbished and won’t be open until November 2011
A good hotel bar is an attractive option for so many reasons. There’s the hope of having a Lost in Translationmoment, the anonymity of being in a five-star hotel bar (it’s so much easier to indulge in my fantasy of being a wealthy playboy in a place where I’m unlikely to meet any locals who know otherwise) and the service is usually so much better. In the case of The Park Hyatt you can also factor in the harbour views, yet for me one reason trumps them all: their Aperol sour.
Made from lemon juice, sugar syrup, bitters and of course Aperol, which is an Italian aperitif containing bitter orange, rhubarb, gentian and cinchona (the last twp ingredients being flower species), an Aperol Sour is similar to a whiskey sour only with a slightly more complex flavour.
The other reason to come here is for the mint julep, which despite having once been immensely popular in the US is now largely known to Australians as the drink that once featured in the novel The Great Gatsby.
A mint julep is made from mint, bourbon, sugar and water, and tradition states that it should only be served in a silver cup – and The Park Hyatt is the one place I’ve found in all Sydney that does this. According to Christine Sismondo, author of Mondo Cocktailand one of Bar Zine’s favourite authors on cocktail matters, it should also never be served with a straw as the julep is a built drink (in other words, instead of being shaken it’s supposed to have the bourbon dwelling on the cup’s bottom).
The other author who springs to mind when it comes to mint juleps is Ian Fleming, who had James Bond go to Kentucky in Diamonds Are Forever. As an avid 12-year-old fan I learnt from that book that only Kentucky branch (ie spring) water ought to be used in a mint julep, although I’m willing to let that slide.
In contrast to the Aperol sour, which has a tang that counters the sourness, a mint julep is a serious drink – despite the mint (unlike a mojito, the muddled leaves ought to be taken out before serving) the overriding taste is of sheer alcohol, same as with a gin martini.
But enough with the cocktail lesson.
The Park Hyatt has two bars, namely the harbourbar and the Club. (Actually, it has a third one on the rooftop but if you’re not a guest then the chances are you’ll be drinking downstairs). The harbourbar is the main cocktail bar, where you can see bands perform, check out the harbour (as the name suggests) and the décor is bright and modern. To be honest, it’s not Bar Zine’s favourite décor – but the quality of the cocktails more than make up for it. The Club, meanwhile, has a great atmosphere provided intimacy is your thing. Despite raving about cocktails it’s the whiskey that’s the highlight here, with a fantastic selection of scotches to choose from – you can pick from Islay malts, different eras of Macallan single malts, and so on, not to mention other drinks such as cognacs and quality bourbons.
The décor is olde world, like a 19th-century gentleman’s club and before the smoking laws changed you were able to light up a Cuban or two in here as well. However, they still sell cigars for those who want a smoke on the promenade outside.
Lastly, as you’d expect of a five-star hotel, the service here is fantastic – I’ve been here countless times and have always been made to feel welcome, even though I’m sure the staff suspects I’m nowhere near being the wealthy playboy I pretend to be.
Park Hyatt, 7 Hickson Rd, Millers Point, 02 9256 1877. Open every day from 5pm to late. See the Park Hyatt website
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate the Park Hyatt’s bars?