It might have a French name (which stands for “water of life” as well as describing a style of fruit brandy) but Eau-de-Vie feels more like a 1930s-style American bar, complete with dark wood, great service and a strong focus on cocktails.
Tucked away at the back of the Kirketon, there’s no sign outside that a bar exists: in fact, even when you enter the building you’d have no idea a speakeasy-style bar lies in the back, so I’m assuming Eau-de-Vie will be relying on word of mouth.
I’m here on a Friday night after a date has gone sour, so I’m hoping a few cocktails might perk me up. As such I order the Highlander sazerac, which unlike traditional sazeracs doesn’t have any bitters, rye whiskey or absinthe, but is instead made with Johnny Walker Black that’s infused with raisins and cloves (the bottle is filled more than half way with raisins), pastis, Coings (a French liqueur made from quince) and a dash of sugar.
The result is beautiful and feels as soothing as a sazerac should – in fact, it’s slightly sweeter and gentler to drink than a standard sazerac while the raisin flavour gives it a unique note.
Talking of notes, the background jazz here is quiet and moody, which suits the darker décor – there are red candles, an art deco lamp, a grandfather clock, an olde worlde globe and a banquette at the back that you can imagine gentlemen in double breasted suits and fedoras sitting on (although in reality two young women are currently sitting on it instead).
But enough with the whimsy.
I follow up the sazerac by ordering the Crusta Reserva, another interpretation of a classic that’s made with Pampero rum (crustas are usually made with brandy or cognac), maraschino liqueur and lemon and pineapple juice that’s served in a sugar-rimmed cup. This is a subtle cocktail that’s not as fruity as it sounds and the addition of an orange peel adds to the aroma. As a crusta-style cocktail it works well – having said that, however, I’ve never had a crusta cocktail anywhere that’s blown me away (I should probably stop ordering them).
Aside from the cocktails, the main attraction here is the service – I was greeted warmly as I walked in and the bartender is exceptionally friendly and professional (which alone makes this bar better than most in Sydney). If you’re after an intimate space where the cocktails and service are considered more important than attitude, you’d be hard pressed to match Eau-de-Vie.
Eau-de-Vie. 229 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst. Open seven days a week – see the Eau-de-Vie website for more details
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Eau-de-Vie?