It might not be Sydney’s smallest bar but The Passage is possibly the narrowest. Located where L’otel used to be on Victoria Street, The Passage has a marble communal dining table up the front, individual tables in the corridor (pictured) and a cocktail bar down the back, complete with pixelated photos of bikies on the walls. It’s also the only Sydney bar I’ve seen that has the Scofflaw on its cocktail menu.
The Scofflaw is a classic cocktail made from rye whiskey, dry vermouth, fresh lemon juice and grenadine made from pomegranates. According to Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails (one of my favourite books at the moment), it was invented in 1924 and the word “scofflaw” refers to someone who flouts prohibition by going to speakeasies (incidentally, it was also the name of a Seinfeld episode).
I first tried the Scofflaw at Eau De Vie when one of their bartenders, Dr Phil, was kind enough to make it on request. The result was great – more subtle and smooth than I’d have thought – and Phil said he modified the original recipe slightly to have a higher proportion of rye and lemon juice to make it less sweet.
It’s with these expectations of what the drink can taste like that I now order it at Passage while my companion, the Amazonian Croatian, opts for the Professor Plum, which is basically a plum pisco sour.
Instead of being served in the traditional cocktail glass, the Passage’s Scofflaw is served in a tumbler. The colour is a vibrant pomegranate red and there’s an orange peel floating on top. Thinking it might be too sweet I take a taste but the result is beautiful, to the point where I’m not sure whether I prefer this version or Dr Phil’s (not, of course, that it’s a competition). Both are complex in terms of flavour and I would certainly flout prohibition laws to drink either. Incidentally, the Passage’s version also adds a dash of orange bitters.
The plum pisco sour is made with macerated plums, lemon juice, plum pisco and vanilla sugar syrup and also pleasantly exceeds our expectations. Served in a wine glass with a lemon twist, this is a spicy (in a clove/cinnamon kind of way) and aromatic cocktail that’s a great variation on the original.
The Passage’s atmosphere is low lit, stylish and hip (I know it’s not hip to say hip, but I’m trying to bring the word back. I’m also fond of saying funky, groovy and right-on) and while we’re there the music, which is quiet enough for conversation, includes Amy Winehouse to Fleetwood Mac. With great service and a cocktail menu that respects the classics (next time I go I’ll try their negroni) I think this is a great bar to check out.
The Passage, 231A Victoria Street, Darlinghurst. Phone 9358 6116 or see The Passage website
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate The Passage?