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).
This is the best cocktail I’ve ordered in a month: to quote Huey Lewis’s The Power of Love, it’s stronger and harder than a bad girl’s dream.
I’m tempted to end the review here, but I suppose I should add the following points to fulfil the conventions of a bar review:
- the staff here are friendly
- the patrons are relaxed enough to dance like crazy people in the middle of the room
- the bar stools are comfy and you can perch at the counter
- the music is fantastic, and yet not too loud for conversation.
Ok. Job done.
Vasco. 421 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills. Open Monday to Saturday, 5pm-midnight. See the Vasco website.