The cocktail creating process at Bulletin Place isn’t anything new, fancy or cutting edge. In fact, we tend to prescribe to the exact formula pioneered by our American forefathers who paved the way for all bartending aspirants.
In essence, because 19th century US bartenders found success by only using local and seasonal ingredients, it seems logical that we do the same. Sure, it’s not new – restaurants have been operating seasonally for ages – but it is bloody delicious.
At the bar, we serve five rotating cocktails. On any given night we might serve rhubarb infused into a sour or ripe blackberries as an addition to a neat negroni, but today’s offering includes late-summer figs in a mix of tequila, honey and lemon. It’s not a long list, I concede, but changing drinks every day requires finesse, shrewdness and not a small dose of balls (after all, failure may sometimes mean four drinks on the daily menu, and not five!). [fold]
So in terms of the creative process, our day begins the night before, when we get our market report. This details what fruit is currently good, where it’s grown, the state of its flavour intensity and of lastly, its ripeness.
That said, when possible, we’re even down there ourselves sifting through boxes of produce looking for various gems. Because we’re generally knackered after a long day hanging out together, the discussion of what we’re going to do with the next day’s fruit is a fiery and animated affair (the amount of alcohol imbibed by then also doesn’t help!).
Each day, our stone fruit is pitted and kept as whole as possible (oxidisation means a loss of freshness); cherries are pitted; pineapples are peeled and juiced and then often mixed through with fresh ginger juice and sweetened; passionfruits are chopped and hulled; while other fruits, such as rhubarb are stewed and spiced. By the end of prep, the place smells like a psychedelic fruit salad, and all the fruit neatly packed into the bar looks poppin’!
At this stage, it’s crunch time in the Bulletin Place daily timeline. Half an hour before service, our educated guesses are put into effect with some last-minute drink testing. With all menu drinks, the fruit must shine with the spirit. As we bring the two together in a tight cocktail framework, we look to create offerings, which govern balance (Too strong? Sour enough? Balanced? More acid? Good finish?) and ensure that everything is absolutely perfect. It’s an approach we simply can’t compromise and one that finds us tweaking and re-testing on the fly right up until the first punters walk in.
Simply put, the drink philosophy of following strictly seasonal and daily produce, coupled with what I believe to be the city’s most thorough ice program, is far from efficient. But we don’t care. Our one driving passion is flavour and being able to put drinks in front of people – which are the ultimate vehicles for the hard work of the New South Wales farming workforce – gives us no greater pleasure. For Bulletin Place, it’s deliciousness or death!