Champagne for celebrations, wine at dinner and maybe something strong and sweet before the night ends. Beer? Anytime. We’ve got the basic drinking cues pretty much down, but with a city filled with some of the best bars in the world, and with great bartenders behind them, we can do so much better. Certain drinks at different times of the day can enhance a social occasion. Think of the Mimosas you might have shared with friends at a rooftop engagement party, the icy-cold Gin and Tonics you had sitting on your mate’s patio during a late summer afternoon, or the jugs of Pimm’s Cups you threw together for a Sunday barbecue. Like breakfast lunch and dinner, cocktails have their place around the clock.
To be fair, you’re doing quite well with cocktails, Sydney. On behalf of the bartenders around town, we applaud your efforts. According to major international publications, we’re fast becoming known as a global cocktail destination. Even if it did take you five seasons of Mad Men to get you drinking Old Fashioneds, and more than 50 years since its birth to get the hang of the Aperol Spritz. Yes, we’ve been making more Negronis than ever (sometimes even on tap but some of you out there are still ordering Bloody Marys at last call.
Matty Opai is behind the bar at Bondi’s Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, a place where day drinking is celebrated. While this is an appropriate time to order a vodka and spicy tomato juice, its drinks menu is overflowing with classic Italian aperitivos, the easiest way to slide into a long brunch. “One of the most popular cocktails is the Icebergs No. 17, which is our twist on a classic Italian Americano,” says Opai. “We infuse our sweet vermouth with rosemary, add in an equal amount of Campari, and top with a refreshing sparkling blood-orange soda. The result is a cocktail that is effervescent, tasty, and refreshes the palate.”
Just up the road, Andy Penney of The Anchor is getting the bar ready for a Sunday night, but during a hot day by the beach, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a Margarita or a Piña Colada. For something different, grab one of The Anchor’s chilled drinking coconuts spiked with spiced Gold rum. It’s ok, you’re still in Bondi.
In Surry Hills, Dead Ringer sub-heads its cocktail list with “Before”, “During” and “After”. To start you may indulge in the Sherry Cobbler, a long drink of gin, amontillado sherry and seasonal fruit. Work your way into a Dixie Cup; a fuller-bodied take on a Pisco Sour, and finish with an Obligatory, an embracing mix of tequila, cold-drip coffee and maple. Tim Philips says, “A lot of bars have attempted to match food with drink. A lot of times this is done well enough, but not as well as a with a glass of wine. Our list is curated in order of when you should have that drink.”
“The last drink of the night is so important; it’s the bow on top of the perfectly wrapped present that is your tasty dinner and company,” says Paige Aubort of Lobo Plantation. “It’s the taste that will linger in your mouth on the walk home, it’s the last thing you’ll taste before your head hits the pillow.” After dinner, drinking something richer, sweeter and stronger should be on the mind. Cognac, whisky and liqueurs are the obvious choice, and are always well received, but keep looking further and ask your bartender. Aubort recommends a rum Old Fashioned, a drink that jumps between sweet and dry with touches of aromatic citrus, served stronger so as to be sipped, and it soothes a full stomach.
Aubort makes the most important point: “At other times, if you’re a little lost, don’t be shy to approach the bar. You don’t need to know what you want to drink, but it does help if you know what you feel like. Trust your bartender; give them flavours, styles, things you’ve liked in the past. It’s our job to give you what you didn’t know you wanted.”