Out & About – Lotus Lounge

The second stop on my recent cocktail adventures in Adelaide was the Lotus Lounge. It is one of those places, everyone has one in their home town, that everyone else has been to and said about how cool and great it is and despite your best intentions every time you try to go there it just doesn’t happen. Well, I finally managed to tick the Lotus Lounge off that list and see what the fuss is all about.

Situated on Morphett St, just around the corner from the bustling food district of Gouger St, the Lotus Lounge prides itself on its cocktails. Their little motto is ‘Do come round for cocktails’ so that, coupled with the hype that had built from everyone telling me about it, had me pretty excited. We got there early as my partner, who is a Lotus Lounge veteran, said it can get quite busy and given there focus on making good cocktails there is the potential for things to go a little slow. We probably got there at the perfect time, the bar was relatively quite so we could sit down, order our drinks, and get them quite promptly. The space itself is relatively small, but not too cosy that you can hardly move. There is also an outdoor section, which I didn’t look at this time. Its very dark and there were lots of comfy looking chairs and couches scattered around the place.  All in all a pretty cool looking place and while there was a DJ the volume wasn’t so loud that you couldn’t have a conversation with the person next to you.

Perusing the cocktail list gave you the sense that Lotus was trying its best to honor its motto. It is quite extensive with the classics mixed in with house specials and there was a focus on martinis, champagne cocktails, stick drinks, and long drinks as well. I opted for the Las Vegas and my partner couldn’t decide so I chose the Raspberry Mojito because I thought that sounded interesting.

(L) Raspberry Mojito. (R) Las vegas

(L) Raspberry Mojito. (R) Las vegas

The Las Vegas came under the ‘stick drink’ category meaning it had a lot of muddling going on. The drink used fresh lime & kiwi fruit, raw sugar, Absolut Citron, and Midori.The drink had a great color from all the use of green fruits and drink and had big chunks of fruit in it.

It was the kiwi fruit that really interested me with this drink. The kiwi added to the overall sharpness of the drink. Its interesting that kiwis, depending on the variety, can have either a sweet or sour flavor. I think this one erred more on the side of sour, but it wasn’t as sour as the Toffee Apple. As the drink was only muddled with the kiwi and lime the Absolut Citron and Midori gave the drink quite a kick. They weren’t so overpowering that it was undrinkable, it was just the right balance.

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The Raspberry Mojito was my choice also, but I’m glad I didn’t have to drink it all. It used fresh lime, raspberries & mint, grenadine, white sugar, and Havana Club Anejo white rum. There was just something about it that I didn’t like. The raspberry didn’t have quite the freshness and fruity flavor I was hoping for. My partner enjoyed the drink more than I did, but also hoped for more raspberry in the drink. She was happy that it didn’t have a syrup taste, this would be from the use of fresh raspberries as opposed to a raspberry syrup I imagine. The drink was also packed with mint which made it quite refreshing.

 

The Las Vegas was a good choice, but the Raspberry Mojito didn’t quite meet my expectations.

 

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Out & About – Bay Breeze & Peaches and Rose @ Gallery on Waymouth

So continuing on from my last post, we didn’t stop at one drink at Gallery on Waymouth. The Bay Breeze caught my eye while my partner opted for the Peaches and Rose.

(L) Bay Breeze. (R) Peaches and Rose

(L) Bay Breeze. (R) Peaches and Rose

The Bay Breeze was a fruity combination of vanilla vodka, Malibu, pineapple juice, cranberry juice and fresh lime that came complete with a pretty little pineapple garnish that made the waitress assume it was for my partner. The Malibu was definitely the dominant flavor, with the drink having a distinct coconut taste. While the coconut was dominant it wasn’t too over the top, you still got a hint of the other fruit flavors making it a very refreshing drink. I did get a little overzealous and try to drink it a bit too quick, mainly to fend off my partner trying to steal it, and noticed that beneath the fruity coconut flavor there was still a strong alcohol hit to be found.

Fruity Top

Fruity Top

The Peaches and Rose cocktail was not my thing at all. Looking at the ingredients, peach vodka, Chambord liqueur topped with lemonade and fresh lime, it sounded nice but there was just something about it that didn’t work for me. I think it may have been the use of lemonade instead of say a tonic or soda water. The sweet fizz didn’t do it for me and the peach flavor wasn’t that strong. At first it was also very syrupy and required a lot of mixing through to get the syrupy flavor to blend with the rest of the drink. I was glad my partner ordered it and not me!

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So another hit on my end with the Bay Breeze but the Peaches and Rose was a miss. Finally, after quite a good run of good cocktails, I’ve found something that wasn’t to my liking.

 

Finished Bay Breeze

Finished Bay Breeze

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On the Shelf- Bittermens Burlesque and Hellfire Bitters

In searching for the first bitters for my collection I quickly discovered that craft bitters are a booming industry. There are so many different brands and flavors to choose from that it can become quite daunting. That is why it is very convenient that I’m somewhat shallow and most definitely judge a bitters on how it looks. When I remembered that it was quite obvious that I was going to choose Bittermens Burlesque and Hellfire Bitters because I wanted them to go On The Shelf.

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With the recent wave of boutique bitters Bittermens could be described as a bit of an old hand as they formed in 2007. Beginning with only one offering, the Xocolatl Mole Bitters, the company has expanded considerably offering a wide range of bitters and, most recently, formulating some of their very own spirits. It is quite remarkable what the company has been able to achieve in so little time. Reading the site and seeing the extensive list of recipes they have devised that use their bitters you can understand why, they know their drinking.

The Burlesque bitters is a combination of hibiscus, açai berry and long pepper. According to the site the flavor is sweet, spicy and a bit of a tart and suggested as a good accompaniment to Italian amari, Mexican tequila, British gin and Caribbean rum. I love the fact that the burlesque theme plays throughout the label and down to the tasting notes. At first the bottle looks quite plain, a simple black and white front but when you turn it there is a cheeky burlesque from the shoulders down. Corset, stockings, feathers, heels, what more could you want really? The splash of dark red across the girl is a nice touch, it really draws the eye.

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The Bittermens website lists a ‘Rum Row’ Old Fashioned that uses the Burlesque bitters and sounds particularly tasty, with its mix of two different rums and combination of the Burlesque bitters with Angostura Orange.

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The Hellfire Habanero is actually what is known as a shrub. I’d never come across the term before discovering the Hellfire so I’ll let the good people at Bittermens explain what it is:

“Shrubs are classically refreshing fruit and vinegar-based syrups that were sweetened and diluted to make a beverage since revolutionary times.”

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The guys at Bittermens then decided what would happen if you made a shrub with hot peppers and there you have the Hellfire Habanero. The flavor is apparently quite intense, its recommended that you only need drops instead of ounces due to the heat. Heat and I normally don’t get along so I’m really curious to see how hot the Hellfire is and whether it is something I’m going to be a fan of. The drink to try it out with looks like the 700 Songs Gimlet that combines gin, lime juice, sugar syrup and cinnamon syrup with the Hellfire. Sounds like a flavor hit alright.

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I basically decided to get the Hellfire because the girl reminded me of the Redheads Matches girl. I’ve always thought that was a great bit of branding and it works equally well with the Hellfire Habanero. Again the sparing using of color also works well, this time focusing on the girls hair and cheeks. I really appreciate the fact that Bittermens went to the effort to craft different labels for each of their bottles which also have some connection to the brand.

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Out & About – Toffee Apple & Singapore Sling @ Gallery on Waymouth

Back in my hometown after a weekend in Melbourne I decided it was time to start seriously hitting up the local cocktail offerings. The first stop was the Gallery On Waymouth, located on Waymouth St in the CBD.

Waymouth St has really taken off as a hub of great food and drink in the Adelaide CBD. Quieter than the more boisterous Gouger St and Rundle St there is still great food, and drink, to be found here at places like Melt, Press Food & Wine, and Georges on Waymouth.

Downstairs at Gallery On Waymouth. Courtesy Timeout

The Gallery fits in well, offering three levels of fun including a rooftop bar which is great during the summer. Downstairs offers a more intimate dining area that isn’t too over the top, with a mixture of booths, bars and tables to dine at. It also honors its namesake by showcasing a wide variety of art that is also available to buy. Its a cool place to just sit and eat that doesn’t get overrun by the music. The food is also a little more relaxed, offering mostly share plates and a few burgers for mains.

Anyway enough about the setting it’s the drinks we’re after. The cocktail list is small with a pretty even mix of classics and newer concoctions. I chose the Toffee Apple and my partner chose the Singapore Sling.

(L) Singapore Sling. (R) Toffee Apple

(L) Singapore Sling. (R) Toffee Apple

Ordering the Toffee Apple I had high hopes. When you hear toffee apple you have a pretty clear idea in your head of what it should taste like (unless you were deprived as a child and never had a toffee apple). The Gallery’s Toffee Apple is a combination of sour apple and strawberry schnapps with cranberry juice and fresh lime. Let me just say that it did not disappoint. It tasted more like the toffee apple lollies I’d have as a kid as opposed to an actual apple dipped in toffee but it was still oh so tasty. The fact that it actually lived up to its name made me very happy. The sour apple and strawberry schnapps had such a good flavor. It was sour, but not so sour that you couldn’t still pick up the flavor of the apple. The cranberry juice and lime just gave it enough sweetness. It left a very nice sour taste in the mouth after drinking it. Unfortunately it didn’t quite match what I was eating. That was more my own fault than anything else, note to self pulled pork burger and Toffee Apple do not compliment each other.

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Toffee Apple

To understand my relatively new standing in the land of cocktails I didn’t even realise a Singapore Sling was a pinky red. I knew the history of the drink, its creation at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, but had never really noticed one in the wild. The Gallery’s Singapore Sling was pretty close to the standard recipe, except for its use of lime juice and omission of Benedictine (unless it wasn’t noted on the menu). I didn’t know what to expect with the Singapore Sling, being such a classic and all. I was surprised at how strong the cherry liqueur is, being able to stand out amongst the other flavors. My partner described it as being reminiscent of cherry lip gloss, so any girls in the audience may be able to relate to that. It also had a very juicy consistency from the pineapple which created an odd moment because I was like “ah juice, wait cherry juice?” It wasn’t bad or anything, just unexpected.

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Singapore Sling

Overall a pretty good selection from the Gallery. I was particularly impressed by the Toffee Apple with its great sour flavor and ability to conjure up memories of eating a toffee apple lolly as a kid.

 

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On the Shelf – Bitter Tears ‘Lucille’ Bitters

It’s funny to think that bitters were originally developed and marketed for medicinal purposes. Now they are an essential part of any bar to add a little something extra to a cocktail or even drunk straight up or with ice. The humble bitters has come a long way and there are now many other companies, outside of the industry institutions Angostura and Peychaud’s. In choosing the first bitters for my collection I decided to go for something a little different and chose the ‘Lucille’ by Bitter Tears.

Bitter Tears are a small batch bitters company based in Los Angeles, California. The company was founded in 2010 with just three flavors and have since expanded to make twelve different flavors, with six flavors forming the core of the brand.

They really seem to be trying to differentiate themselves from the traditional offerings of Angostura and Peychaud’s with such flavors as smoky bacon and peppercorn in the Ms. Piggy. As the people from Bitter Tears explain, bitters can be made from pretty much anything these days so the crazy flavors aren’t so surprising. For my first bottle of bitters though I wanted something a little less out there, but still full of flavor. In the end I settled on the Lucille.

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Lucille’s main flavors are blood orange and ginger with hints of anise and cinnamon. And yes, the site does say the drink is named after the comedic redhead. I’m basically a fan of anything with ginger and cinnamon in it and the introduction of blood orange sounds great as its such a strong and distinct flavor.

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The company has also developed a very distinct branding that runs across all their bottles that I am a fan of. Each bottle features the eyes with a single tear, but a different color range for the pattern on the bottle. It is very well done and looks quite effective when you seen an image of all the different bottles lined up together.

 

I’m quite looking forward to sitting down with a nice cocktail that’s been amplified by a few pulls of my Lucille bitters from Bitter Tears.

 

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Out & About – Amigo’s Tequila and Tapas Bar

The third bar I visited on my Melbourne soiree was Amigo’s Tequila and Tapas Bar on Hardware Lane. Hardware Lane is full of places to eat and drink, it can almost be a bit overwhelming trying to figure out where you want to go and its also home to a pet peeve of mine, spruikers. I fucking hate spruikers. If a spruiker is outside of a restaurant and tries to talk to me and get me to come inside then I’m moving on. I understand that restaurants need to do it in certain areas, but I didn’t grow up with it and I’m just not a fan. A previous visit to Hardware Lane, during the busier dinner period, was spruiker central but luckily it was only late afternoon so there was a very cruisy vibe to the laneway and no pressure to decide where you wanted to go.

We mainly decided to go to Amigo’s because we were a bit peckish and felt like some tapas would be the right meal to tie us over till dinner. It also helped that the bar had a pretty extensive cocktail menu that featured not only old favorites, but also a host of twists on classics and a few new (to me at least) concoctions.

We decided to sit outside as the weather was reasonably nice. It was a little difficult getting in the table as the chairs were all rather close, trying to do it when a lot of people are there could be interesting. Hardware Lane is a nice lane with all its old brick buildings and brick road.

Picking out something from the menu was almost impossible as there were so many choices. I eventually settled on a variation of a favorite of mine, a Mexican Mule, and my partner chose the boozy, appropriately named Smashed Fairy.

(L) Smashed Fairy. (R) Mexican Mule

(L) Smashed Fairy. (R) Mexican Mule

The traditional Moscow Mule has quickly developed into one of my favorite drinks. I’ll often make a variation of it at home because that’s how I role. What intrigued me about Amigo’s take on it was the use of tequila (el Jimador to be precise), agave nectar and Tuaca instead of vodka. The drink came loaded with ice, lime and wedges of fresh ginger in the glass. The use of ginger wedges in the drink was a great touch. I think Hells honey and ginger infused vodka may have benefited from a wedge or two of fresh ginger in the glass to enhance the flavor. I wondered whether the use of tequila may have been too strong for the drink but it all worked very well together with the Tuaca probably helped to take away some of the tequila’s generally powerful alcohol flavor. The wedges of ginger meant the drink had a really good spicy kick to it and I think its something I’m going to adopt myself.

 

The Smashed Fairy was a combination of gin and La Fèe NV Absinth that was shaken with fresh muddled lime, coriander and ginger then finished with pineapple juice and ice in a tall glass. Even with the pineapple juice, lime, coriander and ginger the licorice taste of the absinth was still prominent throughout the drink. My partner found the prominence of the absinth quite nice, they are an absinth fan, and for me the use of the La Fèe NV Absinth was good because it has a lower alcohol content than most absinths. Anything stronger probably would have pleased my partner, but may have been too strong for me.

 

There were other drinks on the menu that sounded quite appealing including the Gin & Sangria Sling and Rosy Mamasita that may need to be sampled on a future visit.

 

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Out & About – Section 8 Container Bar

The second bar I visited while swanning around Melbourne was the Section 8 Container Bar. I was trying to avoid paying 70 bucks for a guided tour of Melbourne’s street art by trying to do a self-guided version, but the book we had may have been a little outdated. The streets we had written down didn’t seem to have any art on them, and the only saving grace was that getting to them did at least take us past Section 8 which not only had street art but booze!

Section 8 is located down Tattersalls Lane. On their website they have the tag line, “about as Melbourne as you can get”, and that is a pretty damn apt description of the place. It’s down a laneway (what cool thing in Melbourne isn’t?) and it’s an unusual set-up (the actual bar is a retooled shipping container and you sit on shipping pallets), with street art everywhere giving it a very cool yet kind of grungy look. Oh and they make a pretty damn good cocktail.

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Gin again guided us in our decision, it is quickly becoming a favorite. The Purple Haze combined gin with cointreau as well as some lemon juice, maraschino and whatever the hell a “sweet purple cloud of violet” is in a martini glass. It was a very pretty drink as the cloud of violet sat at the bottom of the drink providing a nice contrast to the yellow of the alcohol soaked lemon juice. I only sampled a bit of this one and I’d be keen to try a whole one. Apparently the violet at the end was quite sweet so I imagine it was a syrup. Lemon juice and ginger can really do no wrong in my book.

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Purple Haze (L), Bitter & Twisted (R)

The Bitter and Twisted was also a gin-based drink that combined Aperol, lemon, passion fruit and sugar in a tall glass. Again it looked really good, a nice bright orange color with a lot of foam, and tasted pretty damn good as well. I’m fast discovering that fruity cocktails are my thing and this was packed with fruit flavor. It was very refreshing, and probably would have been even better on a brighter day. Even though it was quite refreshing and the fruitiness made it easy to drink it still had a little bite to it which I quite liked.

Section 8 had a pretty big cocktail list with some very interesting combinations. Given more time I would have liked to have a tried more. I was pleasantly surprised that this bar, which looked like it may subscribe to the school of thought that more alcohol makes a good cocktail, was actually run by guys who have the know-how to serve you a very good drink.

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