Now Serving – Tuaca Spider Cocktail

I know I keep deviating from the drinks from the Ultimate Bar Book, but I had this bottle of Tuaca I felt I should use and the book doesn’t have many Tuaca recipes.

I’d been thinking about what sort of drink I could make that was effectively a spider after seeing there are a few cocktails based on The Avengers and thought the obvious choice for a Spiderman drink was to make a spider. Trying to think what spirits would go well with both ice-cream and a soda, and what soda, was difficult until I came across the Tuaca Float on the Tuaca website. A float is the same thing as a spider in my book so it was a done deal.

tuspider 2

2 ounces Tuaca

4 ounces Sarsaparilla ( I used Bundaberg Sarsaparilla)

Mint Leaves

1/2 teaspoon sugar


1-2 scoops Vanilla Ice-cream

I added the mint leaves and sugar to the recipe. I thought the mint would go well with both the vanilla from the Tuaca and ice-cream and the licorice from the Sarsaparilla. I just did a light muddle with the sugar in the glass until I could smell the mint. Conveniently I had an old promotional spider glass to make the drink in. After muddling the mint leaves add the Tuaca, ice cubes, top with Sarsaparilla and stir. Once stirred add the scoops of ice-cream and drink!


I think the mint leaves add a little something extra to the flavor. Its very subtle but it gives it a little bit of freshness and compliments the vanilla nicely. The combination works quite well overall and it is the sort of drink where the flavor progresses overtime. At first the Sarsaparilla and its licorice tones are the dominant flavor and then as you drink more and more the vanilla takes over and the last few mouthfuls are very creamy and in this case minty.


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Out & About – Infused Vodka @ Hells Kitchen Melbourne

Recently I went to Melbourne and spent most of my time partaking in the great food and bar culture the city has to offer. The first stop on my whirlwind visit was Hells Kitchen on a recommendation from my brother and the bar didn’t disappoint.

Hell’s Kitchen Courtesy of The Age

Located upstairs in Centre Place its quite a small bar with a really good vibe that was aided by being quite busy. We sat at the long table over looking the laneway down below and it gave a good view of the street art that has been done over the roller doors of the various businesses. I felt like I may not have been cool enough to remain in the bar, what with its eclectic mix of furniture that may have come from your grandparents garage and funky wallpaper but then I had a drink and didn’t give a shit.

The drink that caught my eye was the housemade, infused vodkas. Each bottle of 666 Vodka was loaded up with either vanilla, cinnamon, honey and ginger or chilli. It was great to see them not only using an Australian sourced vodka, but to also see the huge amounts of vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, ginger husks and chillies in the bottles. It did beg the question though, what was the best mixer to have with each of the infused spirits? Luckily the bartender was able to help out and I sampled the honey and ginger with soda water, cinnamon with apple juice and lime, and vanilla with ginger ale and lime.  Sadly I didn’t get a chance to try the chilli vodka, I’d be very curious to know what they suggest with that, but I’m sure I’ll get a chance again soon.

Of the three the honey and ginger with soda water was my least favorite. I don’t know whether there was too much ice or soda water was the wrong choice or the infusion wasn’t quite right because it was a bit meh. While it was easy to drink, as the soda water mellowed out the alcohol, it just lacked a bit of punch. I was expecting some big ginger flavor as well and it just didn’t happen.

(L) Honey and Ginger Infused Vodka with Soda Water (R) Cinnamon Infused Vodka with Apple Juice and Lime

(L) Honey and Ginger Infused Vodka with Soda Water (R) Cinnamon Infused Vodka with Apple Juice and Lime

The vanilla with ginger ale and lime seemed like an odd mix at first, but actually worked quite well. The mix of the vanilla and ginger ale was very smooth. You ended up with a strong and long lasting vanilla aftertaste which is what I was hoping you’d get with the honey and ginger.

(L) Cinnamon Infused Vodka With Apple Juice and Lime. (R) Vanilla Infused Vodka With Ginger Ale and Lime

(L) Cinnamon Infused Vodka With Apple Juice and Lime. (R) Vanilla Infused Vodka With Ginger Ale and Lime

The best mix though was the cinnamon with apple juice and lime. It was literally like taking a big bite of apple pie. Sweet, sweet alcoholic apple pie. The flavors combined so well together and the spice flavor of the cinnamon was strong but not overpowering. I tip my hat to the bartender for an excellent recommendation on that one. I think I’ll be buying some vodka, cinnamon sticks and apple juice very shortly so I can enjoy some more of that at home.


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On The Shelf- Rocland Estate’s Chocolate Box GSM

On a trip to Paris I was force fed red wine. The people I met and stayed with looked at me with complete confusion when I mentioned I’d never drunk red wine and they quickly remedied the situation. They informed me that it was something that you needed to keep at to develop an appreciation for the flavor and I’ve taken that advice and run with it, never turning down an opportunity to have a glass or two (or three) of red. While I enjoy a glass of red I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to selecting wine, but luckily winemakers are some of the most adventurous and inspired when it comes to developing their labels. This bottle of Chocolate Box GSM is a prime example and while I couldn’t keep the bottle because it was a gift I purchased for someone else it will certainly be taking a place On The Shelf very soon.


The Chocolate Box GSM is a blend of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mataro from the Barossa Valley and made by Rocland Estate who are based in Nurioopta, South Australia. The dominant flavors are chocolate and cherry with a bit of spice and vanilla. The maker states that it leaves a “persistent, lingering silky finish.” Normally I wouldn’t read much into a description like that but I was surprised to find the wine went down very smoothly and in fact did have a persistent aftertaste that left a really nice, silky taste in the mouth. Needless to say the bottle did not last very long.

The label is very nice. I’m a sucker for a pretty lady and the one on the GSM is gorgeous. She reminds me of the Elvgren girls of the 40’s and 50’s as she has that very classic look. She’s not in a revealing pose or anything, we actually only see her from the shoulders up, but she just has a nice smile and its a real classy image. I also appreciate that the image of the girl is also used on the seal near the top of the bottle. Its just a nice touch that you often don’t see. The color pattern and the font for the label are also very good. Chocolate Box is written clearly, in bold and really stands out due to its simplicity. The red also makes a bold statement.


I have to say though, the people at Rocland Estate are a devious lot. Each bottle of the Chocolate Box range has a different girl on the label, which means that not only am I going to have to purchase another bottle of this delicious GSM but I’m also going to have to purchase the complete range of Chocolate Box wines so I have the whole set.


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Equipment- Claudette Barjoud “Tiki Temptress” Cocktail Set

Everyone knows that when you want to mix a crazy, fruity, Polynesian inspired rum-based cocktail that may or may not be set on fire that you need to do it in a tiki mug. At the beginning of the challenge I didn’t have my own tiki mug so I was in the market for one. On a recent visit to the always awesome Outre Gallery in Melbourne I managed to find a suitably cool tiki set from the fine people at Tiki Farm.


The set I purchased is a limited edition one of only 500 by the artist Claudette Barjoud. It comes with a pitcher, two mugs and two swizzle stir sticks that are tall enough to be used with the pitcher. I liked the fact that it was more of a classic cocktail set as opposed to some of the other tiki bowl and mug sets. I was also lucky enough to pick-up the last one at Outre, but I think there are still some available through Tiki Farm and Claudette’s site.


What really drew me to the set was the colors. The black and red were really eye-catching with the etched red images playing well against the smooth, satiny black ceramic. Then I saw the artwork, which is just amazing, as it features a bunch of scantly clad tiki girls in leopard print. The girls all look very cool and Claudette has a very cool, stylized design. The design was also a change from the usual tiki mugs you see, something else I found appealing, but they are still definitely inspired by mainstream Polynesian culture.


All in all I’m very happy with my purchase and I can’t wait to use them.


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On The Shelf- East 9th’s Fog City Red Sangria

Standing at the bar of local establishment The Colonist the girl asked me what I wanted to drink. Scanning the fridges that lined the wall I was struck by the image of a girl, draped in a white sheet with her hand entwined with that of a tentacle of unknown origin against a dark red/maroon background. I didn’t even know what it was, but I just pointed at it and said to the girl “That one.” In response the girl said something about how it was new and she hadn’t tried it yet, but I was just captivated by the image on the bottle. It turns out I’d ordered a bottle of Red Sangria and was to be treated to a drink as delicious as it was beautiful.

fog city

The Fog City Red Sangria is made by Australian brewer East 9th. They operate under the ethos of the free movement from San Francisco, popping up across Melbourne to let lucky customers sample their latest offerings. The Red Sangria is “made from the ripest of red wine grapes and blended with natural citrus fruit flavours”. Pouring it into the glass it had an amazingly dark and deep red colour.

fog city 2

My previous experience with sangria was limited to a homemade variety at a friends party. The balance was terrible and drinking it was a courtesy to the host all the while my liver and taste buds were screaming at me to stop. As a result I approached this bottle of Fog City with some caution, but it was completely unnecessary. At first the drink was very dry, but after letting it sit on my tongue I was treated to a sweet, fruity flavour that was very nice and quite refreshing. After that first mouthful the rest of the very large bottle was gone rather quickly.


Even today, after having the bottle for sometime, the gaze of the girl still captures my attention as she sits on my shelf. Who is she? What is she doing? I want to know more about this person and she’s just a drawing on a sangria bottle! I think that’s when you know you’ve crafted a truly remarkable label for a truly remarkable drink. On The Shelf it goes!


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On The Shelf- Bear Republic’s Hop Rod Rye

On The Shelf is a way for me to highlight those companies that clearly care about the art of labels. When it comes to choosing what to drink I’m basically a sucker for some kick-ass branding. This means that if your drink has an eye-catching label I’m going to want to buy it and keep it on my shelf after I’ve drunk it. Just let it happen okay.

The first label I want to focus on is Bear Republic’s Hop Rod Rye. The Bear Republic Brewery is a microbrewery and pub located in California. The Hop Rod Rye is, as the name suggests, a rye beer. It’s quite strong at 8% alcohol and according to the brewer “has a floral hop aroma and subtle caramel notes with a slightly earthy and spicy rye character.” In terms of taste the beer was okay. I’m not normally a rye beer person and the flavour was quite intense and left me quite bloated. I only drank one but it took me quite a while to get through it. I did definitely pick up on the earthy character and caramel when drinking it though.

bear republic 2

I’m not even really a car person, I don’t drive or even have my license, but I love old school muscle cars. In particular, hot rods are just bad-ass and the time and effort people put into them to make them is amazing. When I think of hot rods I think of American Graffiti, one of the best car films around, and just cruising around. Also as a side note, if George Lucas is going to start making more indie films like American Graffiti now that he’s sold Star Wars then I am a okay with that.


As soon as I saw the hot rod on the Hop Rod Rye bottle I knew I had to have it. Black+hot rod+bright colors= a good mix. The colors and design work to give that classic hot rod look resulting in quite an eye-catching piece. The car itself looks good, but has me wondering how cool it would be to have a Rat Rod on a label as well. Or maybe its just me who wouldn’t be put off by Rat in giant writing on a label. Scoring the bottle was also an instance where the female handbag, known for being an abyss of stuff, was mighty handy as it allowed me to smuggle the bottle out of the bar. The drink may not have been my thing, but the artwork certainly was.


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Now Serving – Gin Lizz Cocktail

The Gin Lizz (I just made that up and I’m not if anything actually has that name) is what happens when a) I try to experiment and b) run out of the necessary ingredients to facilitate said experimentation.

In the last post I wondered what would happen if you made a Gin Fizz with lime instead of lemon. I thought I had enough gin leftover to try it, but I was wrong. So, so wrong. I ran out at just over an ounce of gin, which would have been a pretty weak ass cocktail. I had to scramble to think what might go with gin and lime and all I could come up with was Tuaca and Cointreau because they both have citrus flavours as well.

The lesson learned here is always, always prepare before mixing otherwise be prepared to wing it and accept the consequences.

1 and a bit ounces gin (I used South Gin)

Splash of Tuaca

Splash of Cointreau

3/4 ounce of lime juice

1 teaspoon sugar



Combine gin, Tuaca, Cointreau, lime juice, and sugar in a shaker. Shake vigorously. Pour over ice in a hi-ball glass.

Gin Lizz

So one thing I can say is the drink ended up with a very nice color, taking on a very light tinge of green from the lime. It also ended up being a sweeter drink and probably needed more of the Cointreau and Tuaca added to let the flavours of those drinks come through as well. It had what I would describe as a smooth flavour though and I think that is the vanilla of the Tuaca coming through. Unlike the Gin Fizz, which hit you with the tang straight away, the Gin Lizz starts off sweet and then leaves the tangy flavour as an aftertaste.


The drink wasn’t a success, but I also wouldn’t say it was a complete failure. I still drank it and enjoyed it, but it probably showed my novice skills at mixing drinks. I’ll probably come back to it later when I’m better prepared and have a better understanding of what flavours combine well together.


For the moment though I’m going to enjoy what’s left of this drink and look forward to the next one.


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