Boozefood – Red Wine Chocolate Cake

By The Gentleman

Last weekend The Lady went on a trip to Melbourne to visit a friend of ours. Her weekend was filled with cake, coffee, and cocktails. All the essentials in life. Upon returning, I was fearful that she may be in cocktail/coffee/cake withdrawal so I baked her a welcome home present. May I present to you – The Red Wine Chocolate Cake!

Wine Cake

Props go to the very talented people at Smitten Kitchen for providing the inspiration for this recipe, which I made a little extra boozy and indulgent because that’s what we do at The Cocktail Challenge.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (145 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) white granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup + a good splash extra, I used Innocent Bystander Syrah
2 teaspoon Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (133 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Wine Cake

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease and line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment. This is a one bowl recipe so grab a large bowl and on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy. Add the egg and yolk and beat well with the electric mixer, then add the red wine and the chocolate bitters. The batter takes on a lovely purple colour at this stage and may look a little uneven, but that’s alright. Next you’re going to sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. On a low setting mix the mixture until it is 3/4 combined, then grab a spatula and fold the rest together. At this stage I tasted it and decided to add a splash of extra wine. The mixture isn’t too wet so it can take the extra liquid.  Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth when it’s done. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack.

Wine Cake

Chocolate Cream

300ml Thickened Cream
1 teaspoon Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
1 teaspoon Mörk Dark Chocolate and River Salt Cacao Powder

Whip your cream. I showed off and did it in a mason jar. No going to the gym for me. Once your cream is pretty whipped, add in the bitters and cacao powder, and whip a little bit more to incorporate. You could maybe add a little bit more of either, but I think the cream was delicious as it was. It had a fantastic flavour, which wasn’t too sweet so it paired well with the cake and didn’t make things too intense. The bitters give it a spice flavour that has a bit of a kick and the cacao powder provides that chocolate flavour, but with the bitterness again making it very tasty without being sickly. You can definitely dollop a big spoonful of this cream on your cake and not worry too much (well maybe you should worry about your waistline, but ain’t nobody got time for that when cream and cake are around). The leftover cream is also amazing added to a Mörk hot chocolate or to flavour your coffee.

Wine Cake

The cake doesn’t really rise and it ends up being a low cake, which feels very much like a dessert cake. Really you can eat cake anytime, and you should, but some cakes just gravitate towards a certain time of day. The mix of wine and bitters also lend it to being an after dinner cake, a fine way to finish off an enjoyable evening. Adding the bitters was a last minute but rather amazing move. We had run out of vanilla essence and I was going to add some brandy or the like instead but then I remembered the bitters I had got from a friend. Chocolate bitters for a chocolate cake, perfect. The bitters just enhanced the flavour and smell so much. Instead of just being chocolate there was a depth to the aroma, a whole host of spices coming out to play. That depth carried over to the flavour, which was so nice. A wonderful blend of spices and chocolate that wasn’t too sweet and really invited you to eat more. In the Smitten Kitchen article they said the wine doesn’t completely cook out. I couldn’t taste booze per se, but some of the fruity flavour of the red wine was there. The red wine also helped make the cake very moist, and deliciously dense. Next time I’d like to really use my Mörk cacao powder in the cake as well. They may scold me for not using it for hot chocolate, which is devine by the way, but the Mörk powder has such a wonderfully deep, dark, and bitter flavour that I think would really add to this already amazing cake.

Wine Cake Wine Cake

Slathered with the chocolate cream this is one fine dessert that is perfect for impressing that special someone. The Lady was certainly happy to see it on the counter when she got home and for a moment she forgot all about her wonderful time in Melbourne and was glad to be home. Good cake will do that to you.

Wine Cake

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On The Shelf- First Drop Wines Home of the Brave III Nebbiolo

By The Gentleman


Okay so I have no idea who or what a ‘Nebbiolo’ is. Seriously no idea. As I poured a glass of Home of the Brave III, from Baroass Valley, South Australia, based wine slingers First Drop Wines (another fine local doing their thing with both class and style) I suddenly realised I had no idea what I was drinking. I’m a red drinker and don’t profess to favor any sort of blend over another but I generally at least know what I’m drinking when I’m drinking it.  With the Home of the Brave III it was definitely a case of being distracted by the label as I just got lost in the artistry of the lettering, the layout and the colors to a stage where I didn’t really care what I was drinking as long as it came out of this bottle.

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As you soak up the image above I’ll inform you that a ‘Nebbiolo’ is a type of red Italian wine grape. One story suggests that the Nebbiolo gets its name from the Italian word for fog, nebbia, because during the October harvests an intense fog covers the Langhe region where many of the Nebbiolo vineyards are located. There are other suggestions as to where the name may have come from but seriously with a story as cool as that why would you bother with any others.

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Pouring out a glass I was quite shocked by the light color as I wasn’t expecting it. The Nebbiolo grapes produce a very light ruby red wine and the Home of the Brave III was no exception. The light ruby of the Nebbiolo was quite pretty and interesting especially in comparison to the deep, dark reds that I am accustomed to. The flavor was very light and almost fresh, without the usual heaviness of a red or the strong boozy hit. It was very drinkable with a quite pleasant, mild taste lingering after each mouthful.

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The label itself was designed by Melbourne’s street artist collective Everfresh Studio. It’s very cool to see two local, creative companies partnering to produce something special. The piece, according to the Everfresh crew, “epitomises our strong drive to always be at the forefront with our artwork, but never forgetting the work of those who inspired us. This piece references the golden age of design, when so much detail was put purely into layout and type to make words look as if they are almost musical.”  Everfresh have certainly captured that reference as the label is beautifully constructed, showcasing a range of different fonts yet still managing to working well together as a whole. I’m usually attracted to bottles with images but the Everfresh design works so well together that the words go beyond mere fonts to produce their own stunning image. The colors of the label are bright and vibrant and I think this mirrors the color of the Nebbiolo wine quite well and whether this is intentional or not it shows great harmony between the wine and the label.

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Whether or not you know what a Nebbiolo wine is or not you should definitely check out this very stylish and eye-catching bottle from First Drop Wines and Everfresh Studio. You owe it to your senses.


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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.


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.


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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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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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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