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ABC Radio Segment on Absinthe

Australia’s Radio National show “Blueprint for Living” has done a suitably sympathetic piece on the absinthe revival in Australia.

Presenter Michael Williams  gets an education from Ben Luz at Bar Ampere in Melbourne over the history, markers of quality and proper ways of drinking absinthe – all over a nice glass of La Clandestine.

It’s worth checking out their Absinthe aperitif list – it is quite an impressive offering worth investigating should you find yourself in the area.

You can down the episode through this link.



Posted by Jonathan on Jan 6th 2016 | Filed in Bars,Cocktails,Culture,Interviews,News | Comments (0)

Old Rye & Absinthe @ Zu Zu Mamou


High on anticipation, I ascended the stairs alongside well known cafe East Terrace Continental in Adelaide to investigate something of a pop-up bar & bistro that has made an appearance in the lead up to the Adelaide Fringe, and alas will disappear along with the merry band of carny’s upon the completion of Mad March. The distinctive logo in the stairwell confirmed I was heading in the right direction to find a worthy blender of one of the most famous absinthe cocktails.


Zu Zu Mamou has been teasing on Facebook with the promise of fine New Orleans-style Creole cooking and cocktails to match.  One of my first questions to them was whether they could make a mean Sazerac with French absinthe?  That they could was the promise, and challenge accepted I eagerly awaiting for their formal opening this week.

Upon reaching the upstairs dining room & balcony – that might I say, is a prime position to take in the sights and sounds of the Garden of Unearthly Delights and Adelaide Fringe frivolities – I was greeted by the most enchanting femme elegante hostess, Shoshannah, who upon hearing my desire for the liquid soma of the Deep South ushered me to the bar.


Zu Zu Mamou’s touring Melburnian mixologist Murphy, eager flex his fingers into the precision processes of creating this marvellous drink, left the option to take it up a notch and  suggested the Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey 100 Proof, rather than the standard workhorse of Beam Rye. I sometimes believe it is better to listen to the experts at important times such as these, and acceded to his suggestion. For this undertaking he used the La Fee Bohemian, which while not an absinthe I would choose for fountain consumption, for the important glass wash is an entirely suitable cocktail absinthe.


Making a decent Sazerac to me is almost a bit more like surgery than cocktail making – left in the hands of the inexperienced the outcome can be the equivalence of malpractice. No such fears here, as Murphy’s swirls & stirs produced a Sazerac that was worth sipping slow and contemplating. Smokey and smooth, with a perfectly pitched citrus tang and appropriately integrated bitter notes, I happily let this one drain over half an hour of good conversation.

I think this bar may be an important staging ground for my Adelaide Fringe explorations this year and will need to be revisited to immerse myself in the extensive Cajun cuisine on offer. See you on the balcony!

Posted by Jonathan on Feb 3rd 2015 | Filed in Bars,Cocktails,Reviews | Comments (0)

An Absinthe Abomination in New York


Recently I was fortunate to visit the fair city of New York. Ah, what a city. I found a lovely little apartment in the West Village where I could fall into the remaining Bohemian chic of a community rapidly undergoing gentrification.  But true treasures remain, like Bonnie Slotnicks Cook Book Store for instance. I picked up a nice little volume of recipes for the starving artist & poet. How cool is that?

Naturally, I was curious as to how the absinthe revival had taken root in the Big Apple. Consulting the Google Oracle, it provided me a list of bars that were making themselves known for serving absinthe – the closest to me was the Dove Parlour. It certainly looked a refined setting for absinthe imbibing amongst gentile local company, as I think you will agree from the promo photos.  So after an evening of Caribbean beats and jerked chicken to die for at Miss Lily’s  , I descended the stairs into the parlour to get an insight as to how NYC takes its absinthe.

Perusing the menu I spy “Absinthe – Traditional Style” on the menu. Aha!

Upon giving my order to the bar-mistress I enquire as to what range of absinthe they have.

“We have Lucid”


“Just Lucid.”  Ok.  We’ll go with Lucid then I guess. Eyebrow now arched in concern.

I then watched her perform what can only be described as unholy desecration.




Into a glass slightly smaller than a wine glass, but larger than a shot glass, she poured in water (sugared water?) – room temperature.

My stomach is now dropping.

She then pours a shot of Lucid into a measuring cups and dumps it straight into the water.

My jaw is now hitting the counter.

Then, she gets the piped soda water tap and gives it a good shot just to circulate the louche.

I am now close to tears.

She hands it over with a smile, with all the elegance being reserved for the paper doily.  And I am sitting there staring, trying to decide whether I start a scene or just drink it and walk away. I decided on the latter.

If that was Traditional, I nearly would have preferred the burning sugar routine. Nearly.

I stuck to wine from that evening forward.


Posted by Jonathan on Dec 8th 2013 | Filed in Absinthe Reviews,Bars,Cocktails,Culture,Reviews | Comments (0)

A Cheeky Absinthe or Three @ Absinthesalon: Part 2 – Heritage

Now it appears I’m going to come into conflict with some of my peers, particularly over at the Wormwood Society, because I really liked this absinthe and my experience seems completely different to theirs.  Now, that may have something to do with the way my palate has changed after half a dozen years in the wine industry.

There are a lot of really good absinthes out of the market, many that have been important gateways for me, but that I would now class as ‘commercial grade’. They are consistent, dependable, maintain good drinkable quality batch after batch, but hardly a Magnum Opus.

In wine, a common fault is Brettanomyces which produces acetic acid and is a death knell for many wines. But.  There is a school of thought that for certain wines, at certain minimal levels, a bit of Brett can add complexity to a wine and is not necessarily a bad thing. But this is at the artisan end of wines, not for the average Joe. And even then the experts disagree as to who is sailing close to the wind and who is just making bad wines.

I give credit here to malcontent wine reviewer and protagonist Philip White who brought to my attention via his blog a pertinent proposition: “Taste is first and foremost distaste – disgust and visceral intolerance of the taste of others – Pierre Boudieu“.

Heritage, by Paul Devoille, is a hard green, a green of untamed wilderness and rolling unworked land, and the nose seemed only to reinforce this point.  After the pour had settled the most enticing aroma to hit me was a raw Elder Flower and Chamomile. Heady and harsh but then balanced by a delicate note of Honeysuckle.

As the louche unfolded it was brutally thick and creamy as King Island’s best. Delightfully, out of this arose a new savoury spice teaser touching my olfactory nerves, inviting me to explore further.

To the taste I immediately thought of Verte de Fougerolles as my nearest reference point, not inappropriate given the source. Only reinforces the artisan argument to me . Grassy fields, fresh herbs, certainly enough balanced bitterness for my taste and pronounced anise. But surprisingly throughout all of this, the Elder flower & Chamomile tango kept dancing on like it had just been poured, nothing was lost in the dilution.

Then at the very end of the contemplation, a nice chalky saltiness cuts through what would possibly be a cloying experience and lingers on the tongue.

This will not be to everyone tastes. Sure.

But this is an absinthe, I think, to the Bear Grylls of connoisseurs – who are willing to take a hard road to taste something challenging to others and finding some reward in the experience.

Posted by Jonathan on Sep 23rd 2012 | Filed in Absinthe brands,Absinthe Reviews,Bars,Culture,News,Reviews | Comments (0)

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