At long last, it looks like spring’s coming to Sydney. Temperatures are going up as is the humidity. Ordinarily, I hate humid weather, but the dry air over Sydney’s winter gives my wrinkles wrinkles!
It also makes me even thirstier than normal.
Thankfully, this week has been full of drinking. At one of our favourite bars in the city – Grain – we got to meet Cedric Mendoza, the new head bartender there. You need to check out the food and drinks Grain does btw.
Also, Handpicked Wines invited us to check out their bar at this year’s Sydney Contemporary Art Fair and we caught up with good mates for dinner (and drinks) at a couple of places we want to tell you about.
We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx
We’ve been big fans of Grain Bar for quite a while now. It’s one of those places you can go to and know you’ll always have amazing service, always get superbly made drinks and that the atmosphere will always be cool, but calm.
It’s a little oasis in the middle of the city, so close to the craziness of Circular Quay and the touristy streets of the Rocks. But when you sit down to your drink in Grain, you feel the stresses of the day fade away.
The best thing about Grain is (and you might be surprised to learn) that it’s actually a hotel bar. It really doesn’t feel like a hotel bar though, with seductive lighting, comfortable furniture and an impressive array of spirits behind the beautiful dark bar clad in curved slabs of Queensland blackbutt timber.
It feels more like the grownup version of one of the cool but slightly grungy small bars in Darlinghurst or Surry Hills, or perhaps one of the city bars focused on obscure spirits. Grain certainly has its fair share of those – have you ever heard of an agave-based gin? Well, they’ve got one here.
And the range of whiskies they have at Grain is absolutely wonderful. In fact, it’s one of the largest whisky selections in the country.
But Grain is indeed a hotel bar; it’s the hotel bar to none other than the Four Seasons Sydney. One of the best hotels in the city. You can see for yourself in our review here!
With the feel of a small bar but access to the influence of a big hotel, Grain really punches above its weight, certainly in food terms. Sharing chefs from the Four Seasons’ excellent Mode Dining, the food you can get at Grain is insanely good.
Check out those oysters, and the crispy tacos and salt and pepper squid are the best we’ve ever had. Big call, huh?
But best of all, the new head bartender at Grain not only understands how the hospitality industry works, he has a scary understanding of how flavours go together to make incredible cocktails.
Cedric Mendoza has come to Sydney’s Grain bar straight from years of experience at the impressive Manhattan Bar in Singapore. This was awarded the best bar in Asia and 3rd best in the world last year – so Cedric’s arrived in Sydney with a head full of knowledge, a heart full of passion and a hatful of skills.
As he’s mixing us up cocktails, Cedric talks about his plans for the bar. He wants to really refine the spirits lists and expand on the whisky side of things.
Working with the bar’s name, he’s even thinking about separating the spirits out into the different grains they’re made from. We’re all a bit stumped with where the agave gin should go though!
I feel a great affinity with Cedric. For a start, we both love rye whiskey in particular Michter’s rye, which he reaches for first to make his version of an Old Fashioned for me. It’s nothing short of superb.
We work through several other cocktails, both on the list and off it. And I’m excited to try Cedric’s own version of a Manhattan: the Greenpoint. Two parts rye, one part sweet vermouth and yellow chartreuse with orange and angostura bitters, this is magic in the glass for me.
He also introduces us to his preferred way to drink Fernet Branca (also known as the ‘bartender’s handshake’ – it’s like catnip for hospos), which is equal parts Fernet and Campari.
We’re lucky enough to see a few of Cedric’s skills tonight. Not only is he a particularly nice guy, but he also shows us his ‘throwing’ skills – a really advanced technique of mixing cocktails by ‘throwing’ the drink from one half of a cocktail shaker to the other.
He also shows us what a gin fizz is supposed to look like. Think so fizzed and foamy that as you pour it into the glass, it rises like a well-made soufflé.
If you’re not convinced yet that Cedric’s the best, here’s a quote from him explaining what drinks to have when. Totally on my page btw:
“I believe a drink of choice comes down to the destination and day of the week. I don’t like to play favourites and every day of the week inspires me differently. Mondays are best for daiquiris, light, fresh and good start to the week.
“Tuesdays and Wednesdays are hard to get by therefore an Old Fashioned or Manhattan is the perfect cure. Thursdays we take things up a beat in preparation for the weekend with a Whisky Sour and Friday’s are a call for celebration with a Negroni in hand.
“Weekends are the days for breaking rules, so mix things up, try new flavours and a new style of drink – you never know how much you may end up like it!”
This afternoon, we’re at the Carriageworks in Redfern to check out this year’s Sydney Contemporary. It’s the largest and most diverse art fair in the country, bringing local and international galleries together in one place.
The fact that most if not all of the artwork here is for sale brings a whole different dynamic to the venue than if it were simply an art installation.
One of the main partners of Sydney Contemporary, Handpicked Wines, has built a wine box wall as an installation to go with their bar.
Designed by Annie and Taja – Handpicked’s brand manager and graphic designer respectively – the wall is made from unused wine boxes that would otherwise have been thrown out. Clever and sustainably minded. And wine-based. My kind of art!
Sydney Contemporary is a fascinating place to be. Such a mix of people from prospective buyers and art dealers to students and the artists themselves all milling around this enormous collection of artworks.
Over 95 galleries featuring some 450 artists from 34 different countries, it’s an incredible space.
This evening, we’re out with some great friends. It’s rare that we’re all around or even in the same country at the same time, so when we manage to get together, it’s cause for celebration, food and drink!
Tonight, we’re having dinner at Da Mario in Rosebery, a lively, bright Italian restaurant with some delicious food on offer. We get a combination of pizzas, pasta, risotto and arancini (which are so good we get another helping by the way), and settle in for the evening.
Dinner’s over and it’s time to move on. Thankfully, almost right next door is Archie Rose – perfect for a nightcap.
Archie Rose was the first distillery to open in Sydney city in over 160 years – you can read all about that here. Since they opened though, it’s paved the way for many more distilleries to start up, which is excellent.
The bar they have right next to the distillery is awesome. It’s such a novelty to be able to drink right under the barrels they’re ageing their whisky in.
It’s been a long time coming, but Archie Rose is now able to sell their whisky. You can get it from the bar here or online. My Archie Rose rye malt Old Fashioned is superb – as are the other drinks we order.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition.
Cheers! Jim & Christina xx