Considering that Australia’s cold weather season will be kicking off imminently, this latest instalment of Liquid Intel leans heavily on recommendations best enjoyed in chillier climes. From a freezer-friendly recipe for the king of classic cocktails — one that can be comfortably busted out mere seconds before serving — to a review-in-miniature of yet another Shell House venue called Clocktower Bar, Sydney, the dominant theme this May appears to have been tipples (and settings) that feel akin to the ol’ iron fist in a velvet glove. You’ll see what I mean below.
Out On The Town: Clocktower Bar, Sydney
Among the CBD’s buzziest cocktail divans of late, Clocktower Bar is (in ways more literal than anything else) the hidden pearl in Shell House’s dynamic multi-storey edifice. Sequestered away on the 9th floor — inset from the Dining Room & Terrace — it’s every bit the “inimitable, high impact” setting our colleague Chris described when he toured the premises last December. Of four venues composing the wider ‘House’, the aesthetic here is most straightforward: on one hand, you have lighting and spatial geometries inspired by Shell House’s own interwar Art Deco facade; on the other, functional elements of wood and brass, suffusing the room with ‘Pan Am executive lounge’ insouciance. The combination is, by and large, suitably moody: though the occasional wobble in service (bill splitters beware!) might dampen your enthusiasm for that third, or indeed fourth, Negroni.
Fortunately, it’s in the arena of classic libations that Clocktower Bar irons out any perceived wrinkles. In keeping with its clubby, well-appointed atmosphere the menu emphasises a selection of recipes that skew boozy and transatlantic in origin. That means Manhattans, Paper Planes, bracingly cold Martinis and, of course, Negronis. That latter style (which even gets its own dedicated section in the menu) proves an apt metaphor for Sydney’s Clocktower Bar: punchy, perennially stylish, and not above embracing the funhouse energy of F&B in a post-pandemic world.
The Circus of Value: Vietti ‘Perbacco’ 2019
Together, the polyphenol character of Nebbiolo grown in Barolo and the vinification methods favoured in this region make for wines that are uniquely resilient to the ravages of time. Amongst snobs, the arcane wisdom is that well-made Barolo (plucked in a good vintage) requires at least a decade of bottle-age to become drinkable — ideally, 15 to 20, if you intend for the varietal’s infamously pugilistic tannins to mellow. That begs the question as to what, if anything (that is of approximate quality) can be drunk in the meantime. The Vietti family’s ‘Perbacco’ Neb, I’d wager.
At ⅛ the price of the revered ‘Brunate’ Cru, ‘Perbacco’ — which in Italian translates, fittingly, as “for Bacchus” — yields a window onto the soul of winemaking at Vietti. That a drop of this complexity, crafted with so much finesse occasionally gets hand-waved away as “entry-level” must surely be a crime; as what you’re getting is a classic Piedmontese Neb that reflects the spirit of its vintage. Made exclusively on fruit from an assortment of 8 Barolo-designated vineyards — importantly, where the vines average 35 years of age — ‘Perbacco’ in 2019 could best be described as a study in duality: both the texture and palette are characteristically intense; with these properties made all the more pleasurable by the vintage’s sapid, driving acidity. Great to drink in standard format over the next half-decade, better in magnum.
Try This At Home: Tom Egerton’s Freezer Martini, Iron Fairies
This month’s Liquid Intel recipe comes to us care of Tom Egerton, Director of Business Development over at Iron Fairies. If you’re an inveterate bargoer in Sydney and Tom’s name sounds familiar, that’s hardly a surprise: the Kiwi industry vet was, for a long time, on the frontlines of the now-sadly-shuttered Eau de Vie; and since 2016, has lent his expertise to an array of critically acclaimed establishments in Asia from a home base in Hong Kong. In that city alone, he has been a driving force behind the widespread up-take of ecoSPIRITS (a closed-loop distribution system that combats bars’ reliance on single-use glass and reduces packaging waste), to say nothing of his crucial role in conceiving and developing Argo — the newly crowned No. 3 bar in all of Asia.
À la Blade Runner protagonist Roy Batty, Tom is an industry professional who has pretty much done and seen it all. I was therefore delighted — if not unsurprised — to find that, when drinking at home, he enjoys recipes that aren’t needlessly finicky: the kind (in his words) which don’t invite “hassle and preparation, that can always be ready when you need them.” Enter the Freezer Martini. Much more genteel in flavour and group-friendly, this riff on the classic bar book recipe affords additional time to work on garnishes and your preferred method of presentation.
“Ignore all the nerds who say it isn’t ‘purist’ to mix a Martini this way,” says Tom.
“Instead, pour out a round to welcome your guests and focus on being the very best host you can be — that’s the whole purpose of cocktail hour in the first place.”
Method: Combine all ingredients in a 750ml bottle. Shake and place in the freezer overnight. To serve, pour directly into a chilled glass and garnish with olives and anchovies.
- Never Never Triple Juniper, 500ml
- Water (filtered), 100ml
- Regal Rogue Daring Dry, 100ml
- Olives (to garnish)