This September, still reeling from the furore of World Class, we’re back with yet another edition of Liquid Intel: a field guide to wine, cocktails and drinking out – as recommended by our resident beverage writer. From Friday night heaters at Australia’s singular 50 Best awardee to deftly crafted reds from an up-and-coming star of the Rhône Valley, these recommendations will have your tab covered for the duration of the month.
Out on the Town: Gimlet at Cavendish House
Reservations for Andrew McConnell’s barnstorming ode to the grand European grillroom might be thin on the ground, yet I cannot stress with any more urgency that you brave the throngs of well-heeled diners to try your luck at a walk-in (serving some of the best steaks in Melbourne).
That unmitigated enthusiasm largely boils down to the revelation that – in spite of all the liveried waiters and finely starched tablecloths – Gimlet is, first and foremost, a place for a tipple (that just so happens to serve very good bistro fare). Word to the wise: if commencing your Friday here, consider dallying until 10 PM – when Gimlet’s much-vaunted cheeseburger (available only on weekends) becomes briefly available.
McConnell has, on multiple occasions, been vocal about, “[making] the cocktail bar the heart and soul of the space” – a desire that is evident in Gimlet’s crypto-deco interiors and intricately penned beverage program. Cocktails are organised by theme and style, often with an impressive degree of specificity – there’s a trio of Sazeracs diners can sup, including one iteration built on Cognac distilled in the 1950s – though, to be sure, the eponymous Gimlet ($22) is a promising place to start.
Deceptively classic in appearance, this 19th century drink that gives the venue its name benefits from an array of 21st century wizardry, including: a custom cordial recipe, edible wax, and generally meticulous execution you’d expect from a hospitality group like Trader House. The ubiquitous Dry Martini gets a similarly contemplative treatment, ensuring that even when you opt to drink classics until close (much as I foolishly chose to do) you’ll never be bored.
A Star is Born: Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitage 2020
Another in the storied tradition of growers who’ve successfully made the jump to becoming show-ers, Domaine Yann Chave is a name that’s been steadily gaining traction amongst French wine enthusiasts. A great deal of that interest must be attributed to Yann Chave directly, who forewent a promising career (as an investigator of financial crimes) to modernise his family’s estate back in 1996. Since then, he’s achieved much in relatively short order: converting the estate’s 18 hectares under vine to full-fledged vineyards, before attaining organic certification in 2007.
As denizens of the Northern Rhône, the Chaves specialise in a rather graceful style of Syrah – one which speaks to the character of their homestead and a commitment to accurately translating each vintage’s nuances. Even the generically named Crozes-Hermitage (described by Chave as the “backbone” of his Domaine) conveys a lot – despite the fact it’s blended from three sites in the eponymous appellation, and priced at well under $100.
That’s a pittance for the calibre of work being done in the vineyard: all of the fruit is hand-harvested, with the resulting juice pumped over twice daily and matured exclusively in steel vats done, in Chave’s words, to prevent “oak from robbing the wine of [its] flavour.” As you’d expect, this utter contempt for shortcuts leads into a drop that is impressively balanced. With a range of complex (sometimes unexpected) aromas and a palette that is rich without any excess weight, the 2020 is a delightful change of pace for those accustomed to the fire and brimstone of the Barossa. Buy a case, drink it liberally, and save your cellaring space for Chave’s purebred, much less available Hermitage.
Try this at Home: Lorenzo Antinori’s Green & Gold Spritz, ARGO
In every edition of Liquid Intel, we pride ourselves on getting readers the inside track on industry-quality drinks recipes. Yet even by those standards, September’s inclusion is pretty bloody impressive. Essentially a highball, this Green & Gold spritz comes from the mind of Lorenzo Antinori: one third of the trifecta behind ARGO, Asia’s “groundbreaking” No.3 bar.
Equally at home building classic cocktails or staging for mixological skunkworks like Dandelyan, Antinori is that rare breed of world-class bartender whose concoctions are always delicious and frequently illuminating. At ARGO, he has ushered in a renaissance for the surrounding Four Seasons Hong Kong: crafting beverages that lure you in with their familiar brushstrokes – whether it’s milk punch or a Martini – before sailing into uncharted territory. One might, for instance, dismiss this spritzer as a lighter drinking style of highball, but to do so would be a failure of imagination, as Antinori himself explains:
“Even though Australia is coming into summertime, the aptly named Green & Gold Spritz – one of our earliest signature drinks at ARGO – is a great way to introduce classic fall flavours into what is otherwise a fresh, zinging highball.”
“There are actually a couple of apple-driven elements in this drink, each one carrying its own distinctive flavour profile: the Calvados has a rich, almost plummy quality; the shrub (a sort of beverage vinegar you can easily make at home) lends acidity; while the cider cuts everything together and adds a touch of effervescence.”
“Best enjoyed on the patio, regardless of whether it’s night or day; you could make the argument this is the ultimate recipe for cocktail drinkers down under.”
Method: Build all of your ingredients directly into a highball glass. Top with cider and soda water. For extra points, garnish with fresh samphire or sage leaves (optional).
- Apple brandy/Calvados, 30ml
- Apple Shrub*, 15ml
- Lemon juice, 10ml
- Apple cider, 45ml
- Soda water, 45ml
*Recipe (Apple Shrub): Combine apple juice, apple cider vinegar and white sugar in equal amounts of 500g. Refrigerate and store for up to six months.