Disclosure: I was invited on this Bar Express bar crawl by Little Big Marketing & PR
Since I've started writing the blog, for whatever reason, I always find myself out of town during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Not very well timed considering this past time now is it?
The lunch and bar express have been some of my favourite things to do in previous years, as it's a really great way to get a taste of a lot of what Melbourne has to offer, without hurting the bank account too severely.
So I was naturally then, super excited to be invited on a little preview of the Bar Express, with a crawl around a few of the establishments taking part this year. For $15, mixologists all over the city are charged with crafting a water-inspired cocktail, and even in just a few places, it was amazing to see the variety of ideas and directions that were taken!
Our intimate group started the night at the rooftop of Bomba, a spot I had not visited yet (to my great embarrassment). It was naturally busy, but we managed to squeeze around the bar where we watched the Alice Klar (a play on 'Alles Klar' which in German means 'all is clear') be made in front of us. A bit of gin, blood orange syrup (made with fresh fruit), grapefruit bitters, Massenez Pomme Verte (French green apple schnapps) and a bit of lime combine to make a delightfully well balanced drink. A rather citrusy drink, the nip of acidity is delightful with a subtle hint of apple pushing it's way through as well. It's a very clean and easy drink, although I doubt after a few of these that 'all is clear'…
We were also treated to a zucchini flower stuffed with goats cheese, that had been rolled in paprika prior, with crushed pistachios and a drizzle of honey. Oh me. Oh my. The honey and the goats cheese were just beautiful, the honey was beautifully sweet, it was almost like tasting it for the first time again. The touch of heat from the paprika was lovely too.
From the rooftops, with bright woods and a happy bustle, we then made our way to Whisky & Alement on Russell Street, hidden behind a dark curtain, you might think that you've disappeared into an underground hideaway. Painted mostly black, there's a touch of warmth from wooden stools and bar counters and a gentle kiss of light.
Here at Whisky & Alement, they're loving the water theme for this year's MFWF, as the word whisky stems from the latin word aqua vitae which means 'water of life'.
So whilst this could be translated into 'drink all the whisky', the boys have actually put quite a lot of thought into their 'Oog-a-dal' Julep. Oog-a-del is actually the name of a lake behind the Ardbeg distillery in Scotland, and they use their 10 year old Scotch Whisky, with a bit of sugar, and a bit of mint.
With the first sip, we all regaled and also puckered our lips as the strength of the alcohol came up to say hello. It's very much a sipping cocktail, as the strength of the whisky is gently mellowed out by the sweetness in the mint, and I could feel it quickly sneaking up to bring the flush to my cheeks.
We finished our night at Mesa Verde, where naturally, we had to finish with tequila. Mesa Verde takes it's name from a town in the Western flick, A Fistful of Dynamite, and a gentle nod to that Western heritage could be seen, without coming across too tacky. There was a cool saloon feel to the bar, but fortunately no shootouts!
We nibbled on delicious tortilla chips with guacamole, spicy chickpea and smoked cashew dips. Totally loved that smoked cashew, yahum!
The cocktail on offer at Mesa Verde was the 'Chief Broken-Drought', loaded with Tromba Blanco, Ocho Curdao (a blanco tequila infusion), Del Maguey Creme de Mexcal, Fee Brothers Aztec chocolate bitters and a touch of thyme from their rooftop garden. Every time our waiter mentioned the garden he would break out of his hipster cool and smile broadly, it was lovely to see such love! We were also introduced to the cola herb, that smells just like cola when clapped between the hands…which becomes absolutely hilarious when you're a bit drunk. Our table must have looked like a pack of seals…
The Chief Broken-Drought makes for a nice digestif, smooth with a few chocolate notes lingering briefly at the back but a slightly salty palate as well…or so I think, my note taking by this point was not as efficient as earlier on in the night.
We also couldn't resist ordering a serve of the Patron XO Cafe creme brulee, which was not shy in it's coffee flavour and absolutely delightful in it's texture, smooth and creamy.
So in total there are 21 bars offering water inspired cocktails (click here for the list), with everything from Hennessy to vodka. Since I'm not in Melbourne through the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, I'm going to have to leave it all up to you guys to explore and do all the drinking on my behalf…go on…you know you want to!
103 Lonsdale Street
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270 Russell Street
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Level 6, 252 Swanston Street