Every once in a while, you find a place that makes a lasting impression yet it leaves you with a dilemma. Do you tell the whole word about it or keep it as an intimate secret? Eau-de-Vie Bar is that kind of place.
Rarely do we review the same establishment more than once but Eau-de-Vie is worthy of an exception.
On the evening of St Patrick’s Day, we forego the customary pint of Guinness in a Sydney pub and head to Darlinghurst for Eau-de-Vie’s St Patrick’s Day Specials, and an occasion to toast Mr G’s heritage.
The mood is surprisingly demure except for the hearty welcome behind the bar, just as it was on our first visit. There is a scattering of couples huddled in dark corners and a small group of people near the bar. We choose a quiet spot then give up our intimate seating along cushioned banquettes for the ambience of the bar.
The bar stools are worthy of a mention. They are very comfortable to sit on and are an accessible height for the vertically challenged like me. There’s even a ledge that fits a handbag comfortably.
The specials for the evening include three Irish themed cocktails at $12 each. Guinness, at $10, is also on the list, but one goes to Eau-de-Vie for the cocktails.
Black Velvet is described as a “heady mix of Guinness and Chandon NV” but it is the Tipperary that captures our interest. This is an Irish classic, made with stirred Jamesons Whisky, green Chartreuse, Sweet Vermouth and served in a coupe glass with citrus rind.
This is not a mild cocktail by any means. You get the strong taste of the whisky followed by the lingering botanicals finish from the Chartreuse. A most satisfying cocktail, one that can easily lead to another.
As much as the cocktails have a wow factor, Eau-de-Vie is about the entire experience. The charismatic Phil Gandevia, aka Dr Phil, is behind the bar and we start chatting about drink preferences, Martinis and spirits of choice. He tells me about the evolution of Martinis from being very dry to the addition of more Vermouth and suggests I try a 50-50 ratio of Vodka to Vermouth, stirred with a lemon twist.
As much as I drink Martinis like water, they can wait for another night. We decide to try something different and leave it in the hands of Dr Phil.
Mr G opts for a Tequila-based cocktail, something a little on the sour side.
Toreador, a Margarita style drink, is made with Herradura Tequila, Apricot Brandy and lime juice. The similarity to a Margarita is rather mild. This drink is a lot softer on the palate than the kick you get from the marriage of Cointreau and Tequila. An enjoyable cocktail, served in an old fashioned glass.
In contrast to Mr G, I am in the mood for something dark, mysterious, with a strong flavour. And as Dr Phil has gathered by now, I like to watch.
I note muscovado sugar, cinnamon, star anise, Ron Zacapa Centennario rum and El Condado Pedro Ximenez sherry. There’s a glass resting in a metallic mug, a Brandy balloon kept warm and I anticipate something will soon be set alight.
A spectacular show begins with a spirit flamed in one metallic mug, then poured into another, and again until the flame subsides. The Ron Zacapa Blazer cocktail is served warm with a cinnamon quill, orange rind and star anise.
Ron Zacapa Blazer ($24)
One sip of the spicy cocktail sends a wave of warmth through the body. This is a drink to enjoy in front of a fireplace with someone you love, or sitting across someone else with eyes full of lust. And just like waning desire, as it cools down, it releases different flavours that leave you feeling good.
If you can prise your eyes away from the cocktails, you’ll see that the attention to detail also lies in the décor, the choice of vintage glassware and general bar paraphernalia. Copper mugs are used to serve the signature Yuzu Mule, which we reviewed after our last visit. A water fountain graces the communal table. A sexy silver measure rests atop a glass waiting for a spirit to be poured. A pink paper aeroplane rests on top of a rhubarb-based cocktail.
Pour Homme, Pour Femme($30 for 2)
Presentation is a key component of the cocktails. Pour Homme, Pour Femme is a cocktail for two, served in special his and hers cocktail shakers and poured in different vintages glasses. Pour Femme, we are told, is the one on the left, and it is usually the man who shakes the libation before pouring it into the glass.
To finish on the St Patrick’s Day theme, we choose the Nitro Irish, Eau-de-Vie’s version of Irish Coffee made with Jamesons Whisky, Guinness Syrup, Coffee and topped with saffron and vanilla foam.
Nitro cocktails are always spectacular and I am torn between watching and taking photographs. This Irish coffee is beautifully presented in crystal mugs with a solidified yellowish foam that is eaten with a spoon like ice cream. Delivering a strong caffeine kick, this is one rich and luscious Irish coffee that demands an encore with a standing ovation.
Nitro Irish ($12)
As we stated in our first review of Eau-de-Vie, this is the kind of place you’d take someone on a first date, make it a regular haunt for a date night or impress someone who is passionate about the art of cocktails. You can find an intimate dark corner, order a few drinks and have a memorable night out as we did on our first visit. Alternatively, you can choose a different experience if you sit by the bar, chat with the energetic team whose passion for their work is admirable, watch, learn and take (mental) notes.
If you choose the latter, you should be warned. Sitting by the bar will give you a vantage position. Every cocktail that is made and poured into elegant glassware will leave you yearning to try everything on and off the menu.
With thanks to Dr Phil for an exemplary experience and for offering the additional lighting to enable us to take photographs.
229 Darlinghurst Rd
Darlinghurst Sydney NSW
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