A faint light at the entrance of a grand house beckons against the night sky. At the front door, an elegant woman clad in a pink Victorian dress and vintage brooch welcomes her guests with a mysterious smile. They enter the hallway, and one by one, they step through time.
One by one, they embrace the darkness.
The women are welcomed into a salon from a bygone era where they are transformed into graceful ladies dressed in Victorian fashions. The men are directed up a long imposing staircase where find their inner gentlemen in top hats, tailcoats and canes.
And so travel to the darkness begins.
Step back in time
A photographer captures timeless mementos of the time travellers against the grandeur of Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay House. The event is the launch of Schweppes Elixir, a dark and mysterious mixer, organised by Behind Bars.
Embrace the dark side
Elizabeth Bay House
I am met by a tall, enigmatic gentleman with long blond curls beneath his top hat. With blue eyes that shine through the darkness, he asks me to follow him below ground. I lift my long ruffled skirt over the stone steps softly illuminated by lanterns.
He leads me to the distillation room where Hugh the Baron Von Paton Smithson is creating aromatics with dry ice.
Like a magician, the Baron pours a liquid into a series of beakers with coffee beans, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, cinnamon and citrus. I am invited to experience their fragrance. I close my eyes and let the aromas seduce my senses.
Aromatics from dry ice
Hugh the Baron Von Paton Smithson in the Distillation Room
(L) Spirits with Elixir – (R)Vintage D. Jeure Soda Syphon, Paris, circa 1860
In another room, I am invited to sample from a mirror roasted macadamias with caramel dipped in dark Belgian chocolate and organic coffee beans coated with dark chocolate, the latter made in a curious panning machine. I pause with intrigue then indulge my palate.
Boon Chocolates: Dark Chocolate Coffee curls Beans, Macadamias with caramel and chocolate, panning machine
My tall, charming gentleman with the accompanies me to the bar. “You can call me Beatty,” he says before he introduces me to Elixir. The dark mixer with flavours extracted from a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans has subtle notes of chocolate, burnt caramels and vanilla.
And this is how the mystery of the drink unravels.
Jeremy mixing the Batanga
After my initiation, I am offered my first taste of a drink named Batanga. Made with Jose Cuervo Tequila, topped with Schweppes Elixir and a squeeze of orange juice, the drink is served in a salt and pepper rimmed glass and garnished with a slice of orange.
Caleb with the Batanga served in Elixir signature glass
The Schweppes Elixir Batanga draws its inspiration from an original drink created by Don Javier at la Capilla, a small traditional Mexican bar in the town of Tequila where Don Javier has been tending bar since 1940. Tonight’s drink was created and tested in the deep, dark depths of Behind Bars headquarters as the signature drink for the Elixir mixer.
With my senses primed, the first sip of the Batanga takes me to another world of earthy flavours of chocolate, coffee and vanilla with after notes of citrus. The salt and pepper rim serves to enhance the flavour of the Tequila and leaves me wanting more.
Priscilla preparing an “Instant G&T”
The drinks are flowing with an “Instant G&T” made with Tanqueray 10 Gin, orange bitters and pink grapefruit – a refreshing and addictive drink that is carbonated and dispensed from soda siphons.
A Moscow Mule is prepared with Vodka, Schweppes Dry Ginger Ale and served with a slice of cucumber.
I am drawn back to the Elixir. Although designed to be a mixer and not a standalone drink, I am curious to try it on its own. I find the taste a little familiar now but unique in the blend of coffee and caramel notes I detected in the Batanga. With the product launching into the top 100 cocktail bars nationally over the next three months, I am already looking forward to the creativity it will add to the cocktail scene.
The party is now in full swing with beautiful women and dashing men mingling. I can’t help but admire the romance Victorian costumes and old-world surrounds add to this event.
Denéa (Gourmet Rabbit) and Alex (Ms Darlinghurst)
(left) Michael Shafran, (middle) Simon McGoram, (right) Dénea Buckingham
Matt and Emma from Schweppes
Karina Munoz and David Beatty (Behind Bars)
Alex Chan and Fanny Chan (Boon Chocolates)
Emma Brown (Schweppes) and David Beatty (Behind Bars)
Priscilla Kinekazi (Behind Bars) and Hugo (Corner House)
Clare Beatty and another Beautiful Lady
The inimitable Simon McGoram (R)
Hugh Payten Smith
As the evening comes to a close and costumes are shed into the night, I am drawn back to the dark side.
Gourmantic embraced the darkness at the Schweppes Elixir Launch Party as media guests of Behind Bars. The event was held on Wednesday 15 June 2011 at Elizabeth Bay House. With thanks to Karina Munoz “the elegant woman in pink Victorian dress”and David Beatty “tall, enigmatic gentleman with long blond curls” for their hospitality.
The Wardrobe Costumiers
Photography by @MrGourmantic
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