On the House: Bar Rochford in four drinks

Bar Rochford's Nick Smith

Bar Rochford's Nick Smith

In On the House, the tenders of our favourite bars talk us through their spiritual homes, glass by glass. Here's Bar Rochford’s Nick Smith, starting things with easy-slinging sweet and dark vermouth (and vinyl to match).

Canberra. If you said it was on its way to being a destination for hospitality and bars a few years ago, I would have laughed. But its ever-changing scene and easy living has made the political capital the place to be. Straight up, it's an exciting time for Canberra locals and visitors alike.

Bar Rochford is a small wine and cocktail bar hidden away in the 1927 Melbourne Building in the city. We focus on the roots of good hospitality through service, fine food, exciting up-and-coming wine producers and stripped-back classic cocktails. We have a strong focus on the arts, and showcase a large collection of records to match the dynamic vibe. It's a place that everyone comes to drink; from ANU art students and big-glass-swirling lawyers, to mum's mates and the hospitality crowd. The bar has plenty of grunge, but maintains class at the same time. For us, it's an upstairs escape and a great place to work.

To start: Casa Mariol Vermut Negro, Terra Alta, Spain
Pair it with: Jimmy Smith, "Back at the Chicken Shack" (Blue Note Records, 1963)
Ever since we opened in March, people have been coming back for our vermouth list. Cult status? Casa Mariol Vermut Negro served on ice with an orange wedge and a juicy Spanish olive. It's different to most vermouths out there and very approachable for first-timers. It's a sweet and dark drop made from the macabeo grape and around 150 other ingredients. It's an easy sling, tastes like chinotto and is a great introduction to Bar Rochford.

More On the House: Banjo Harris Plane of Bar Liberty, Melbourne.

Next Up: 2016 Commune of Buttons "Fleur Gris" Pinot Gris, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Pair it with: Roy Ayers, "Red, Black & Green" (Polydor, 1973)
Left-field wines are what everyone's coming in for at the moment, and it's hard to keep up. It's like buying new records from the local store: you've got to keep your ear to the ground to know what's hot. We were allocated a dozen of these funky pinot gris and they ran out the door in just two days. Commune of Buttons are a classic example of the up-and-coming producers giving the older generation of Australian winemakers the middle finger. These wines have a story, a time and a place and don't follow traditional practices. This one's spent four days on skins, is rose in colour and has great grip. We only sell these small allocation wines by the glass so all our customers can have a swirl.

More On the House: Dave Kerr of The Beaufort, Melbourne.

Still Thirsty: Peter Wetzer Blaufränkisch, Sopron, Hungary
Pair it with: The Dramatics, "Whatcha See is Whatcha Get" (Stax/Volt Records, 1971)
By the time you've had a few drinks at Bar Rochford, you should have tasted some of Ian Poy's food. We've got plenty of savoury Old World red wines to match his style of modern Australian/European cuisine. This blaufränkisch (kékfrankos in Hungarian) is hand-harvested with no fining or filtering, giving it the best expression of what organic wines from Hungary should be: lively, fresh and approachable. Definitely a wine on the list to talk about, and one that sits very high on our recommendation list. Fine times.

More on the House: Ed Loveday of Bar Brosé, Sydney.

End On: Gun Club
Pair it with: The Gun Club, "Mother of Earth" (Animal Records, 1982)
By the time you've finished dinner or had a couple of wines, Bar Rochford totally changes face. This is definitely my favourite time of the night. We slow down table service, throw another log on the fire and dim the lights like it's Berlin time. Our DJs keep it lit on Fridays and Saturdays playing everything from '60s R&B and northern soul to old house and disco. The bartenders rattle tin all night, selling a small list of stripped-back classics and some of our own. The Gun Club is a boss-action "all-season" rum cocktail that's been on the list since we opened. It's a mix of Sailor's spiced rum, cherry heering, house-made falernum, Angostura bitters and lime, shaken up and delivered in a frozen glass. This one's best if drunk around the 20-seat rectangular bar alongside your mates but, if not, we also shoot Buffalo Trace until 2am. Cheers!

Bar Rochford, 65 London Cct, ACT, (02) 6230 6222

The Gourmet Traveller podcast

Each fortnight we round up the most interesting characters from the food world for your listening pleasure. We chat to chefs, cooks, authors, bar tenders and baristas - anyone who has something new and interesting to say about the way we like to eat and drink.

Recipe collections

Looking for fresh dinner ideas? Not sure how to make the most out of seasonal produce? Or do you need to plan the perfect party menu? Our recipe collections have you covered.

See more

You might also like...

Jennifer Hawkins Sesion tequila

Tequila is the new black. At least it is for Jennifer Hawkin...

Top drops: March 2017

From a floral bottle of English bubble to a tangy gin perfec...

Signature drink: Hains & Co's Crimson Mainsail

Don’t be fooled – this cocktail looks pretty but packs a pun...

Australian sour beers

Craft brewing in Australia is hitting a sour note, and that’...

Original Sin's Grande Bellezza

A fresh, bright Italian-accented sundowner.

Short restaurant wine lists

Small is the order of the day in restaurants, with tight win...

Mitch Monaghan, Nespresso

We caught up with Nespresso Australia and New Zealand coffee...

Signature Drink: The Baxter Inn’s Charlestown

Grab the mink and the fedora – this Baxter cocktail means bu...

Seedlip, a non-alcoholic distilled spirit, arrives in Australia

The question of what to drink when you’re not having a drink...

Game up your G&Ts with a Distiller’s Strength Gin

Is this the year of gin going where no botanicals have gone ...

Signature drinks

Thirty of our favourite drinks from Australia's best bars an...

Hot 100 2015 - Drinks

The world is getting hotter and we’re not talking about glob...

Mover, shaker

The best thing you can take to a party, according to cocktai...

Best Australian red wines for drinking now

Australians are getting a taste for thirst-quenching reds ma...

Champagne breakfast: a question of etiquette

Campari with your cornflakes? Whether booze is okay at break...