The February issue

Our clean eating issue is out now, packed with super lunch bowls, gluten-free desserts and more - including our cruising special, covering all luxury on the seas.

Subscribe to Gourmet

Subscribe to Australian Gourmet Traveller and receive a free Gourmet Menus book - offer ends 26 February 2017.

Gourmet digital

Subscribe to Gourmet Traveller for your iPad or Android tablet.

Most popular recipes summer 2017

Counting down from 20, here are this summer's most-loved recipes.

Curtis Stone's strawberry, elderflower and brioche summer puddings

"Think of this dessert as a deconstructed version of a summer pudding, with thinly sliced strawberries macerated in elderflower liqueur and layered between slices of brioche," says Stone. "A dollop of whipped cream on top is a cooling counterpoint to the floral flavours."

Bali's new wave of restaurants, hotels and bars

The restaurant and hotel scene on Australia's favourite holiday island has never been more exciting and Australian chefs, owners and restaurateurs are leading the charge, writes Samantha Coomber.

Chorizo hotdogs with chimichurri and smoky red relish

A hotdog is all about the condiments. Here, choose between a smoky red capsicum relish or the bright flavours of chimichurri, or go for a bit of both.

Australia's best rieslings

We’re spoilt for variety – and value – in Australia when it comes to good riesling. Max Allen picks the top 20 from a fine crop.

Curtis Stone's strawberry and almond cheesecake

"I've made all kinds of fancy cheesecakes in my time, but nothing really beats the classic combination of strawberries and almonds with a boost from vanilla bean," says Stone. "I could just pile macerated strawberries on top, but why not give your tastebuds a proper party by folding grilled strawberries into the cheesecake batter too? Cheesecakes are elegant and my go-to for celebrations because they taste best when whipped up a day in advance."

Baguette recipes

These baguette recipes are picture-perfect and picnic ready, bursting with fillings like slow-cooked beef tongue, poached egg and grilled asparagus and classic leg ham and cheese.

World's Best Chefs Talks

Massimo Bottura and more are coming to the Sydney Opera House.

The art of the cocktail list

What makes a great cocktail list? We took advantage of the presence in Australia of American cocktail expert David Wondrich - someone who has spent many an hour, professionally and otherwise, perusing lists of today and yesteryear - to gain some perspective. Focus was one of his key criteria. "I'm saddened by the really large books that people hand you," he told us, "because, as my friend Dale says, you need a beer while you're figuring out what to drink." Truly, as cocktail culture in Australia ramps up and lists get ever more lavish in their production, you're likely to suffer the same paralysis that can afflict wine lovers presented with an especially hefty cellar to choose from. It's not the worst problem to be faced with, of course, and conversely many good bars prefer a talk-first, offer-the-list-second approach. Laudable as that may be, a really nicely composed cocktail list can not only inspire new and interesting drinking in the moment but fire the imagination for adventures on the visits to come.

We've taken a broad-brush approach in trying to single out the nation's best examples. We put out a cattle call for submissions back in the October issue, and we've also discreetly pocketed lists that have impressed us on our recent travels. We don't want to make too many hard and fast rules - despite our learned colleague Dr Wondrich's expressed preference for brevity, we've found some lists that are justified in their length - but by the same token, characteristics such as clarity and ease of navigation are always going to be a plus. There are some perfectly thrilling lists out there with no greater graphical flourish than 10-point Helvetica type, and we're never going to criticise a list for its lack of curlicues and gewgaws, but there's no denying that good design can bring a new dimension of pleasure to the search for a thirst-quencher. Spelling mistakes, as ever, suggest to the reader a certain lack of care (for the record, bar folk, it's Hemingway, with just the one m), and shop-worn, misattributed quotations are something best left to the other guys.

As for the selection of drinks, we're looking for personality, taste and a suggestion of authority. "I like at least some hint as to what's in the drink - a list of ingredients, say - and I also like a little story on each," Wondrich continues. And balance: "I hate those lists that have 12 drinks and all of them have house-infused vodka in them." Maybe, he says, you could throw in something for the guy who likes a glass of whiskey with a little bitters in it.

Ben Davidson, national spirits ambassador for Signé here in Australia, sums it up: "Ultimately the cocktail list is like the calling card of the bar, it's the published document that says 'this is what we do here'." 

Short Cocktail List of the Year
"I like a single-pager," Dave Wondrich tells us, and we concur. There's much to be said for having the confidence to produce a list that's short, sweet and to the point. Of course your patrons can order off-list and of course you'll be happy to serve them that way, but even a single sheet of A4 - or less - can serve as a statement of intent, a focal point for the imbiber's interest. And if brevity is the soul of wit (not to mention lingerie), you'll find no greater amusement than the list at Sydney saloon Shady Pines. With Picasso-like economy, everything you need to know about the bar is sketched for you in just seven drinks. The 20th Century and the Old Pal show they know their classics, the Mexicola - tequila, lime, Tabasco, Coca-Cola and salt - shows they're far from precious and not afraid of a little fun, and the Scotch Finger served with the Hot Buttered Whisky shows they're more than just a little bit cracked.

Winner: Shady Pines, Sydney. Honourable mentions: Greenhouse, Perth; Flinders Hotel, Sydney; Grasshopper, Sydney. 

Best-Written Cocktail List of the Year
"Don't look fiercely at people, or talk loudly or harshly, but cultivate a smiling countenance and a quiet, but firm tone of speech," reads one of the house rules. "Gentlemen, don't approach ladies; and if you are so lucky to have one approach you, endear her as you would your mother," reads another. And then there's the controversial favourite: "No hooting, no hollering." They're funny, they're sweet, they're endearing, but they were probably better the first time you read the first variation on the theme at Milk & Honey in New York back in the day, so only the one gold star for the various Australian bars that have lifted the idea for their own ends. We have been pretty taken with the appalling word-plays that lace Chris Hysted's list at Black Pearl (a Pisco drink called Chile Mornings, the egg-rich Custardy Battle, not to mention the 30 Odd Foot of Punch), and the more-or-less oblique Mighty Boosh references, but then along came the list that includes, among its variations on the classic Tom Collins, a Phil Collins, noting "divorce rock never tasted so good". There's the drink that's dubbed "an ode to Salt-N-Pepa's first single - before they were talkin' 'bout sex, and long before they started fighting about Christianity," and there's the suggestion that the Fireside Chat is good enough to have "gotten Roosevelt himself back on his own two feet". Any list that convincingly references Herbie Hancock, Ron Burgundy and the Notorious BIG on its first page alone (and spoils the ending to the Twilight series on the second) gets our thumbs-up. Bars are supposed to be fun, remember?

Winner: Carlton Yacht Club, Melbourne. Honourable mentions: Black Pearl, Melbourne; The Bowery, Brisbane; Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sydney.

Most Thirst-Provoking Cocktail List of the Year
Yes, it's Der Raum. On the one hand it's like a tour of everything that's right about bartending tradition, a list steeped in Baker, Embury, Thomas and Craddock. On the other, it's one of the very few lists that harnesses the progressive approach of the world's envelope-pushing restaurants, and successfully bends this approach to the task of making interesting and, above all, balanced and palatable drinks. Among its cleanly designed, nicely typeset pages and clear, correct type, you'll find a Zazerac ("Jack Straub's 1914 Drinks is our source reference but if any of you bar nerds can quote an earlier mention, this one's on the house"), a tribute to British artist Damien Hirst (in the form of the Pharmacy: pear and roast capsicum gin, "administered" sweet Italian bitters and citrus pill) and a tip of the hat to the bar's fellow travellers in its Melbourne Temperance Society World's Best selection of drinks from guest bartenders from other leading venues. Stimulating, focused and dangerously drinkable. 

Winner: Der Raum, Melbourne. Honourable mentions: Eau-de-Vie, Sydney (check out two of their cocktails in the videos above); 1806, Melbourne; The Bowery, Brisbane; The Lark, Brisbane; Chez Regine, Melbourne; Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sydney.

Best-Looking Cocktail List of the Year
There's more scope in the context and content of a cocktail list for design intervention than there is in, say, wine lists or menus: the whimsical illustrations on the list at Brisbane newcomer Canvas; Matt Bax's artworks on Der Raum's list; Earl Carter's photography on the jacket of the list at Rockpool Bar & Grill; and simply the very fitting use of type at Helvetica in Perth. Melbourne's branch of the international Match chain marries utility and style with its handy glass-shape icons on its thoroughly glossy pamphlet. But in the final analysis, nothing holds a candle to the list proffered at Brisbane's Bowery. From the spiral binding and embossing on the cover, to the fake hand-written "to your health!" inscription from bar owners Steph Canfell and Cam Birt on the inside jacket, to Kristian Hawker's photography and the fine work done by Designfront (both duly credited on the contents page, no less), this is a cocktail list that can stand with any in the world.

Winner: The Bowery, Brisbane. Honourable mentions: Match, Melbourne; Canvas, Brisbane; Der Raum, Melbourne; Helvetica, Perth.

Cocktail List of the Year
The big one. It's really all about the package. There are things to enjoy on the lists of so many of Australia's top bars - laughs, graceful designs, tastes of the cocktail's rich history, you name it. But it's still pretty rare to have them come together in a single document. And yet The Bowery pulls it off. There are all the design kicks mentioned above (it has a notes section at the back, for goodness' sake), but every tastefully executed flourish - the richness of the paper stock, the elegant font variations, the restrained use of colour - is matched by an equally knowing sentiment, whether it's a footnote on the production and pronunciation of falernum or the vitamin A content of passionfruit or an unobtrusive discursion on the history of the Bloody Mary or the use of palm sugar in mixed drinks. And these are met in turn by a choice of drinks that honours the old and the new, the cocktail obsessive and the mixology greenhorn, in the simple, useful categories of "strong", "dry", "bitter", "sour", "sweet" and "favourites". It's a list that can point you to the drink you want with a minimum of fuss, but it's also a worthy read in its own right, both entertaining and instructive. And Hemingway is spelled correctly. If that's not a winning mix of balance and simplicity, nothing is.

Winner: The Bowery, Brisbane. Honourable mentions: Eau-de-Vie, Sydney; 1806, Melbourne; Der Raum, Melbourne.

Newsletter

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

Latest news
Hot Plates: Avenue C Wine Co, Canberra
15.02.2017
Signature Drink: Sweetwater’s Basil Smash
13.02.2017
Ten top vermouths to try
09.02.2017
A guide to celebrating Peru’s National Pisco Sour Day
03.02.2017
Australia's new crop of urban wineries
02.02.2017
This summer's best Australian wine label
18.01.2017
GT
Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
Recipe collections

Looking for ways to make the most out of seasonal produce? Want to find a recipe perfect for a party? Or just after fresh ideas for dessert? Either way, our recipe collections have you covered.

See more
2017 Restaurant Guide

Our 2017 Restaurant Guide is online, covering over 400 restaurants Australia wide. Never wonder where to dine again.

See more

You might also like...

Jennifer Hawkins Sesion tequila

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

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...

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...

How to improve your wine-tasting ability

Drinking wine is more than a matter of taste, writes Max All...

Best Australian red wines for drinking now

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

Best Australian gins

The local gin craze is in full swing. Max Allen taste-tests ...

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...

get the latest news

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

×