Drinks News

On the House: Bar Rochford in four drinks

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).

By Nick Smith
Bar Rochford's Nick Smith

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.

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.

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.

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