Drinks News

One of the world’s best bars is opening in Sydney tonight

There's green-ant soda, fermented "banana wine", and bar snacks.

By Yvonne C Lam
Scout's Sandalwood Old Fashioned, with bourbon, sandalwood, quandong and Palo Santo (Photo: Supplied)
When Matt Whiley needed two nests' worth of green ants, he picked up the phone and called Kylie Kwong. "She gave us the contact for an insect farm in Queensland – only in Australia could you get live insects delivered to you," he says.
After hosting a pop-up bar at Maurice Terzini's Icebergs Dining Room & Bar last year, the London bar owner moved permanently to Sydney to set up a local version of his celebrated bar Scout. It opens tonight in Surry Hills, on the second floor of Terzini's Dolphin Hotel, and Whiley will be serving up concoctions of the weird and wonderful ingredients he's discovered in our sunburnt country – like the green ants. They carry a citrusy flavour that's been infused into a soda with the help of local bar PS40, and will be mixed with strawberry-gum vodka at Scout. "And I know Sydneysiders like to drink vodka sodas," says Whiley.
Scout owner Matt Whiley (Photo: Supplied)
Scout, ranked 28th on The World's 50 Best Bars list, has cut a reputation for its mad-cap ways with ingredients and innovative cocktails. "We're a produce-led bar rather than a spirit-led bar," says Whiley.
On the menu are Scout's famous "fruit wines" – surplus fruit that's fermented over several months. "The citrus wine [fermented mandarin, orange, grapefruit and cumquat] tastes like actual skin-contact orange wine," he says, adding that the drinks list also has ferments made from watermelon, Davidson's plum and bananas.
Vodka soda, with strawberry-gum vodka and green-ant soda (Photo: Supplied)
But it's not all creativity for the sake of creativity, there's also a big focus on sustainability in Scout's drinks. They make use of "ugly fruit" and foraged plants (such as a recent harvest of wax flowers from Marrickville, which has been distilled into a gin), and are mindful of what they order from suppliers.
"We never over-order, which is one of the biggest [problems] with waste," Wiley says. "If we have anything that's in leftover, we'll turn it into a garnish or into a food dish." So egg yolks, leftover from the egg whites used in their fizz cocktail, will be salt-cured and served in their finger sandwiches on the bar snacks menu (by Icebergs executive chef Monty Koludrovic).
Chicken Waldorf finger sandwiches (Photo: Supplied)
Scout Sydney is no carbon-copy of the UK original. There's a lighter touch to the drinks – "There's fewer brown, boozy drinks," says Whiley – and the Sydney humidity has made him rethink the cocktail garnishes (flowers wilt in this climate). But most of all, Whiley's noticed the more genial and collaborative attitude of the local hospitality scene.
"In London everyone's on the go all the time. There's no step back to appreciate the amazing things everyone's doing," he says. "The food and drinks scene is so welcoming in Sydney – the community here is something special."
Scout Sydney, Level 2. 412 Crown Street, Surry Hills, NSW
Wed–Sat, 5pm–midnight, Sun 5–10pm, scout.bar