There is a dapper gent setting fire to a chopping board in front of our table, and he’s not an arsonist or attempting some sort of Breakfast Club-style fire alarm evacuation – he’s our bartender and the smoke of the cedar board is destined for a glass, following which the rest of our Smoky Rob Rob will be added. The combined forces of Talisker, Lagavulin, rum, vermouth and orange bitters, plus a generous cloud of smoke is like drinking the essence of a really expensive log cabin in the foothills of the Rockies.
Blowtorching the serving ware is just the beginning of the dinner entertainment at this theatrical cocktail bar hidden out the back of the Kirketon Hotel in Darlinghurst. A show-stopping Bloody Mary is fresh and light, not weighed down by the heavy pulp in commercial tomato juices. Seasoning is intentionally restrained, otherwise the little piles of salt, black pepper and paprika on your tray would serve no purpose, nor the tiny bottle of Tabasco if you like yours hot.
But nothing tops the creative flair displayed in a Riverstream. Mezcal adds a herbal smokiness to calvados, which is then chilled over a frozen river stone and finished with a cloud of eucalyptus and citrus oil made with liquid nitrogen. It’s the Man from Snowy River reimagined as a cocktail.
Kings Cross might be looking a little neglected of late, but there’s a high old time happening inside Eau De Vie. Newly minted couples canoodle on the black leather lounges, posses of party people crowd out the high central table and in the whisky bar are the locked cabinets reserved for high rollers who buy a bottle of the good stuff at a time. And all that vintage glamour really works up a thirst.
After all these years it’s still surprising that, casually strolling through a hotel lobby, you end up in a high-end cocktail bar, especially one as exceptional as this. Not only do you have a flawless bar team seeing to your drinks, but although it feels expensive, they’re not charging excessive premiums on skill and flair. It’s all part of the package. Wins all round.