The List: we take a look at the drinks of Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern


Welcome to the first instalment of The List, where we take a deep dive into that staple of the bar rooms around the world, the drinks list.

What makes a great drinks list? Well, first and foremost if you ask us, it’s the drinks on the list. And the drinks at Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern in Sydney are a great place to start.

We caught up with co-owner Charlie Lehmann — you may recognise him and his iconic beard from such places as, well, the cover of this issue — and he walked us through some of the cocktails on their list.

The list at Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern is its seventh iteration, and whereas once, Lehmann was primarily responsible for the list, he’s employed a more collaborative approach this time around, making use of the quality bartenders on hand — a calibre of bartenders which saw them take out the title of Bar Team of the Year at the 2015 Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards.


“When we first opened, I did every single cocktail list with only a little input from everyone else, but essentially I took the reins,” explained Lehmann.

“After a cocktail list comes out we have to start a new one, so we bounce around ideas, start writing things down. The first six menus I did the majority of it. With this cocktail list I teamed up with Daniel Noble [ex-Mojo Record Bar], and he’s really good with drinks, he’s got a great palate and I had a lot of other things on. So we sat down, like, we can help each other out.

“Even Mikey, he had a great idea for a drink as well,” Lehmann said of one of their younger bartenders. “So it’s essentially just trying to draw on everyone. It’s a symbiotic thing; you’ve got to come together with everyone’s ideas to make it work. Otherwise, it’s just a reflection of one person’s style or preferences.”

Lehmann and Noble took their time in bringing the list together, working on drinks to get them just right.

“I sat down with [Noble] and suggested to maybe do this, this, and this, and he just busted out drink after drink until we got it right. It was just working together, making it happen.”

Their list features just six cocktails, so each one has to bring something different to the list; it’s not just variations on the same kind of big, boozy, bartender’s drink, said Lehmann.


“When we create the cocktails, we like to separate the different categories,” he said. “So we always have one big stirred drink, for the Old Fashioned drinkers and Sazerac drinkers; we always have one that’s really smashable, quaffable, that you could have 10 of them; we have a really nice sweet one; a really complex and interesting one, one that when you’re reading people you really need to know the guest that’s sitting there — we try to add that really weird element to one of the drinks.”

The result is that there’s something to please most palates.

“People from all different calibres can come in and be like, “fuck yeah, that’s what I’m drinking,” he said.

Because Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern is the kind of everyman’s bar where the emphasis is on fun, Lehmann said they need to have a list that is quick to deliver, so a lot of the work goes into the drinks before service even begins.

“In here, we’re not afforded the time to sit on cocktails,” he said. “We can’t craft cocktails for five minutes, but people come in here, they want a great cracking drink, they want to sit and they want to have them — we’re a fun bar. We need to create fantastic drinks, but also they need to be put out in like a minute and 30 seconds, and still be really nice in the glass.”

But just because they’ve got a small list, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a number of other classics made well.

“We have a barrelled Harvard cocktail, Sazeracs on tap,” Lehmann explained. “People know that we can bang out some great classics in here as well.”

The emphasis for Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern — as any bartender who has ducked in for a shot of cognac or one of their ‘shit tinnies’ can attest — is on the atmosphere and the good times vibe.

You can be a raucous, and be a — well, a rascal if you will— but you can also get drinks of a high calibre.

“That’s essentially our philosophy,” Lehmann said. “You can come in, have a great time, but you’ll also get a standard of service that is at that point of, wow, that’s actually a really good bar, there’s a high standard of bartenders behind there.”

As for the guiding philosophy behind the list, they start at the markets.

“We change our list seasonally, every three months a brand new list depending on the season,” Lehmann said.

“Essentially we got to our supplier for fruit and vegetables to see what’s best for the season, and we run off that. That’s where we start our cocktail list — from what’s available. Then we run ideas past each other, twists on classics, and try to make it as easy for ourselves but also approachable to our customers.”

Get a look at the thinking behind their drinks list, and do yourself a favour when you’re next in Sydney and descend the stairs for a rascal of a time.


Fat Bottom Girls

45ml cognac
10ml Punt e Mes
10ml Campari
10ml red wine
1 drop of orange blossom water

Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass on ice. Garnish with a fat orange wheel.

Recipe by Daniel Noble, Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern

“Fat Bottom Girls is a really heavy, big, bold drink. You get a nice bitterness coming through that’s rounded out with cognac.” said Lehmann.


Backseat Bingo

15ml Tio Pepe
15ml apple cider reduction
Top with prosecco

Build ingredients in a champagne flute, garnish with edible flowers.

“Our interesting cocktail is Mick’s — he had this idea of doing a cider reduction, but him being very new to bartending and flavours he needed help,” said Lehmann. “I said make the cider reduction and we’ll work on it together. Because it can be over taken in flavour easily — we played around with it in sours and fizzes and things — it was standing out. So we added Tio Pepe sherry to it and topped it with sparkling and bang — it was perfect. It’s a banging drink.”

And how do they go about making their reduction?

“You get bottle of cider, a hot plate on a medium heat, bring it up to a simmer,” said Lehmann. “Add some sugar to it, some aniseed, some pink peppercorn, and let it simmer for about five minutes. Pop it off, let it cool, double strain and give it a bit of a taste to make sure that it’s balanced.

“It’s just another way of giving a good sweetener to a drink instead of using plain old sugar syrup or a regular run of your mill syrup — you get to play with floors that are already in a different product.”


Spearmint Rhinoceros

50ml cognac
10ml housemade Peppermint Hippo Liqueur
Stir on ice and strain into a fancy cocktail glass. Garnish with a mint leaf.

Recipe by Daniel Noble, Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern.

“It’s a twist on the Stinger, we use a homemade — what we call — a Peppermint Hippo Liqueur,” said Lehmann. “It’s creme de menthe essentially. We add that to cognac and stir it down into a fancy martini glass. You get that really nice, minty freshness with the nice cognac coming through.

“[Noble] got a bottle of vodka, stuffed it with mint, then washed it — put it through the dishwasher, so it heated up. Then chucked it straight into the freezer and cooled it down straight away.”


Lounge Lizard

60ml gin
30ml lemon juice
10ml sugar
15ml plum shrub

Shake the gin, lemon and sugar with ice and strain into a rocks glass with crushed ice. Drizzle plum shrub over the top.

“I had this idea for a shrub, and it just happened that unfortunately Dick Bradsell had just passed away when we came up with this idea,” said Lehmann. “We were like, how about we do our own twist on the Bramble — a little hat tip. We grabbed some plums, instead of the heavy creme de mure, and essentially made a shrub. We use the leftovers as well. That’s a big thing for us now, trying to use everything of what we have instead of just chucking it out. We take the plums that we use for the shrub, freeze them — they’ve got this really vinegary smell, but you bite into it still has the plummy flavour. Acidic, vinegarised plum, using it as a garnish.

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