We brought you the news back in August that Mike Enright and Julian Train, the owners behind Sydney’s award-winning gin bar, The Barber Shop, were opening a new bar next door named The Duke of Clarence.
Well, they’ve been hard at work renovating the site and it’s all coming together, with the doors due to swing open next week. When those doors do open, you’ll find a small, intimate bar that harks back to Victorian-era UK, the kind of small local boozer you’d expect to find down a narrow cobblestone street in London — just with heaps better booze.
They’ve drawn upon Dickens-era London as inspiration for the drinks, and you can expect them to be of a high standard given the experience of Enright, general manager David Nguyen-Luu and bar manager Steve McDermott. They’re making use of a rotary evaporator — see here for an explainer on what that’s all about — and employing some pretty serious technique on the cocktails, but the focus is on the flavour and not the geeky frippery. The drinks emphasis is on UK spirits — so gin is in, but there’s also a lot of whisky and more — and cask ales.
We asked The Duke of Clarence’s David Nguyen-Luu to give us an idea of what to expect from the drinks list when they open next week, and he also gives us the rundown on three of the cocktails from the list, which were created by bar manager Steve McDermott.
What’s the big idea behind the drinks at Duke of Clarence?
The idea behind our drinks are all focused on classic British drinks from the 1800 and 1900s, with of course, British-influenced flavours too. The cocktails have been a well thought out process, from ingredients, glassware, speed of service and how we dispense them. So, we’ve batched some of the cocktails and will have these displayed through the old optic system with The Duke of Clarence-labelled bottles. We have invested in some cocktail machinery such as a rotavap to make distillates such as nettle, this has given us more creativity in the final part of the flavour and balance for the drinks. The Drinks list has mix of Cask Ales, British bottled beers and ciders, a great champagne and wine list and the cocktails are reminiscent of the Dickens-era but obviously with a modern twist, with Punches, Flips, Fizzes, Cups etc.
Tell us a little about each of these drinks we’ve got here?
[The] Clarence Summer Cup is our nod to the quintessential British Pimm’s Cup. This will change seasonally and is part of our Cups section where you can order Pimm’s Cups NO1 through to 6 from the 1960’s to the 1970’s.
The Custard Ale Flip: cask ales are a big part of The Duke of Clarence, so this Flip incorporates a great mix of cask ale, marmalade and spices.
Clarence House Gibson (Bombay Sapphire Gin, Dry Sherry, Rosemary Distillate, Pickled Onion Distillate, Brine, Smoked Sea Salt) — of course we needed a Martini style on the menu and we all love a great Gibson. Steve [McDermott] has created a beautiful twist on the classic Gibson
What are you guys using the rotovap for?
We use the rotovap to create flavours with intensified aromas and taste. Using the rotovap is a massive difference to general infusions as the flavours and aromas hold up much better in the distillates we create. We also use the waste from the Rotovap for syrups too, so it’s not what is evaporated that we look at, but what is left over from the evaporation. Our chef will also be using the rotovap for food dishes in the future too.