Story By Charlie Lehmann, Owner of Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern, Sydney
Photos by Ben Cook
Dive bars are the life blood of drinking establishments on both ends of the spectrum. From your piss poor pubs with decadent décor to your swanky, wanky cocktail bars spilling rotavap knowledge on to the unsuspecting public. Everyone loves a dive bar. While quaffing a dram or two of The Balvenie Stories range with the ever affable Ross Blainey (reigning ambassador of the year from The Balvenie and Glenfiddich) we concocted a story, an idea of shared experience, the birth and glory of the Five Star Dive Bar.
Without the slapped together, crate sitting, blues shilling (or whatever damn tunes you may well choose on the day) tin guzzling, whisky shooting, crap all over the damn walls type of joints we never would’ve been graced with so many spectacular bars or bartenders. The dive bar bartender is the all round utility knife of our increasingly specialised industry. The dive bar is the warm hug after a long shift, to let your hair down, or your pants, skirts, tees and tops till we’re all dancing in our undies on the bar top.
Dive bars defy trends and start them. A shit tin beer wasn’t concocted from lame anecdotes of the bar bourgeoisie but was tailored from the mouths of barmaids and merried mischief. Made to be slid down a bar into the open palms of any discerning drinker with any air of respectability. While the world spins endlessly, streetscapes are built up and torn down, the ever-familiar dive will always be dimly lit, tucked away for those who wish to put up their feet. As fickle as our industry can be, dives are no trend. They endure through boom and bust because the no-nonsense, no-frills nature brings people back. But while the heart is drawn to those no-nonsense, no frills spots to post up, the heart is not always drawn to a shit tin beer. So what happens when you combine the beautiful sweaty essence of a dive bar with the best elements of those venues that make drinks that don’t classify as a shit tin beer? The Five Star Dive Bar is born.
With a weaving philosophy of “Good Times” waxed with a brush dipped in luxury, usually saved for the upper echelons of our bar brethren, five-star dive bars have pressed the sweet berry of luxury into the accommodating and indulgent belly of the dive bar. Certain boozy bottles of affluence, such as the new Balvenie 19-year-old, are now swilled nonchalantly alongside your favourite can of the Lord’s liquid. Bars such as Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern have broken down the hedge and started a bloc party where even the fuddy duddys are invited to sing “The Horses” at close.
Stories are made, people are hugged, babies are probably conceived and a few whisky butts of the good stuff are guzzled out of fine crystal with a can in the other hand. Laying down the story of the Five Star Dive Bar and The Balvenie was a match made in heaven or hell, whichever floats your boat. It’s about a top-notch drinking experience without allowing egos to flay around in the kiddie pool. The Balvenie is the taste of luxury but from real people with real stories, just like the never-ending ones rambled across our bar tops around the globe.
This pairing of no bullshit with a taste of luxury has given us the opportunity to bang out the good stuff with a limited edition 5 Star Menu. It includes the brand new Balvenie 19yr The Edge Burnhead Wood; our take on the Boilermaker with “The Baller Maker”, a cold tinnie and a nip of the delectable Balvenie 30yr neat or on ice; and then the Coup De Grâce… a 5 star Balvenie 30yr cocktail only available at Ramblin’ Rascal. Style and grace and straight to the face.
The Five Star Dive Bar is the ever-affable joint where you can take your mum or your mates and all of you get locked in the same cubicle, swapping stories to the cacophony of the Wu-Tang. A blend of smoking dimes, good times and looking like nines à la Two Schmucks (Barcelona)! We are here to transcend bartending fads, shove good times down your gullet, waltz you round the room in fine three-piece suits, smack a kiss on your forehead and a peanut in your front pocket. You’ll wake up to a new world order, one that slings tins and stirs fine ass cocktails to swill without the hoity toity bullshit. Style and grace with attitude, luxurious and personable. A big faux fur coat hug from your favourite local haunt. See you next Tuesday at Ramblin’ Rascals for a Balvenie.