DRINKS WITH… PASAN WIJESENA

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Earls Juke Joint is a hidden gem situated behind the doors of an original 1950’s butchers shop, “Betta Meats”. From the drapes to the awning, everything has remained the same, except for what’s behind those swinging doors. Once inside, you are instantly thrown from the streets of South King Street to the deep, dirty south of New Orleans. Named after Earl Palmer (an American rhythm and blues drummer), in here you will find the music loud and proud, the walls embellished with photos of blues legends alongside Cajun, Creole, and Caribbean culture; this bar is nothing short of awesome!

So when I got the opportunity to sit down and have a little chinwag with Pasan Wijesena, owner and lead bartender of Earl’s Juke Joint, I almost lost my mind! Those who know me, know my husband and I are fans of this bar, so to get the chance to pick the brains of one of Sydney’s most acclaimed bar gods was pretty nerve wrecking exciting!

BACK IN THE DAY

After a brief stint working at the Oxford Art Factory, Pasan became friends with Jason Scott and Anton Forte (Swillhouse crew). The trio opened up Sydney’s infamous Shady Pines Saloon (where taxidermy and whisky merge into greatness) and somewhat changed the game for Sydney bars. You could say that Sydney’s bar scene was pretty dyer back then. VIP rooms ruled pretty much every drinking hole that Sydney had to offer, bar staff got nothing from their jobs, and there was no love for the small bar scene. Now, thankfully, because of bars like Earls, Shady Pines and Baxter Inn (all bars Pasan has worked in) they have paved the way for a new era of bars here in Sydney that make going for a pre dinner drinks or an after work bevvie much more exciting!

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FROM THE CBD TO THE QUIET STREET OF SOUTH KING STREET

Even though Sydney CBD was hella’ ready for a small bar scene, Pasan took a great risk steering away from the bright city lights and heading to the quiet end of Kings Street, Newtown. Even now, it is very rare for any type of bar or restaurant to survive setting up shop on South Kings Street. Many places go out of business quicker than they open… so I asked Pasan ‘what makes Earls so different?’ As expected, Pasan humbly bigs up his team. ‘Even three years after being open, we are always trying to be better at what we do and how we do it. We’ve got a great local and regular clientele, and we get great support from other hospitality staff. I think taking part in comps, winning awards, etc obviously doesn’t hurt, but you have to back it up too, and not rest on your reputation. ‘ And what a rep these guys have. I can honestly say the reason I come back here time and time again is due to the team Pasan has. I have never had a bad experience with them, and to see them enjoying their night on the opposite side of the bar tells me something is working.

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SO WHAT’S NEXT?

A rum focused Tiki bar in Enmore is Pasan’s next adventure. Named after Dr. Lawrence Jacoby from Twin Peaks, Jacoby will be opening early next year. Coincidental with the whole Tiki movement that seems to be gathering steam worldwide, Pasan and his team have been sitting on this idea for a while. It came to light whilst drinking at Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles. ‘Anything Tiki is always fun! It’s the anthesis to humourless prohibition styled cocktail bar tending with drinks that are still bonafide classics, so what’s not to love?’

Twin Peaks, kitschy fit-outs and drinking rum out of a zombie head, that has my name written all over it… plus it’s local, oh and it has a late license! Nothing about this can be faulted ☺

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SPEAKING OF RUM

As you can probably gather by now, I love rum! I love to drink it, I love to make cocktails with it and I love to talk about it! Lucky for me, Pasan also enjoys all things rum 😀

‘El Dorado 12 was one of the first rums I tried that actually made me want to drink rum neat.’ Here is where my fan girl moment set in! El Dorado was also the rum that changed the game for me also. I had been having a pretty hard time drinking rums straight recently, and was very close to throwing in the towel drinking it like that. That is, until I came across El Dorado 12- but you can read about that in another of my posts.

‘What I love about rum is the complexity, the versatility in drinks, the history and culture around it, and its delicious! We should be making more great rum in OZ, given how much sugar cane and molasses we have’. Pasan makes a great point here; Australia should be making more quality rums that incorporate our native flavours, such as Blood lime, Lady Apple and River mint. As nice as spiced Caribbean rums are, we have the resources here to change the rum game. Man, how amazing and unique would those rums be….my mouth is watering just at the thought of it.

TOP THREE COCKTAILS

‘A Daiquiri due to it being so refreshing, delicious and you should be able to get a good one anywhere. Tangy, sweet, it is just such a well-balanced drink. My choice of rum to use in a Daiquiri would have to be Havana 3 year old or Plantation 3 star. Fish House Punch, essentially it’s a rum punch is just delicious- Rum, cognac, peach brandy, lemon and sugar. You put it in a big bowl and go for a swim. And lastly, it would have to be a Pina Colada. That for me is the ultimate, ‘I’m on holiday’ cocktail. You just can’t go wrong with it… even a bad one can ultimately be a good one.’

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WORDS OF WISDOM

And like that, we came to the end of our interview. But before I left, Pasan gave me a few words of courage for my rum quest. ‘Don’t be afraid to try new things, a tiki cocktail is a fun and easy way to get into drinking rum, and then experiment with rum in classic drinks e.g. a rum negroni (A right hand), a rum old fashioned etc. Premium stuff is also a lot more accessible than premium whiskeys for example, so you can try some really amazing liquid at a fraction of the price of similar aged whiskeys.’

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Thanks again Pasan for an awesome chat and for the umpteen cocktails you made me. To those who have not checked out Earls Juke Joint, please do yourself a favour and go asap. The place is faultless as is the team that work there.

HAPPY NATIONAL RUM PUNCH DAY!

Today is National Rum Punch Day! And what better way to celebrate such a fantastic occasion, then by making the finest Jamaican Rum punch to see out the day 🙂

Having never made a rum punch in my life, I headed to Google to seek a ‘how to…’ and found a pretty simple yet delicious recipe. I had to make a few adjustments to this punch due to not having everything the recipe requested, so please no judging on my choice of ingredients:

-15ml lime juice
-12oml orange, mango and apple juice
-12oml pineapple juice
-60ml of Captain Morgans Jamaican Rum
-60ml Bacardi Superior White Rum
-A a splash of grenadine for colour

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Pretty much, all you have to do it mix it all together, serve on ice and Bobs your uncle, you have a Rum Punch!

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I loved this! Yes I may have poured a little more Captain Morgans in to this punch then stated, but I can only think that would have only helped this rum punch along.

Fruity, sweet, and super … strong healthy (surely all that fruit counteracts all that rum?), there is nothing I could fault about this drink… other than it being pretty lethal (not really a fault, just a warning). Honestly after just half a glass, my husband and I were feeling the effects. Tingly toes ahoy! All we needed was a hammock, a tropical island and the ocean breeze to complete this buzz. Alas, it is now 11:20pm on a Wednesday night and we are in bed with an electric blanket on due to the cold. Gah!

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The one thing I forgot to add to this rum punch was nutmeg. I am not too sure what that could have added to the mix, but I guess I will have to make another to find out 😉

Give it a try, and let me know how you get on. Also, if you have your own rum punch ingredients, please feel free to share them as I would love to give them a crack .

HOMEMADE MIXED BERRY MOJITO

 

My husband and I are currently in serious saving mode. The Caribbean is fast approaching; so most weekends we are trying our hardest to stay in and save some money. As we were trying to figure out what film to watch and what to have for dinner, I suddenly had the urge for a cocktail or some sort. Instead of caving in and heading out, I had a look in our cupboards to see if there was anything I could use to make something tasty at home.

We had enough to make a mojito, which, although are nice, can be a little too tart at times. So I thought I would try and new spin on a lime mojito and use some of the berries we had in the fridge to make a sweeter mojito.

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Makes approx 4 – 8 glasses depending on how much you serve up

  • 1 cup of freshly washed blueberries
  • 1 cup of fresh berry juice
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • Juice of 5 small limes
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves (stems removed)
  • 1 cup of Ron Santiago de Cuba Carta Blanca
  • 1 cups of soda water
  • 1 1/2 cup of crushed ice

I started by placing the sugar and water into a small saucepan. Over a medium, I stirred with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolved. To cool the sugar water down, I popped it into the freezer and started prepping the mojito.

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I placed the blueberries, fresh berry juice, lime juice, mint and rum into a large sauce pan and pulsed the mix with a blender until it looked nicely mixed. I added the sugar water to the large saucepan and blended/pulsed again. I also did the same with the soda water.

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For the glasses, I moistened the rim of the glass with lime juice. I then poured out some extra sugar on to a plate and dipped the rim of the glass into the sugar so it would stick. I then added some crushed up ice to the glass and poured in my mojito ready to serve.

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I was super impressed with the result of this cocktail. Mixing the berries, mint and Ron Santiago de Cuba Carta Blanca rum resulted in a light, not too sweet, refreshing cocktail that would be amazing for a summer party.

DRINKS WITH… BENJAMIN JOHNSON!

The Lord Gladstone is one of Chippendale’s prized pubs. I first wandered in there for a pre- taxidermy lesson drink (to calm my nerves) and instantly felt at home. Super relaxed with @chefernie serving up some super yummy grub, I knew this pub would become a new favorite.  Then I got the opportunity to interview The Lord Gladstone’s general manager, Benjamin Johnson for my ‘Drinks with…’ segment of my rum blog and I pretty much jumped at the chance. Even though we had only a short time, what we lacked in time was made up with hilarity and talks of Benjamin’s love of Bundaberg Rum.

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Tell me about what you do for a living? I am a partner in a pub group company called Bourke St. We currently have three hotels in our portfolio, The Lord Gladstone, we just picked up Botany Bay Hotel and we also just picked up the Hampshire Hotel, which we are currently renovating. My role is to go in to these pubs, turn them around and play the licensee/ operations/ general manager role.

What is the best part of your job? I get to do what I am naturally good at for a living and that’s being charismatic and sociable with people. So basically, my job is to make sure people have a good time!

Now on to the reason I am here, to talk about my beloved elixir. What is it you personally love about rum? I love the complexity of rum, for exactly the same reason people love top shelf whiskies or a fine wine. I love reading the back of the bottle, searching the rum I am drinking up on the internet, finding out about how the particulate rum I am drinking is made and it’s origins… without that sounding wanky.

What is your drink of choice? You can’t go wrong with a Bundaberg U.P rum and coke.

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If you were in a room surrounded by the most amazing rums in the world, what would you chose and why? If I was in a room with the crème de la crème of rum, I would still be reaching for that bottle of Bundaberg U.P. rum. I grew up in a small coastal town where Bundaberg U.P. was pretty much all we had in the sense of high-end alcohol. All my teenage / adult memories have been built around Bundaberg U.P, so therefore it’s nostalgic as much as it is to do with the taste.

What rum based drink do you most enjoy making for yourself or a guest? We already know the answer to that! Bundaberg! U.P Rum! To the grave! I love it straight up or with coke. Nothing more needs to be added! There’s no need to ruin a classic. If that wasn’t an option then it would have to be a Spiced rum and ginger beer mix. I can make a mean Dark’n’Storm, it’s just one of the simplest and one of the best tasting cocktails out there!

What’s the most recent rum purchase you made and why? Ah, ha! A bottle of Bundy! A State of Origin limited edition! HA! Bundy teamed up with State of Origin this year and they have their logo on the front of the bottle. It’s awesome!

What was the most disappointing rum you have tried and why? Malibu rum! That rum just brings back horrendous memories of underage drinking and then spewing my guts up. I can’t shake the memories and can’t bring myself to try it since. Infact, any sort of coconut rum mix generally gets a no from me.

Do you have a few words of courage for me (and any new rum drinkers) during this rum quest? Just keep drinking, and never stop asking questions! Obviously if you are at a bar and it is heaving, maybe refrain from asking too many questions then. But any good mixologist or bar tender will always give you the time of day if you ever wanted to sit down and speak to someone about rum.

 

Although our meeting, was short but sweet. I really enjoyed speaking to Benjamin about his love of Bundaberg Rum. I have not really given Bundy much of a chance to be honest, but to hear someone speak with such passion and love, it honestly makes me want to give it another shot… I may even have a drop tonight 🍹

ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD

 

Since launching in 1992, El Dorado‘s premium rums range just seems to smash pretty much every type of rum competition they are submitted in. With so much hype behind this range of rum, it’s hard not to be caught up in all the glamour that comes with drinking such premium range rum. It is known as one of the best so my expectations are always incredibly high when it comes to giving their range a try.

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A few weeks back, I gave El Dorado 12 a taste and was pretty much blown away by it completely. This week, I got to try El Dorado 15 Year Old Special Reserve! Retailed at a staggering $149.99 per bottle, this is possibly one of the most expensive rums I have tried to date. With the amount of awards this particular rum has won*, to say I was excited is an understatement. I was practically falling over myself when this arrived in the post and I have been waiting ever so patiently to try it.

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With that being said, El Dorado 15 didn’t do it for me. Now before you get all up in arms, hear me out! However unfair it may seem, I am obviously going to compare El Dorado 15 to my tasting of El Dorado 12. With El Dorado 12 being so perfect in my eyes (see previous blog post) I felt this one was a little… well, flat. Yes there were tones of brown sugar, dates and what I think was liquorice that shone through, but nothing wowed me. Infact, I found it a little bit bitter for me liking. I am all about sweet and spicy rums, and sadly this rum did not hit those spots.

Now I am not saying El Dorado 15 is awful, it is actually far from it! It’s a well-rounded, mature rum with lots of substance with somewhat earthy vibes. But it is more suited for people who are not a fan of sweet rums.

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*

EL DORADO 15 YEAR OLD SPECIAL RESERVE RUM
2015 Silver Medal Outstanding

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2014 Gold Medal

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2013 Gold Medal Outstanding

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2012 Silver Medal Outstanding

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2011 IWSC Trophy for Rum

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2011 Gold and Best in Class

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2010 IWSC Trophy for Rum

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2010 Gold and Best in Class

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2009 Gold Medal & Best in Class

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2009 Best Rum in UK

Imbibe Magazine ICE Awards, London

2008 Gold Medal & Best Rum Worldwide Trophy

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2007 Gold Medal & Best in Class

International Wine and Spirit Competition, London

2006 Gold Medal & Best in Class

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2005 Francios Chartier, Authorative Premium Wines Author in Quebec

Annual Buying Guide for Products available at the SAQ

2005 Silver Medal

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2005 Top 10 Remarkable Rums

Forbes Magazine – August, 2005 Wine & Food Feature

2003 Bronze Medal

International Spirits Challenge, London

2003 Gold Award (Super Premium Category)

International Rum Festival, Canada

2003 Gold Medal

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2003 Which Magazine
2003 Superb (90-95) Highly Recommended

Wine Enthusiast Magazine

2002 Gold Medal

International Rum Festival, Canada

2002 Gold Medal

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2002 Bronze Medal

International Spirits Challenge, London

2001 Gold Medal & Best Rum Worldwide Trophy

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

2001 Best Spirit of 2001, Platinum Medal, Connoisseurs Choice 2001

The Beverage Tasting Institute of Chicago

2001 Gold Medal Winner

Caribbean Communications Inc. Rum Fest

2000 Gold Medal & Best Rum Worldwide Trophy

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

1999 Gold Medal & Best Rum Worldwide Trophy

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

1998 Gold Medal & Best Rum Worldwide Trophy

International Wine & Spirit Competition, London

1998 Gold Medal & Joint Trophy

International Spirits Challenge, London

1996 Gold Medal Winner (Premium Category)

Caribbean Communications Inc. Rum Fest

1995 Gold Medal Winner (Premium Category)

Caribbean Communications Inc. Rum Fest

1994 Gold Medal Winner (Premium Category)

Caribbean Communications Inc. Rum Fest

 

THIS WAS NO ORDINARY RUM AND COKE!

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The Black Sheep is an old favorite of ours. It’s one of the first bars we ever checked out when we moved to Newtown… It’s also where I experienced my first freshly squeezed apple and rum cocktail- AMAZING! It’s a fantastic little venue, full of all my favorite things: taxidermy, Jenga, and great music. Food, if a little salty, is reasonably priced and cocktails start from $12- whatta’ steal!.

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Any-who, on this fateful night, I was enjoying my old favorite, Sailor Jerry’s and Coke. While I was wiping the floor with my hubby’s ass at Janga, Al headed to the bar to grab us another drink. Triumphantly, I managed to peal this one particularly tricky block out and place it on top. As I threw my hands up in the air and preceded to have a little victory dance, I noticed Al looking a tad concerned as he made his way back to out table. He broke the news to me that The Black Sheep had just run out of Sailor Jerry’s (WHAT?) and was suggested an alternative called Cargo Cult Spiced Rum. A little disappointed, I gave my drink a little smell (just incase I could get some indication as to what was in store for me) and gave Al a sullen look- I could not smell anything! Knowing that I would be a little apprehensive about this change in rum, Al had already asked the bar tender if it would be much different to ye’ ol faithful, to which the bar tender assured him that I would not notice the difference. Well I noticed the difference all right. It was bloody disgusting

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On my first sip, the taste hit me like a ton of bricks. No way was this similar to the sweet, velvety vanilla taste you would get from a Sailor Jerry’s and Coke. This was harsh and pretty rough as soon as it hit all the senses on my tongue. The only way I could offer you an insight as to what I had just experienced is if I take you back to my childhood. One day beautifully hot day, I was super thirsty, discovered what I thought was a refreshing can of Coca Cola, took a big gulp and got a mouth full of ash and cigarette butts- yes, this actually happened and is why I have never, and would never smoke.

Shocked, I had a quick Google search and found that this rum had botanicals like ginger, cardamom and clove in it- this is probably where the harsh ashy taste came from. I am not a fan of any of these flavours, which is probably why I disliked this rum so much.

I could not finish my drink. I tried a few more sips, but I could not bring myself to finish it. But, to give Cargo Cult Spiced Rum some credit, I could picture this rum doing well as the base for a Dark’ n’ Stormy cocktail. So to make this a fair rating, I will be reviewing this rum by itself at a later date as well as in a Dark’n’Stormy cocktail. But, Cargo Cult Spiced Rum with Cocoa Cola is a big no no!