There’s something quintessential about cocktails and summer. Not that cocktail drinking can’t be a winter activity, but… well, as soon as the barometer starts rising, I’m craving the closest booze over ice.
Not just any booze… something deliciously refreshing, distinct but light, naturally infused with citrus, mint, herbs or berries. Something like the Ginuary from Must Winebar‘s Cool for Cats summer menu.
Cool for Cats is a promotion being run by chef and owner Russell Blaikie and his talented team at Must Winebar for the entire month of January. To help patrons ‘cool down’ from the scorching summer temperatures, the bar is offering a new short menu of bar snacks, gin-based cocktails and sangria from 4-7pm each day, with wines and Champagne being sold at bottle-shop prices.
I first sampled the delights of Cool for Cats on Monday 6th December 2014 as a guest of Russell Blaikie and his creative team. It was a scorching day; 40 degrees C to be exact. After cooling down with some water, we sampled the entire range of Cool for Cats promotional cocktails, delicious bar snacks and sangria whilst chatting to Russell and his head barman, Marz.
About ten minutes into the evening, I berated myself for forgetting my camera. A semi-exclusive invitation, an event launch, Perth food personalities… the camera wielding should have come automatically. But, well… no. Between my day job, recipe development and everything else, I guess I’m still adjusting to the ‘public foodie’ thing. Very slowly.
Cue Thursday evening, 9th December 2014. I sent my husband a message on my way home from work, proposing the idea of a visit to Must for both blogging and comparison purposes. Blogging in the respect that I needed some decent photographs for Monday’s event post. Comparison in regards to, well… comparison.
In short, I wanted to see whether the ‘average patron’ would get the same impeccable food, cocktails and service as we received during the launch party. Aaron was agreeable, mostly due to my raving reviews of Marz’s delicious ‘smoked negroni’ cocktail from Monday night.
We arrived just before six pm. The bar was reasonably quiet; a few patrons sat sipping slowly from a pitcher of iced sangria. We scanned the room, settling on seats at the centre bar.
After a quick glance at the menu, I realized that there was no smoked negroni. And no Marz (see * below). However, after a chat with the barman (he explained that he could make me a regular negroni but not a smoked one) I ordered a Prince Harry (whisky, lime, bitters and vanilla sugar, from the regular cocktail menu) and a seasonal Ginuary (Sipsmith London gin, elderflower liqueur, apple, bitters and ginger beer, from the Cool for Cats summer menu).
Our food choices were a spicy prawn gazpacho shot ($5) and the ‘Must’ fish and frites ($19).
The fish arrived promptly; four crisp pieces of whiting accompanied by thick homemade tartare and an enamel cup of golden frites. We grazed happily whilst awaiting our drinks and I’m pleased to say that the dish was exactly as I remembered it from Monday. The moist, delicate fish was lightly coated in a crispy batter, perfectly portioned for dunking into the thick, piquant tartare.
The frites were thin, crisp and lightly salted. Aaron and I fought each other for the last three.
Our drinks arrived half-way through the cup of frites.I had sampled the Ginuary on Monday so I knew exactly what to expect: an easy-drinking, delicately floral cocktail with notes of elderflower, ginger and juniper. It arrived tall, with plenty of ice and a fresh mint garnish.
Aaron’s Prince Harry was presented in a vanilla-sugar-rimmed Martini glass. It was delicious, with dominant whisky notes (from the Monkey Shoulder whisky and Lochan Ora whisky liqueur) and a bitter finish that was beautifully softened by the sugar rim. I’m not entirely sure why it was called a Prince Harry, but… well, it was orange. And perfectly delicious.
For some reason, our gazpacho shot was momentarily forgotten; an attentive waiter chased it up after taking our second round of cocktail orders. It arrived soon afterwards, a proud prawn protruding from a chive-garnished shot glass of vivid red.
It was delicious; fresh, plump and beautifully spiced. However, the presentation definitely fell below that of Monday’s launch party with Russell Blaikie. It took me three photographs to get something that didn’t resemble a dismembered finger in a bloodied glass. Here’s the result:
Compare this shot to Bryton Taylor’s snap of Monday night’s offering. Just a small difference in presentation, but… well, we do ‘eat with our eyes’. Rest assured, both versions were equally gorgeous in the eating.
Bryton also has some delicious snaps of Rusty’s Ribs ($19), Russell Blaikie’s own recipe based on the (in)famous ribs from Naughty Nuri’s in Ubud, Bali. On Monday, the pork ribs were succulent, sticky and fall-off-the-bone wonderful, accompanied by a refreshing pickled vegetable salad.
We didn’t order this dish on Thursday, however I’d definitely recommend it if you’re visiting Must during the Cool for Cats summer season. It’s meat perfection, Bali style. So, so good.
Aaron’s second cocktail was Purple Print, bourbon with Creme de Mure (blackcurrant liqueur), cranberry, blueberry jam and mint.
This cocktail arrived with a dollop of blueberry jam on shaved ice, which immediately screamed ‘overly sweet’ to me; however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was perfectly balanced with bourbon heat and acidic cranberry.
I ended with a glass of smooth Spanish Tempranillo, the name of which evades me, whilst occasionally stealing blueberries from Aaron’s Purple Print. We chatted happily, watching a trickle of dinner patrons slowly fill the seated dining area. By 7.30pm, we drained our glasses and settled the bill.
After two visits to Must’s Cool for Cats summer cocktail series, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a classy summer sundowner along the hallowed Beaufort Street strip. Chef/owner Russell Blaikie, head chef Andre Mahe and head barman Marz have created a beautiful collection of memorable drinks and snacks that have a deliciously light, casual feel. They’re perfect for scoffing after a hard day at work or for sharing with friends.
Thanks to Russell Blaikie, Sipsmith Independent Spirits and the Must team for a memorable introduction to the Cool for Cats summer cocktail series.
*Update from 13/01/2014: I’ve received information from Must that the smoked negroni is now on the Cool for Cats menu! It’s got delicious Sipsmith gin, Campari, Pedro Ximenez Lustau sherry and aromatic bitters, all smoked over aromatic orange woodchips before being served over an ice sphere. Perthians, get there. Now!
Open 7 Days, 12 noon – 12 midnight (*Cool for Cats 4-7pm daily in the bar)
519 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA
(08) 9328 8255