7 November, 2018
By Glenn Simpson
The opening of a new cocktail bar by Renmark-based distillers, Twenty Third Street Distillery, is the right fit for Melbourne Street.
Driving past, you could not miss the new venue. A hundred or more balloons of various colours and sizes adorned the entire facade, from rooftop to alfresco, contrasted by the black walls and the brand’s bright white neon logo, set the scene for an evening of finery and fun. And cocktails.
The place was a buzz when I arrived. I brought a mate along and he gave a nod of approval as he shuffled past the growing crowd toward me at the bar. Sleek and deep, the black marbled bar juxtaposed perfectly with the brightness and playful colour of the bottled spirits. Another bright white neon logo was brilliant at the centre of the shelf of spirits. In front of it, a small shimmering copper pot was on display.
Distilling at the Renmark site goes way back to 1914 when Chateau Tanunda spared no expense to build a facility for the burgeoning Riverland grape production. After that, a raft of different owners and operators saw production cease completely by 2002. Enter a new team in 2016 (backed by South Aussie legends, Bickfords), a new distillery and innovative range, and now the launch of the Melbourne Street venue.
We found free seats at the bar and my mate and I discussed the options presented on the drinks card. We decided on a Rose Cosmo; the purveryor’s take on a traditional cosmopolitan. The first sip was as deliciously vibrant as the colour in the glass and the presentation with a splash of burnt lemon peel, simple and elegant.
We decided to pair it with the pork belly and takoyaki that was doing the rounds by the friendly and attentive staff. We also added a cold beer to wash it down – Vale Ale.
Next, the Mint Julep. This was the drink my mate was most excited about. It was my first time. The drink was presented in an illuminating copper cup, chock full of ice and adorned with generous amounts of fresh mint. I was surprised how much I liked it. It wouldn’t be the last one supped this night.
The wine offering was the family-owned Beresford Wines of McLaren Vale. Whilst their range on offer, from bubbles to shiraz, wasn’t for me on the night, many others were enjoying these award-winning wines.
After we slipped outside to enjoy the twilight, I noticed a few of the punters taking turns with a Virtual Reality headset, so I enquired, ‘what’s this about’?
Twenty Third Street had invested in an elaborate VR presentation featuring a 360 degree tour of the distillery. It told the story of their rise, culminating in this move into North Adelaide.
I’m a sucker for tidbits of South Australian history and I love that Twenty Third Street got hold of couple of huge South Australian-built copper pot stills that were collecting dust at Berri Estate. They’ve been completely rejuvenated and restored whilst retaining some of their rustic charm. The rest of the renovated site looks chic and modern; a definite, don’t-miss destination for Riverland wine touring.
Anyway, back to the polished floors, that shimmering black marbled bar and the broad smiles of the cocktail-makers themselves.
Next up, we tried their signature gin – the Bees Knees. A golden coloured mix of honey-blended gin, lemon juice and honey water. The flavour was unassuming yet bold, a perfect sweet and sour blend with the very smooth gin sitting underneath.
Over another Vale Ale each, we reviewed the drinks at hand. We went for another Rose Cosmo and Mint Julep – both standouts in their own right.
Before we pulled up stumps, we chatted to the savvy media reps, who, like me, were taking a bevy of photographs for social media pages and messing about on the VR. I discovered that Twenty Third Street offer a gin blending course. The one hour session lets you ‘explore the taste profiles of our botanical distillates’ to create your own signature blend. For $80, you get the experience and a bottle of your gin to take home. I love this (booking details are available on their website http://www.23rdstdistillery.com.au).
They also offer palate and tasting courses to exult one’s spirit for spirits.
As my first time reporting such an event, the experience of the night left me feeling as tickled pink as their Rose Cosmo and keen for more.
Nothing sounds better than wandering toward Melbourne Street after the cricket to dive into a Navy Strength G&T (another offering) or two, or several Mint Juleps in those cool copper cups.
A spanking-new and vibrant venue with world-class spirits by passionate South Australians? Yes! It is exactly the kind of classic-chic dust-off that tired ol’ Melbourne Street needs.