There's an old abandoned toyshop on Clarence Street in the city called Play Ways. Peering through the window, you half expect to be pounced on by a possessed rag doll that got left behind in the move. It would make a great place for a bar. Grandma's, however, is a couple of doors down, underneath a guitar shop. Pass an enormous deer head mounted on the wall, take the AstroTurfed stairs down to the basement, and hit the bar.
The bar crew (or ‘grandchildren', as they're referred to by owner James Bradey) are a friendly lot who are also incredibly helpful, despite the crowds. What you should know is that there are very few places to sit - even on a Tuesday night. If you want to hog the bartender, get there before seven. If you do snag one of the bar seats, you'll be treated to a bird's eye view of the 30-plus rums they stock and while a lot of the drinks on the list are really clever, punchy and boozy the bartenders are also really happy to make you something a little straighter (they make an excellent version of the rum Swizzle with two types of rum, lime juice and sugar syrup).
Grandma's, if you haven't guessed, is a cocktail bar. Sure, they have a small selection of beers, ciders and wine on offer, but it's more a nod to the subject than anything else. Wines are listed as simply ‘French' ‘Red' ‘White', etc. If you want more detail you'll have to ask. And no doubt they'll somehow talk you around to a cocktail instead. Beer-wise, you're looking at Tiger or Boag's and cider is Monteith's only. Don't like the selection? You can always drink at Sweeney's Hotel across the road.
But you're drinking at Grandma's, so how about starting with a restorative cup of punch? The contents of the big glass bowl change daily. Today it's Fish House Punch - a classic mix of grog, juice and fruit. It's nowhere near as frilly as it sounds - especially when served in a big tin Pusser's rum mug. Drop by during the cooler months for the likes of Hot-Buttered Rum or Glogg (mulled wine). The first page of the cocktail list is dedicated to the team's favourites (Clover Club, Negroni and a few fruity creative numbers) while the pages after are filled with tiki and rum drinks including the Nuclear Daiquiri and the Hemingway. While rum is most definitely a theme here, it's not the be-all and end-all. There's also tequila. And joy of joys, there's a Paloma on the list - the pride of Mexico. At Grandma's, they make their own grapefruit soda (or ‘ting' as it's often called) for the classic Mexican drink of reposado tequila and soda, served long over ice with a salt rim. It's a great entry point into the list, especially if you struggle with tequila - long, refreshing and crisp.
Grandma's is a small bar with great drinks. That means it fills up fast of an evening, and stays filled. Go early and stay long.