It’s a bar the size of a shoebox, with nary enough space to swing a cat and more fruit drinks on one menu than should be allowed. And yet it all magically works.
Decorations run as far as two huge rolls of butcher’s paper. One has the drinks menu on it (an ever-changing list of whatever’s delicious and fresh on the day – they make a certain amount of drinks, and when they’re gone, they’re gone). The other sheet is a sort of drinks honour roll where you can buy a cocktail for an absent friend. Their name goes on the sheet of paper along with the name of the drink, available for collection any time. A lot of people seem to have ‘Black Cock’ written next to their names. It’s probably the dirtiest Thai whiskey you can get your hands on and smells like a damp sock drawer. Our missing friend should be happy with their Dirty Shirley Temple.
There’s no Savoy Cocktail Book on display here, no Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, no Imbibe! But there is a copy of Business for Dummies behind the bar, stuffed behind the Cynar. The barstools are made out of some sort of canvas that feels like it was used for army drills back when they were still using bayonets.
All this we-don’t-give-a-damnitude belies the real beauty here, and that’s some of the finest cocktails in the city in a real feel-good bar. It's got a bit of a late-night San Francisco dive thing going. It's also a bit back-door Berlin. Either way, it's hidden up a narrow staircase upstairs from hot new café Cabrito Coffee Traders and next door to sherry shack, Tapavino, and the team is power: Tim Philips (ex-ivy Level 6), Adi Ruiz (ex-Black Pearl) and Robb Sloan (ex-Black Pearl) are joined by young gun Matt Linklater (also from Ivy level 6). That’s a hell of a lot of talent in one tiny bar.
It’s a fruit-forward menu here – let the records show: there’s ten pounds of the stuff on the old-school scales behind the bar – but stay with us. Such is the skill of this team, they can serve you a mango Daiquiri (they really love blender drinks) and you won’t feel a fool. You’ll feel like a mango-loving champion drinking an amazing cocktail.
We find ourselves kicking back with grape Spritzes, served tall and proud and fizzing. The strawberry Fresca – a tightly wound yet low-alcohol mix of sweet vermouth, port, fresh strawberries and a soda float – is about our threshold for sweet things, though the nectarine Sour brings it down home: short, dry, sweet-and-bourbon-smoky, creamed up with squashed nectarine. It’s everything that’s right about fruity drinks in a rocks glass. We also dig the Toreador, a sharp and refreshing mix of tequila, lime and smashed apricots. Like vodka? There's a $10 Ketel One number with fresh apple and ginger juice.
Just before they opened the doors, Philips described Bulletin Place as a neighbourhood bar in the middle of the city. If it takes a move to Circular Quay to make this our local, consider it done.