Retro cocktail revival at The Underground Experiment
Melbourne bar brings back '80s and '90s cocktails. Photo: Supplied
Anyone who saw the 1988 movie Cocktail starring Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown as rockstar bartenders (tagline on the movie's poster: When he pours, he reigns) would have to greet the prospect of an '80s cocktail revival with some disquiet, if not downright terror.
The memories of a maniacally grinning Cruise juggling cocktail shakers and bottles of peach schnapps are unsettling enough but it's the thought of those drinks full of cheap, creamy, brightly coloured ingredients making their way back that makes the stomach churn.
Do we really need to exhume the Grasshopper, the Fuzzy Navel, the Harvey Wallbanger and the Fluffy Duck, let alone Between the Sheets, Slippery Nipple, and Sex on the Beach? Apparently, yes. Reports of a revival have been dribbling in for some time from Cocktail Trend Central, New York City, and now there have been local sightings.
Michael Forbes (ex-Der Raum, Bar Americano, Lui Bar) is the bar manager at Windsor's Saigon Sally and believes there is a small '80s revival on the way but one that is (mercifully) informed by hugely improved access to quality ingredients and palates not completely focused on sugar.
"The original '80s cocktail got a bad reputation because they were made with cheap ingredients in places that were more about the nightlife than what people were drinking," he says. "But now, after we've had the classic cocktail revival, people are really knowledgeable about good ingredients and well-made drinks so you can apply that to '80s-style cocktails while still having some fun."
One of the drinks on the Saigon Sally list is a remake of Sex On the Beach (vodka, peach schnapps, grenadine, grapefruit juice) that is now called Sally On the Beach and has 1800 coconut tequila, Joseph Catrone Peche de Vigne, coconut water and house-made pomegranate grenadine in the mix. It's still frivolous (it's served in a coconut shell) but it doesn't make your teeth ache just thinking about it.
At The Underground Experiment, bar manager Linus Schaxmann has reinvented a whole range of '80s-era drinks (Fluffy Duck and Blue Lagoon included), saying he's doing it because he wanted to "put the fun back into cocktails".
"It all got awfully serious,'' he says. "This is a way of offering a different drinking experience. Something a bit lighter, that looks amazing and will put a smile on people's faces."
Schaxmann has even been able to make a Grasshopper taste good, mainly by doing away with the former chief ingredient, the truly hideous creme de menthe. His version contains yellow chartreuse, white cacao, Liquor 43 and cream infused with fresh mint. The absinthe-sprayed glass doesn't hurt either. Or the after-dinner mint garnish.
A few of those and we'll all be grinning like Tom Cruise.
The Underground Experiment's Fluffy Duck
30ml Brokers gin
15ml vanilla and star anise sugar syrup
15ml lemongrass syrup
15ml lime juice
15ml lemon juice
3 drops orange blossom water
1 egg white
Shake all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, with no ice, to aerate and give the cocktail a "fluffy" texture.
Pour into a retro '80s glass of your choice, full of crushed ice. Cubed ice will work just as well at a pinch.
Top with soda water and garnish with a duckie!
The Underground Experiment, 284 Smith Street, Collingwood, 9416 0058, thenobleexperiment.com.au