Online garage sales and pina coladas by the can: Sydney small bars get creative with lockdown cocktails

Double Deuce Lounge owners Sebastian "Cosmo" Soto (left) and Charlie Lehmann are providing cocktails for pick-up from ...
Double Deuce Lounge owners Sebastian "Cosmo" Soto (left) and Charlie Lehmann are providing cocktails for pick-up from Charlie's Chippendale garage every Friday and Saturday.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

You would be hard pressed to find something that combines more COVID-19 lockdown trends than a Basque cheesecake-inspired cocktail delivered to your door.

A sourdough-themed Zoom quiz night, perhaps, but that would be far less interesting than an Old Fashioned flavoured to taste like the scorched-top dessert that anyone with an Instagram account has tried to bake over the past 18 months.

"[For the cocktail] we make a caramel that tastes like the cheesecake, sous vide it and strain it," says Michael Chiem, owner of CBD small bar PS40 and inventor of the Basque Old Fashioned.

Soto says Double Deuce will be putting more lockdown cocktails on the menu in the coming weeks.
Soto says Double Deuce will be putting more lockdown cocktails on the menu in the coming weeks. Photo: Edwina Pickles

"The whole process takes about two or three days. I was probably brainwashed by social media into creating it."

More and more bars like PS40 are coming up with new recipes and innovative ways to reach customers during Sydney's coronavirus lockdown.

Icebergs is offering its signature No.8 aperitivo for home delivery through online platform Providoor, complete with a fresh ruby grapefruit for squeezing. Dulcie's Kings Cross is hosting virtual cocktail making classes, and Jacoby's Tiki Bar in Enmore is selling pina coladas by the can.

PS40's new home-delivered cocktails for Sydney lockdown.
PS40's new home-delivered cocktails for Sydney lockdown. Photo: Alana Dimou

Meanwhile, Sebastian "Cosmo" Soto and Charlie Lehmann – co-owners of Double Deuce Lounge and Ramblin' Rascal Tavern – started selling cocktails via direct message on Instagram two weeks ago.

Punters use their phone to order a Stinger (described by Soto as a "booze-heavy, minty after-dinner drink") and collect the tincture from Lehmann's Chippendale garage on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

"Our bars are deep in the city, so it made more sense to use Charlie's house as the order pick-up spot – the garage door is literally opposite LP's [Quality Meats]," says Soto.

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"There are only two or three cocktails at the moment, but we're going to do more, we're just waiting on a big shipment of bottles."

When the pandemic hit last year, and the NSW government lifted alcohol licensing restrictions to enable small bars to provide takeaway and home-delivery, Chiem was initially taking orders through Instagram too.

"I was trying to hold onto the romantic vibe of ordering across the bar and having a chat with the person making your drink," he says, "However, I soon realised that not many people want that experience when they're trying to buy something online for delivery."

The Double Deuce Discretionary for home use.
The Double Deuce Discretionary for home use.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

PS40's manager created an online store for the bar's flavour-packed cocktails, and this lockdown Chiem's team have delivered COVID-safe gimlets and zombies more than 25 kilometres from the CBD.

"We're going all over the place," says Chiem. "It's absurd how many orders are coming from around Castle Hill and Kellyville in particular. Northern Beaches deliveries are popular … I suspect it's partly because a lot of our weekday regulars are now working from home.

"Even if it's one or two orders from a suburb far away, the delivery is still worth it to keep my team employed."

At Re bar in the South Eveleigh precinct near Redfern station, owner-bartender Matt Whiley also says Northern Beaches residents have been especially cocktail thirsty this lockdown, plus customers in Parramatta and western Sydney.

"I've never worked so hard in my life," says Whiley, who opened Re in April. "But it's been good to get our drinks out to so many people around Sydney – more people know about the bar now than before lockdown."

Whiley is dedicated to Re becoming completely waste-free, from counter-tops made with recycled milk bottles, to cocktails featuring fruit deemed too "ugly" to serve at a restaurant. However, delivering hundreds of glass bottles each day hinders that goal.

"It's just one of those things that we're going to have to wear, but we do offer 10 per cent off the customer's next order if they return the bottles so we can use them again," says Whiley.

"The local community is really good at bringing them back and most people don't even want the discount. They're just happy to help the business."

Five lockdown cocktails for a cracking home bar

Re's None the Pfizer 100ml, $18

"We sold 20 litres of this in two hours when it launched," says Whiley. "It's become a drink a lot of people order because of the name." Excellent name; ripper cocktail. Made with beeswax vodka, burnt fennel fronds and peach, the (not) Pfizer is similar to a lower-alcohol, sweeter-style martini.

Shady Pines Saloon's Sazerac 180ml, $30

Providoor will send Shady Pines cocktails to almost anywhere in the state with next-day delivery. The Darlinghurst bar's sazerac is made New York-style with cognac, rye whiskey and absinthe, and it's a terrific way to start or cap a knees-up at home.

Double Deuce's Discretionary four serves, $50

A fixture of the Double Deuce cocktail list and a drink "we have a bit of a reputation for now," says Soto. The anytime-of-day clarified coffee and tequila milk punch hums with fernet, maple and Cocchi Americano.

Maybe Sammy's Camomile Martini 500ml, $69

Even reading the words "camomile martini" is enough to cause instant relaxation, bordering on drowsiness. Gin is stirred with camomile-infused vermouth for the effect and Australia-wide delivery is available through Sammy's online store. Do not operate heavy machinery after drinking.

PS40's Salted Pina Colada Fun Pack 400ml, $32

Churned in a slushie machine and zippy with white rum, lime, cold-pressed pineapple and Coco Lopez cream of coconut. "People often associate slushies with tacky American bars and 7-Eleven, but with the right ingredients and recipe, you can make an amazing drink," says Chiem.