Callan Boys
The side room at Eau-de-Vie in Darlinghurst.
The side room at Eau-de-Vie in Darlinghurst. Photo: Brook Mitchell

229 Darlinghurst Rd Darlinghurst, NSW 2010

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Permanently Closed

It's been a while since Barhop got the gaslight out for a journey down the Kirketon hallway into Eau-de-Vie, kids, so here we are. The home of the cough-drop blazer and paper-plane garnishes, Japanese whisky in jasmine-scented cups, chorizo-infused mezcal in a repurposed bull's horn and enough liquid nitrogen to last The Curiosity Show for 10 seasons.  

EDV set new cocktail standards for Sydney when Sven Almenning​ opened it more than six years ago and has since spawned more drink-making talent in Australia than it has bonkers flavour combinations on its booze list. ("A kind of roasted capsicum and white chocolate margarita," reads one cocktail description.)

Is it still worth a visit? Still relevant? When so many skilled staff have flown the coop and  such a large number of excellent EDV-influenced bars exist around town? Yes, my dear Virginia, it is.

The "drunken" manchego.
The "drunken" manchego. Photo: Brook Mitchell

Copperart-y hotel picture frames I've never liked hang in a room draped in a darkness I like very much. The ostentatious wall of booze bottles owned by regulars is still a thing and I still don't know if I want to slap or salute customers prone to stocking their spirit safes with Malibu and Melbourne Bitter. The main bar is as fine a place as ever to cogitate the merits of Ella Fitzgerald over Billie Holiday, and whisky nuts continue to froth over the high-end selection of wham-bam drams.

But: cocktails. You're here for cocktails. It's easy to be cynical about the theatrics, but every house drink I've downed here over my past couple of visits has been properly delicious. And if you want a no-nonsense Manhattan or mint julep, of course the crack team can provide. (Although I'm still unsure why those little pegs a goblin might use to hang his socks are needed to fix every garnish from an orange twist to a bay leaf to baby's breath sprigs.)

It would be an incredible effort and expense to experience each of the 50 or so house creations here, so it's best to settle in, ogle the list and ask the staff for recommendations based on your favourite things. My favourite things are brown, so it's a Riverstream ($24) of mezcal and calvados stirred with lemongrass and white-ale syrup and dash of Fernet Branca for kicks. It's poured over a cold river rock and served under a cloud of eucalyptus smoke that looks like the moonlit moor fog one expects Sherlock Holmes to pop out of on a werewolf hunt.

The Popcorn Flip cocktail.
The Popcorn Flip cocktail. Photo: Brook Mitchell

The Popcorn Flip ($23) has salted popcorn-infused cognac matched with white chocolate and curacao. Served in a glass milk-carton, it's creamy, salty and sweet and way more quaffable than it has any right to be. Meanwhile, bartender Cameron Battley's The Charlie Sheen ($19) is a winning combination of bourbon, cigar-infused rum and "tiger's blood".

Fu Manchu is next door and has nice dumplings if you've got your dinner game on. Otherwise, there's a respectable selection of snacks from the phone-box-sized kitchen, including sliced octopus marinated in chilli, lemon and garlic ($16) and "drunken" manchego ($16) served flaming at the table with spears of rosemary. It's not just drunk on ouzo, it's certifiable blotto and when the cast-iron dish calms its boots you've got a lovely, gooey mess to spread on warm bread with gusto.

I can think of no other bar where the anticipation for a cocktail – based on not knowing what you're going to get – is so high. I've had a similar relationship with the Bond franchise for the past 20 years, poring over every frame of every preview in boyish excitement. Whether the end result was a bloated Brosnan romp with diamond-studded robot men or a slick lick of Daniel Craig, it didn't matter. It was something new and exciting I hadn't experienced before. That's what's living life's all about, isn't it?

Bloody hell, I'd love to know how Bond would feel about baby's breath pegged on his Vesper, though.

Go for … consistently delicious cocktails in spite of increasingly ridiculous ingredients.

Stay for … no more than two drinks if you're on budget. Probably don't come here if you're on a budget in the first place, actually.

Drink … one classic and one house creation.

And … it's 20 per cent off all whisky on Wednesdays.