We chatted to one of our favourite Sydney bartenders Max about SoCal Sydney - a bar with laid back Southern Californian vibes, inspired by the golden state itself.
SoCal was set up in Sydney's Neutral Bay by Hamish Watts and Ben Carrol of Applejack Hospitality - legends in the local bar scene. When it comes to drinks here, the focus is big on cocktails (they flipping love a good Margarita).
"We focus on drinks that are delicious and exciting, so that even when its raining outside they can take you to a sunny beach in California!" says Max, one of the resident great mixers here.
While you'll also spot a classic or two on the SoCal menu, there's a definite tropical theme.
"A great tiki drink has the ability to take you far away to an exotic tropical paradise - the same way that a great Old Fashioned can transport you to a dark underground bar in 1920's New York. That’s what cocktails are all about, giving an unique sensory experience."
As for what's trendy right now in the drinking scene, Max reckons we'll be seeing a lot more use of savoury flavours to enhance cocktails, tapping into umami-like characters.
"Also, seasonal cocktail lists are big everywhere right now - Della Hyde and Bulletin Place are big on this - using ingredients that are in their prime means maximum flavour and a prime cocktail experience."
While they're Californian-surfer-Tiki-Mexican vibe through and through, the SoCal crew have always been huge supporters of the local craft distilling scene. And we love 'em for that.
"Australia in the last 5 years has come out with so many great gins and whisky's hitting the shelves and standing strong against the rest of the world - Sullivan's Cove in Tasmania won best single malt in the world a few years ago which was amazing! And Four Pillars Gin is a testament to the beauty of the craft distilling industry in Australia."
Speaking of which, they're working with our gin in some pretty delicious ways!
"One of my favourite cocktails on our menu incorporates torched rosemary, agave nectar and cranberry - it is a match made in heaven with the Rare Dry!"
While he speaks fondly of gin today, it may surprise you (it shocked us) that Max wasn't always a gin lover...
"I used not like gin at all! I know, blasphemy! My eyes were opened to gin and it’s beauty through bartending - and it's one of my favourite spirits to use in cocktails now. Some gins have an elegance that can’t be matched, some smack you with so many flavours that you spend each sip discovering new ingredients - and before you know it, the bottle is gone!
Max, we know the feeling all too well.
Pop in and see the SoCal crew if you're kicking it north side and need a cocktail that'll transport you straight to The OC.
Max came and visited us at the distillery last month, come back soon mate!