An incredible amount of exclusivity comes attached to a hidden bar in the heart of Sydney’s party district.
You know it’s there, but there isn’t a single sign to lead you to it. You’ve heard raving reviews about it, but there’s almost nil advertising for it.
When I ventured out to find Eau de Vie I found myself asking a local on the street where this niche cocktail bar was. In return, I got a what-are-you-talking-about look. Brilliant!
But soon enough you realise this secrecy is worth the magic you’re sprinkled with as you walk through the mundane entrance. You pretty much have to walk past a hotel lobby, another (empty) bar and a set of toilets to enter this alcoholic den. Owner, Sven Roger Almenning, even pitches for ‘eau de toilette’ to be the bar’s secret identity.
However, you’re bound to forget the name change when you find yourself surrendering to the warmth of this place. All external memories of the night will be left outside the door when this multi-award winning bar takes you on a tour of Speakeasy bar culture – Australian style!
“Our sole focus here is cocktails. Alcohol might taste the same everywhere, but when it’s mixed with lust, passion, culture and a bit of quirk, that’s when you get a real drink,” says bar manager, Luke Redington.
The cocktail list is classic – with about 30 featured in the lengthy book, it chiefly features each bartenders’ signature drink supported by a blurb of his personality. If wooing a bartender is on your agenda for the night, then Eau de Vie should be number one on the go-to list.
Although, keep in mind, to be served at this bar, you have to make yourself stand out. “A Marilyn Monroe type personality would usually make eyelids pop at the bar here. We get really busy, and usually these women know best how to get our attention. All within class though, of course,” says Luke.
Speaking of class, owner Sven contradicts to say that Eau de Vie would rather see a James Bond type character chatting up with someone like Audrey Hepburn on one of its timber wood tables. The flirtatious lot of Sydney men seem to find a cosy corner spot here, as they rotate their lady loves, one after another.
Being one of Sydney’s top cocktail bars, there’s an expectation from the bartenders to create nostalgic drinks for their modern patrons. “On a general week, we sell about 1400 cocktails and about 120 beers. When people come here for a drink, they want to experiment and take time to decide and drink. If you want a beer or gin and tonic, this isn’t your place,” says the proud owner.
Apart from the cocktails, Eau de Vie staff also takes their glassware very seriously, so much so, that they’re known to spend over three grand on a single trip to the antique shop. While Sven collects cocktail shakers, his bar staff find century old temperance bottles, martini holders and copper mugs to mark their point of difference.
“Yeah man, that’s what we do in our downtime. We spend hours amidst the lovely mothball smelling stores. We have to get the oldest glasses; it’s our thing,” jokes Luke from behind the bar.
With over half the staff holding extraordinary number of awards and recognition titles, you can’t go wrong with ordering a classic Manhattan in this place. Especially when whispers from the 1920s are humming in your ear – straight from the décor, music to the myriad of unique alcohol bottles resting against a glass wall.
While rumours say Leonardo DiCaprio took the entire team of The Great Gatsby to this bar for an offset party while shooting for the movie in Sydney, this place is definitely not foreign to housing celebrities visiting the city.
“In 2011, we won the best new cocktail bar in the world at Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. So I truly feel like Sydney’s bar culture is getting recognised overseas – especially in New York and London,” says Sven.
Be it for escapism, alcoholism or tourism, Eau de Vie is a drinker’s delight with a twist of lemon zest – a must visit in Sydney.
Eau de Vie, 229 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst
Drinks: 10 Ambience: 9.5