Well hello there, and welcome to another instalment of Fancy Plans and Pants To Match, a regular-ish segment on this blog where I self-deprecatingly-ish acknowledge that sometimes I get to do cool stuff because I am that most deserving, worthy, and merit-filled type of person: a blogger. The title of this segment comes via a quote from this generally forgotten 90s sitcom that I adore called NewsRadio, you should definitely look it up if only to wrestle with the odd sensation of having a crush on a young, handsome, Joey Tribbiani-esque Joe Rogan, who starred in it. Oh, and you can read the Fancy Plans and Pants to Match archives here.
So here's the thing: In October of 2015, which was, appallingly, a year and a half ago, a charming bar called Hanging Ditch opened in the Hannah's Laneway precinct.
The pitch: Hanging Ditch makes lush as hell cocktails and are going through a bit of a menu update. Having been there for their previous menu update and being an extreme fan of drinking alcohol, writing, and enthusiastically supporting my friends, I returned on Tuesday to try some of their new drinks and then pass on my predictably delighted thoughts to you.
What happened: Since I last wrote about this place they've expanded the team via the presence of immensely talented bartender Dave McAvoy (best qualities: 1, is extremely easy to roast, 2, puts up with being roasted with admirable Canadian affability) and there were some new contributions from him to try, as well as drinks from co-founder and general sparkling gem of a human Benji Irvine. Also I'd like to acknowledge that I was wrestling with the aperture on my camera the entire damn time I was sitting there drinking and as such some of these photos aren't totally brilliant, but ignore that and just concentrate on my glowing praise instead.
The drinks I tried included:
One Night In Bangkok (Beefeater gin, kaffir lime leaf syrup, muddled fresh ginger and Thai basil, lime, and a green chartreuse rinse). This starts off dazzlingly refreshing with the one-two punch of kaffir lime syrup and actual lime, before tickling the back of the throat with the warmth of the ginger and Thai basil. The chartreuse rinse is subtle and adds a little richness to an otherwise astringent mix. The power-of-a-thousand-limes limeness of the kaffir lime leaves used in the syrup is spectacular and if you've never sniffed one, do yourself a favour. This is one of Dave's submissions to the World Class competition and guys, it's a damn lovely drink. Also it reminds me of one of my favourite songs of all time, which adds an extra layer of deliciousness.
The Preacher Man (Makers Mark Bourbon, Amaro Angostura, Fernet-Branca, cherry bitters, sugar, flamed cinnamon) Being a bartender it's obligatory for my eyes to light up any time the words "Fernet-Branca" are uttered: it's fiercely herbal, throat-scrapingly minty, eye-bleedingly intense and we love it. Here it's used in an impressively understated way, adding the slightest shy nudge of Fernet-ness to this lush, layered, and punchy cocktail. I only tried Amaro Angostura recently and adore it - imagine Angostura Bitters but imminently drinkable (I'm not saying I haven't done shots of Angostura Bitters, I'm just not sure how sustainable it is on several levels) and it works magic with the classic sweetness of the bourbon and the smokiness of the cinnamon.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Reposado Tequila, grapefruit shrub, Yellow Chartreuse, honey, lemon, orange bitters, shaken in a smoked shaker) This was spectacular, somehow zingy in a sour-candy type way but with backdrop of smoke softly overlapping with the inherent and beguiling smoky pepperiness of tequila. A shrub is a kind of fruity syrup preserved with vinegar and is also, I feel, a highly underrated way of adding flavour to a drink. Here the grapefruit's bitterness and sourness - which is partly where I suspect that candy vibe comes from - is gently imparted to gorgeous effect. It took all my willpower, of which I repeatedly and demonstrably have precious little to begin with, to not slam it back in one mouthful. Bravo.
The Best Bit: The whole bit. Extremely delicious cocktails made by aggressively competent bartenders, charming banter from at least one of them, and just generally getting to bask in their current creative endeavours. Oh wait, the BEST bit: Hanging Ditch has a newly installed FERNET AND COKE ON TAP! This is immensely exciting as well as a slightly hilarious novelty and a blessing to the hospitality community and if you don't hear from me it's because I'm lying on my back underneath said tap with my mouth open drinking their entire stock dry.
On a Scale of 1 to Is This The Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy: As I say every time I do these write ups for Hanging Ditch they get a 1 out of 10 but only because it's actually extremely accessible and anyone can just walk in and order a cocktail: this is a good thing.
Would I Do It Again For Not-Free: Can, will, have, going to, you should too.
Earnest Thanks For Making Me Feel Fancy To: The goodest boys at Hanging Ditch, which can be found next to Goldings and opposite Shepherd in the Hannah's Laneway precinct down Leed's Street. They're open daily from late afternoon until midnight and have a notably good hospo night on Mondays.
Want me to come take better photos than this and write almost troublingly enthusiastic words about your event, new menu, whatever? Giz a yell at email@example.com