When Peter Fisher tells the story of his inspiration for his new small bar The Swinging Cat, he grins broadly. There's a twinkle in his eye when he talks about New Orleans, and the four quarters that make up the city. All are represented here at The Swinging Cat, which swoons of a Bourbon Street that we've not seen before in Sydney. Sure we've seen voodoo but not this swish elegance that Fisher says better represents the New Orleans he knows. He's sourced original art and prints by the same artist. Perhaps we like the New Orleans Jazz Cat the best. It's reminiscent of the inspiration of the bar and the grinning Peter.
While the plush teal, purple and cream armchairs sit majestically side by side on the wide floor boards, and the keys of an open German piano gaze across the room, what we definitely like best are his cocktails. This list opens, with a page of our favourite (and usual test) drink - the Sazerac.
"In 1838, Antoine Amedie Peychaud, owner of a New Orleans apothecary, treated his friends to brandy toddies of his own recipe, including his 'Peychaud's Bitters' made from a secret family recipe. The toddies were made using a double-ended egg cup as a measuring jug or jigger, then known as a 'coquetier' from which some believed the word 'cocktail' is derived"
So, first up we had a Traditional, made with Cognac and stirred with the Peychauds bitters, a dash of sugar and an absinthe rinsed rocks glass (and served here without ice). This Swinging Cat Sazerac is heavenly, the smoothest Sazerac that we've tasted. This cocktail - and the atmosphere in the bar - is so good that we end up settling in here for a good few hours more on our first visit than we intended.
Turn the page and there's a double spread of The Swinging Cat Signatures; Canal Street, Rue Royale, Iberville, Decatur, Rue Dumaine, Chatres, Rue Dauphine, Bienville, Treme and Lafayette - mostly all $18. Then farther into the cocktail book, the best is yet to come with a New Orleans Classics. "Nobody in New Orleans enjoys a Hurricane ($20) unless it's the bright red variety served in a tall glass and garnished with orange slices and cherries. This local favourite was created at Pat O'Brien's bar and packs a subtle punch with a fruity mix disguising a heady combination of light and dark rums." The Hurricane is joined by the Ramos Gin Fizz ($18) and a spicier Cajun twist on the classic Bloody Mary. Best of all, is a marvellous version of the Walter Bergeron drink, the Vieux Carre ($19).
And did we tell you about the Champagne? There's quite a list - Louis Roederer NV, 2005 Louis Roederer Blanc De Blanc, 2004 Perrier-Jouet La Belle Epoque, Krug Grand Cuvee and 2004 Dom Perignon Brut are just some - fronting the tight but carefully chosen selection of white and red wines, and beers (including Abita from New Orleans).
The window half of the room is table service, but for those wanting a more casual bar experience the high stools and tables of the back section give you a closer view of the cocktail making and let you stretch your legs between drinks to order at the bar. Although it's early days, already the venue has soared to one of our top Sydney CBD bar picks, The Swinging Cat has established itself as one of our happy places, and one you should get yourself to soon.
|44 King Street|
|+61 2 9262 3696|
Mon – Sat 4pm – midnight