Liquid Physics at Blu Bar

Scott Wallace
20th Mar 2016

“I was really drunk,” explained Art Palomata, bar wizard at Blu Bar when asked how he came up with some of his more eccentric cocktail creations. It’s a familiar story – I was instantly reminded of my uni days, tossing together whatever was in the cupboard hoping the resulting concoction would taste amazing – but most of us have never made anything as textural and with as much depth of flavour as Art does.

Blu Bar is on the 36th floor of The Shangri-La. At the bar, you can drink in a gorgeous view of Walsh Bay and beyond, and in the generously sized seated area, the Harbour Bridge stretches out before you. But the view is actually secondary to the amazing array of cocktails whipped up behind the bar.

The moniker “Liquid Physics,” Art explained, refers to the way in which he uses gas or solid elements like smoke and dry ice in his creations. When the drinks are steaming and smoking like a witch’s brew, there’s a strong element of showmanship, but in fact these elements are actually integral to the taste and texture of the drinks.

The first drink we tried was the Smoking Mistress. It’s just as sultry as its namesake, with the distinctive flavours of Bourbon, peach liquor and Montenegro blending together seamlessly, overlaid with the subtle but distinctive tones of walnut bitters and tea smoke. Prior to being served, the drink is poured into a tall bottle into which the smoke has been pumped. It’s remarkable the way the smoke infuses the drink.

Less theatrical, but just as pleasant is the Forgotten Innocence. Served in a small decanter, you’re invited to pour the delicate, soft yellow mixture of Balvenie 12 year whiskey, grape pisco and a house made syrup containing cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and honey, over a cube of dry ice contained in a spherical tea strainer. Depending on how much you pour, your instantly cold drink might just steam a little, or it could bubble delightfully as the gases fizz from underneath. The dry ice seems to aerate the drink – to fluff it up – so the cocktail has a thick and pillowy texture as it goes down. Again, the name is a perfect match.

This kind of softness and light seems to be a running theme. Next was the Nectar from the Orient, a cocktail for two served in a teapot and, again, steaming away in a luxurious way. It’s not yet on the menu proper, but the sneak peak we got boded very well. The drink, is full-flavoured and sticky, given a candy-like taste thanks to the mango puree, limoncello and coconut liqueur that blend beautifully with exotic cachaça (a spirit made from sugarcane juice), Aperol and green tea. There’s something nostalgic about this drink, a certain familiar flavour that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s gooey and mellow and warming.

The end of our time at Blu was bittersweet in every sense. The Clockwork Old Fashioned, though it was only three days into its weeklong process of waiting in a barrel until its flavour was just right, was the literal cherry on top. Looking like the classic lowball its name would imply, garnished with a lemon rind and maraschino cherry, the cocktail was a perfect surprise. There are layers of flavours in the Clockwork Old Fashioned, with the dark bitterness of aged Grand Marnier, the heady sweetness of maraschino liqueur, the zing of citrus, and some more surprises harmonising beautifully.

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Level 36, 176 Cumberland Street
02 9250 6000

Mon – Thu 5pm – midnight

Fri – Sat 4pm – 1am

Sun 5pm – 11pm