Bijou Bottle Store in three drinks

Published on 29 January 2021

Photo: Bijou Bottle Store (credit: Bijou Bottle Store)

The thought of opening a venue at a time when so many had closed was “perhaps the craziest thing I have ever thought of doing”, says Ben Luzz. But when he put plans in motion to open Bijou Bottle Store in December, the groundswell of support he received buoyed him, and he resolved to do his part to help Melbourne begin 2021 on an up-note. ”We spent every waking hour making sure we opened before Christmas.”

Luzz, the managing director of the landmark Gin Palace, decided to call the new bar and bottle shop Bijou because he sees it as something small and precious. "Our petite storefront was built in 1901, during the time Melbourne’s smallest entertainment venue, the Bijou Theatre, existed just across Russell Place from where we serve drinks today," he says. "We wanted to encapsulate that era, when Melbourne was the richest and most cosmopolitan city in the world."

Here's the lowdown on Bijou from Luzz, in three drinks.

Bijou Cocktail
The Bijou Cocktail is a true classic of mixed drinks, created circa 1890 by one of the godfathers of bartending, Harry Johnson. Our cocktail list takes many of its cues from this period, when drinks typically were stirred down and full of booze. Much like the Negroni, the Bijou is an easy cocktail to make though far from simple in its flavour profile. All three ingredients are driven by spice – gin, sweet vermouth and green Chartreuse – which gives it a delicious complexity. While the original was equal parts, we’ve adjusted the ratios and increased the amount of gin. We’re using East London Liquor Company gin, Maidenii sweet vermouth and of course Chartreuse. We look at it as a grown-up drink for those with a predisposition for fun.

Lind & Lime Maritime Gin
There is no doubting gin is in and one of our favourites is Lind & Lime Maritime Gin, a delicious offering from the Port of Leith in Scotland. You won’t find any crazy botanicals here, just the harmony of a botanical composition that sings on the palate. It wouldn’t be gin without juniper, of course, and it’s balanced here with pink peppercorn and lime peel, along with some of the usual suspects – coriander seed, angelica, orris and liquorice root – completing a well-crafted gin.

The joy of us being a bottle store and bar is that if you wish to share a bottle we simply charge a corkage and your group can enjoy rounds of drinks from your own bottle. Otherwise take a bottle for your home cabinet and we can help you with mixing suggestions. We think this makes a cracking Martini made slightly wet, with the zest of a lime, or in a G&T with one part Lind & Lime to three parts Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic, garnished with a wheel of lime.

Domaine Jean Tardy & Fils Vosne-Romanée Vigneux 2016
If you like pinot noir as much as we do then you will love our floor-to-ceiling shelves curated to suit your taste, featuring local producers in the Upper Yarra Valley, to Tasmania and New Zealand or further across the pond to its spiritual home in France. Our favourite is from one of the best known appellations, Vosne-Romanée, in Burgundy. It’s made by a father-and-son team who have managed to secure themselves a share of prized grapes in some of the best vineyards of the region. The year 2016 was tough for winemaking in Burgundy, but for some reason Vosne-Romanée was spared the hardship and instead produced a rich, balanced and intensely flavoured offering. We suggest drinking this in store, with a serving of Délice de Bourgogne triple-cream brie served with warm bread at the window to watch Melbourne wander by in style.

Bijou Bottle Store, 12.30pm-10pm Mon-Thu, 12.30pm-11pm Fri-Sat, 194 Little Collins St, Melbourne, bijoubottlestore.com

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