Ladies and gentlemen, we are both devastated and delighted to announce that we might never, ever drink tequila from a bottle with a little plastic sombrero on the lid again. Mind you, we also said that once about wearing pleather, and look how that turned out.
Whatever. Hands up who likes tequila?
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES. COME ON For those of you trapped under some kind of weird, non-alcoholic rock, you have just missed World Cocktail Week. Forget World Music Week or even Womens Health Week, this is the type of thing that really rattles our ice cubes. It should come as no big surprise, then, that when Merivale (the company behind Hemmesphere, Ivy, and a bunch of other Sydney bars) announced they were going to celebrate World Cocktail week, we obviously had to get involved. Each Merivale venue hosted a ‘masterclass’ based on a different spirit on different days of the week. Hello, genius. While you might assume that we would do the vodka or gin masterclasses, given our usual standard drinks, we threw a curve ball and decided to attend the tequila masterclass at Hemmesphere, the next card in the pack.
It doesn't take much to make us happy. About 350mls should do it.
OOH, I LIKE WHAT YOU’VE DONE WITH THE PLACE Hemmesphere is one of our favourite bars in Sydney – we don’t know if it’s the dark decor, the mismatched lounges, the stunning and friendly staff, or the large amount of pillows that make us want to run and jump into them like we were a 27.. 38.. er, 5 year old... but every time we visit we have a great time.
If these pillows could talk... that would be really weird.
Being both classy and relaxed, like Clive Owen, it made us feel special and cool when quite clearly we are normally only one of those things. When the lift doors open and you enter the foyer, there is a host waiting to greet you and seat you somewhere comfortable, then have a little chat with you and work out what kind of drink you would like. See? Special.
On normal nights, cocktails at Hemmesphere will generally set you back around $20, which unfortunately we’re noticing is the standard price of a cocktail these days. For the quality of venue though, that’s pretty good. There’s food available from Sushi E if you get peckish, the quality of which should knock your socks off. Lorin in particular goes a bit melty in the face of expertly crafted canapés, and has a message for the resident head chef: Dear Ura San, marry me. If you would like to take a younger wife, I’m sure there is a long line offering, but I will happily glass my way to the top.
The music is ambient yet funky, with a variety of well known DJs in the Sydney scene on rotation. There is an awesome little courtyard, which on a warm night is unbelievable. You kind of forget you’re on the fourth floor of a building until you go out and see the lights and stars. The toilets are dark, some might say a little too dark, especially if you would like to check your make-up, but the decor and lighting do match the rest of the venue. My god, they’re the nicest smelling bathrooms we’ve been in, though.
WHAT? YOU’RE DOING THE WHAT NOW? A special area had been set up for the class, with tiny tables laden with tasting glasses (five each), a main table groaning under bottles of tequila and cocktail-making equipment, and a projector and screen for educational purposes. We don’t know if you’ve realised by now, but we take our drinking pretty seriously, and this set up just about gave us an unnatural physical response. For our entire high school and university careers, we couldn’t understand why all classrooms didn’t look like this.
Let me play you a tune.
This is how it went down:
1. Sebastien, Hemmesphere’s incredibly polite and attentive bar manager. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Spanish words pronounced with a French accent. Dude nearly turned himself inside out.
2. Shae, a ‘tequila specialist’ and hornbag. Officially, he represented Herradura, the tequila sponsor. Unofficially, he represented a smile and a wink in our pants. In fact, one of the only truly serious conversations we had all night was a debate regarding the fabric of Shae’s trousers. Conclusion: probably not leather, but really quite, quite shiny.
Teachy Teachy. Shae fired up the projector and taught us everything we ever wanted to know about tequila. We’re going to let you in on a secret: the more you pay, the better tequila is – you can use the same principle when choosing sourdough bread or hookers. Honest. And you know what? It’s actually really nice. For example, we didn’t know that the older, darker stuff can taste like spiced chocolate or oaky vanilla, or that orange and cinnamon is a better deal than lemon and salt. Or that the phrase “I don’t like tequila, is there any wine?” makes us want to poke forks in the face of whoever utters it. Or that by projector-light, Shae’s buttocks look exactly like two ripe... sorry, FOCUS. Focus.
We didn't get a close-up, because we don't like to share.Cocktails. We were given three cocktails each during the class, a practice that we have no objection to whatsoever.
1. El Diablo – tequila, crème de cassis, lime juice, sugar syrup & ginger ale with a lime wedge garnish. Quite sweet, with a subtle tequila flavour. Not bad, but nothing to really write home about. Because of course we always write home about drinking. Dear mum, pissed again.
2. Margarita – tequila, Cointreau, lime juice & sugar syrup with a salted rim. Obviously a classic, but this was the best bloody margy we’ve had, ever. They got that shit sorted, although being a high class booze joint, you would expect Hemmesphere to get it right. There was a suggestion that, to cater for those who don’t enjoy the salted rim, only half of the rim should be salted. To that, we say that if you don’t like the cheek-puckering slap of a salted margy rim, you should perhaps go see a doctor about the puny size of your testicles.
Speaking of body parts, we’ve heard before that champagne saucers were originally modelled on Marie Antoinette’s breast, but we were newly informed that a margarita glass is modelled on Margarita’s boob. Testing that theory, we also learned that Margarita might need to invest in a better bra.
We like to express ourselves.
3. El Chino – tequila, port, sangrita mix (in this case grapefruit juice, agave syrup, coriander and chilli) & lemon juice with a grapefruit zest garnish. We’re pretty sure this was delicious, although the phrase “Man, high-quality smashed is so good” was uttered by Jo at this point, so there really could’ve been anything in the glass. Except stem strength.
I been eating me spinach. A gig-gig-gig-gig-gig.
Canapes. Throughout the class we were given some canapes which were prepared by Sushi E, a restaurant which shares the floor with Hemmesphere. Prepared by head chef Ura, these were just little bits of heaven sent to us – pawpaw with blue cheese and salmon roe, kingfish sashimi with Thai dressing, and a fat, apostrophe-shaped garlic prawn on a crispy wonton.
The sensation you're currently experiencing is called "saliva".
Delicious as they were, there were only three of them. Mental note Merivale, when pouring copious amounts of tequila into your guests, a bit more food might be an idea. Barely any time had passed before the upper-case comment “HELLO I’M DRUNK” appeared in our notes for the class. So, you know, win.
Demonstration In addition to the full cocktails we were served, we were shown how to make a couple more and given tastes using the time-honoured and dainty straw-sampling technique, demonstrated here by your humble reviewers.
Steps 3 through 7. Repeat until glass is empty.
By far our favourite was Hemmesphere's signature cocktail, the Bling Bling, and might we just say angels sang and played kazoo. This is not only a great tequila cocktail, this is one of the best cocktails. Ever. Muddled chunks of pineapple and basil leaves are mixed with tequila, apple liqueur, apple juice and lime juice. Balancing the sweet fruits with basil is a stroke of genius, and seriously, if we could have a glass a day of that apple goodness it may not keep the doctor away, but we’d gladly go to hospital for it. Bugger tasting tiny bits in a straw – we wanted ten in an intravenous drip.
Blind tasting. After learning about the different types of tequila and their ageing and distilling processes, we were invited to taste the five generous samples in front of us and take a guess at their particular variety.
Snorting is kind of frowned upon, though.
One of the tequilas was a $500-a-bottle ‘Seleccion Suprema’, which our mate Knighty described as ‘dessert’ – it was the colour of syrupy caramel and tasted like warmly spiced magnificent with a hot damn aftertaste. Jo scored two out of five, probably due to the fact that it’s hard to be discerning when you have two fists full of tequila. Lorin scored four out of five, only because she couldn’t remember what the fifth type was called. If we’d known in school that all you had to do to ace tests was to include alcohol, perhaps our educational results would’ve been a little different. Our self-professed tequila expert buddy Gibbo claimed five out of five, and won a free bottle of the lovely stuff. ‘Pig in mud’ is a term that comes to mind. We don’t know if the bottle even made it home.
It's not the photo that's blurry. You're just off your tits on tequila.
Also, another tip (we like to educate and enlighten here at 52 Pickup): apparently to cleanse your palate, you should take a sip of water and then smell your own skin. Luckily, our skin smells like rose petals, sunshine and human flesh.
Also a little bit like shame.
Goodie bags. Yeah. We got goodie bags. That’s like topping off a foot massage from Jason Statham with a tongue-pash from the Spanish soccer team. But, y’know – less hairy or likely to cry.
It looks a lot bigger when Lorin holds it.
Despite not having our usual drinks, we’re beyond pleased with getting to experience the cocktails we did. Sorry, I’ve got a call coming through. Hello? Oh, hi Bling Bling. What’s that? You think we should start seeing each other on a regular basis? Well, it’s a bit sudden, but okay.
We’re giving Hemmesphere four boob-shaped glasses out of five.