Port douglas’ (not-so-secret) speak easy
During the dark days of the Australian prohibition, the mere act of quaffing a frosty ale or sipping a G&T was illegal and punishable by law. As a result the ‘blind tiger’ or underground speakeasy was born. Down smoky back alleys, behind grubby black doors and in dimly lit hotel basements - these covert drinking operations served thirsty citizens their choice of tipple under wraps. The secrecy granted these establishments a certain mysterious allure and style, as if drinkers were part of some elite, yet unknown club.
The Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort Port Douglas is certainly not the first place that comes to mind where you’d expect to have your sins baptised with the holy water of juniper or rye, but here we are. The Daintree Bar, tucked away behind the doors of an otherwise opulently sprawling resort, has been given a new old look, inspired by 1920s prohibition-era clandestine watering holes and boasting a steampunk vibe. Dimly lit, conveniently soundproofed with an overproofed back bar to die for, this is a spot that evokes a time gone by via earthy tones and aged finishes.
The Daintree Bar’s specialty is for certain it’s homage to the Australian distillery scene – craft liquor flights come on paddles with garnishes, mixers and ice. Gin, rum, whiskey and vodka drinkers can geek out on what’s there and why, or get a basic blow-by-blow before mixing their own concoctions, while snacking on distinctly non-prohibition but very tasty bar snacks including barramundi betel leaves ($16) and scampi caviar ($185). For those needing the line the tummies a little more, the beef cheek jaffle ($28) undoubtably hits the spot.
For the sophisticated bon vivant fond of shaken or stirred concoctions, the extensive cocktail range mixes time-honoured tipples that date back to the '20s with brand new house originals. Twists on classics are a feature, however it’s the originals that’ll have you in a sly-grog dream. An example of thoughtful and wickedly tasty cocktail making at its best is the Black Mountain ($18.50) featuring local distillery Mt Uncle Platinum Rum, Di Saronno Amaretto, Orgeat, coffee, orange Juice and chocolate bitters. If you like your drinks to be a little bit tropical, go for Lost in Paradise ($21) - Passion Fruit Liqueur, Malibu, 5 Rivers Spiced Rum, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, passionfruit, pineapple juice.
If you are anywhere near as susceptible to The Daintree Bar’s hypnotic sway as this writer was, you’ll be back and it’ll be hours – maybe years - before you emerge again.