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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Jim Kellar

Food Issue: Indulge your thirst for knowledge with a city bar tour or cocktail class

Cheers: A group in one of Newcastle Afoot's popular walking tours of the city.

Newcastle Afoot knows what people like.

The well-regarded walking tours feature two regular walks that showcase the best of the city's food and beverage venues.

The Eat & Drink Newcastle History Walk runs over three hours, visiting three of Newcastle's best and "classiest" bars. Commencing from the water fountain in front of Customs House, the tour includes tales about convict escapees, sailors, the six o'clock swill, and social and urban changes in the city over 200 years.

It runs over three-and-a-half hours and and takes in no more than three kilometres of walking. The cost is $90, and includes bar snacks and tapas.

The Newcastle Gin Masterclass tour runs for three hours and also covers no more than three kilometres.

Starting at the water fountain next to The Signal Box restaurant on Wharf Road, the tour visits three bars where knowledgeable staff lead two gin tastings and a cocktail with specially selected garnishes. Visitors will learn about the historic origins of gin and how botanicals can help a gin distiller to tell their own story. Shared food tastings are provided at two venues. The cost is $120 per person.

Tour operator Becky Kiil moved to Newcastle and started her business five years ago.

Learning curve: Phil Elsley, owner of Babylon in Newcastle, holding a Whiskey Sour cocktail. The bar offers cocktail-making classes. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Cocktail classes

If you want to forget the walking and history part, you can cut to the chase and take one of the many cocktail-making classes that have popped up in the city. Among them:

Coal and Cedar, 380 Hunter St, Newcastle A dark, Americana-styled speakeasy offering exceptional cocktails and spirits, it brought the cocktail masterclass to Newcastle. The masterclass caters for two to 40 people with bigger classes split into two groups. Learn how to free pour, shake and present three cocktails, the likes of a Negroni, Amaretto Sour and Daiquiri. The 75-minute classes cost $99 a head.

Babylon Newcastle, 145 King St, Newcastle A sophisticated yet relaxed 1920s-inspired whisky, cocktail, and dining destination, located in a beautiful historic former theatre built in 1903. Cocktail masterclasses costs $99 a person and are run by appointment for groups of 10 or more. 'The Shaker' masterclass includes a cocktail on arrival, cheese and charcuterie to share, with three cocktails covered in the session. Babylon also offer three tiers of whisky and gin-tasting sessions.

Earp Distilling Co, 41 Darling St, Carrington Opened in December 2019 by Michael and Richard Earp, the stylish Carrington-based bar, distillery and spirit school offers two types of classes. Their one-hour gin-blending class ($99 per person) sees participants choose from over 20 botanicals, which are added to an Earp base spirit and made into two 200ml bottles of bespoke gin to take home. Earp's gin school classes are more in-depth, running for two hours and costing $350 for two people. Choose from over 100 botanicals and create a bespoke gin on a mini still while you sip a G&T, graze on a cheese platter, and learn about gin and distilling. Each pair takes home two 500ml bottles of the gin they made.

The Koutetsu, 555 Hunter St, Newcastle West A sophisticated and intimate little speakeasy bar, which owner Chris Wilson opened in December 2014. The Koutetsu cocktail classes are as fun as they are educational. Offered on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 4pm, the cost is $110 per person. It requires six to 15 people to book. Private classes can be arranged. Grab a beer, wine, or sparkling on arrival and nibble shared platters during the class, where you'll learn how to make two seasonal classic cocktails and one nominated by the group.

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