32 Orwell Street, Potts Point, NSW
0423 203 119
The Roosevelt continues in the tradition of cocktail excellence established by Eau de Vie, the award-winning speakeasy inside The Kirketon Hotel, but it also takes new directions. Opened in February 2012, the bar is owned by Sven and Amber Almenning, as well as Graham Ette and is located in Potts Point. It offers what many would consider the logical next step after Eau de Vie: access to a barrage of rare mixology gadgets and the ability to serve a more serious food menu.
“The Roosevelt is one of Sydney’s very, very few table-service-only bars,” says Sven, and the service is designed so that you can have your cocktail made tableside. The result can be quite a show, especially if you order one of the extra-cold cocktails chilled with liquid nitrogen: The mixology team actually wheels liquid nitrogen around the bar on a trolley, trailing smoke-like clouds wherever it goes.
The bar has a history as well as a masculine décor that is the perfect backdrop for the bartender theatrics. The bar’s namesake was The Roosevelt Club, which operated in its location in the 1940s and 1950s. Abe Saffron owned and operated the famous nightspot and gangsters, the social elite and politicians were common customers. Arguably, it was the most successful club in Australia, and Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis and many other stars sang on its stage. In short, anyone who was anyone passed through the doors of the original The Roosevelt Club.
But soon the bar and diner ran into trouble. New laws were passed that prohibited the sale of alcohol after 6pm. Fortunately, Abe found a way to circumvent the law: He asked patrons to order all the night’s drinks before 6pm and then he served the drinks throughout the rest of the evening. This only lasted so long. The bar was a den of drinking, sex and gambling until 1954 until the law condemned it as a ‘disorderly house.’ Abe was forced to sell. The establishment continued to house a variety of businesses, including a radio station, until Sven and Amanda Almenning and Graham took over in 2012.
Today, the bartenders all dress in throwback uniforms with suits, vests and braces, much as the bartenders in the 1940s would have. Leather booths with low lighting concentrated on each table create a private atmosphere, and illuminated wooden cabinets with glass shelving holding myriad fine liquors run along the walls.
“Where Eau de Vie really is all about the drinks, The Roosevelt pairs great cocktails with awesome food,” said Sven. Cocktails are served in glass guns and even hip flasks, and you’ll find such creative concoctions as The Continental, a mix of Vodka, Gin, Cocchi Americano and Yellow Chartreuse, named Australia’s best Gentleman’s Drink at the World Class Australia competition.
After two years in operation, The Roosevelt has found that its food plays as big as a role as its drinks. “Think American Diner food, with a modern twist (much healthier) and served up Tapas style,” says Sven. The Head Chef sources through Nicholson and Saville Food Wholesalers, which supplies fine olive oils, red wine vinegar and all types and cuts of meat. Fish and seafood all come from Fishboy Seafoods and, when combined with the perfect drink, may make you feel as though you’ve slipped into a booth in the 1940s.