Bar review: The Pontiac gets the mix just right
Cocktails, atmosphere and staff make a winning combo at this neighbourhood bar in Central
The vibe: in a word, American trad - the dark wood decor, neon signs and friendly welcome make you feel as if you’ve walked onto the set of Cheers, only with cooler staff. Action revolves around the bar, where customers sit and chat with the staff and each other. There are also tables at the back and an outdoor area for smokers. Music is a pleasantly eclectic mix, from rock to reggae to country.
The drinks: the big attraction of The Pontiac is Beckaly Franks, newly arrived from the US with a reputation as a star bartender. The drinks we tried showed her mastery of the mixologist’s art and flair for creating well balanced, top quality cocktails with esoteric ingredients yet classic character.
Fight or Flight is a delicious concoction of vodka, pear brandy and citrus, while Hobnail features intense fresh ginger with scotch, Averna, bitters and lemon. Runaway is a stylish take on the tropics - rum, coconut, pineapple and lime, with crème de noyaux adding an intriguing nutty note. Those who like it light might try the Heisenberg - a gin-based slushie with a pretty pale blue colour from blue curaçao and a touch of absinthe.
For those made of sterner stuff Death Row (plantation dark rum, Carpano Antica, Cynar and flamed lemon oil), served straight up, offers a complex balance of sweet and bitter, with the accent on the bitter. All the signature cocktails on the sensibly short list are made with premium liquor and are outstanding value at $88 each. In keeping with the bar’s casual style presentation is refreshingly simple in basic, no-frills glasses.
The verdict: perfect for homesick Americans, local residents in search of a neighbourhood bar to chill out in the week and party on the weekend, or anyone who appreciates top notch mixology.
The Pontiac, 13 Old Bailey Street, Central. Tel: 2521 3855. Open: Monday-Saturday 3pm-1am