On our fifth day in Gold Coast Olga suddenly remembered that she heard about a great cocktail place called QT. I was quite amused to hear it because a tower with those two letters was just across the road from our hotel. Still it remained to be seen whether we wasted the previous four days, and after the dinner we went on a reccy.
QT turned out to be a hotel (not really surprising – in Surfers Paradise any building is more likely to be a hotel than a residential place) with a valuable appendix that our own accommodation provider did not offer — a bar called Stingray. When we entered the lobby I was dazzled and bewildered — there were mirrors everywhere and I was not sure which way to go. Primary and secondary reflections were perfectly misleading and the only beacon I had was a sound of lounge music. With care we reached the bar and found a menu which was written — where would you think — on another mirror!
There were plenty of unknown cocktail names which normally I would like to explore, but this time my attention was attracted by a rather Old Fashioned option (pun intended). The thing is, the drink had QT in its name which meant it was a local invention which they were so proud of that they named it after the place. So I decided to follow my friend’s advice who used to say “In an unknown place always order a chef’s special — if they stuff that one up, it’s not worth trying anything else”.
The cocktail was rather simply presented (I didn’t find the promised kirsch cherry and orange twist), but it had an unusual ice piece in it – a single big cubic block which filled the width of the glass. (I immediately wanted to get such ice in my freezer and later found a suitable mold.) The taste was better than its appearance — robust barrel-aged bourbon was punctuated by fresh citrus tones. You’ve probably noticed that the menu was titled Seasonal Libations. I thought that gods had had enough of spilled drinks from me over the years and decided to skip the rite, but was immediately punished for such profanation — while taking the first sip I nearly crushed my teeth by that monstrous ice cube. Notwithstanding the incident, I resolved not to share my cocktail with deities and came up with a perfectly mundane explanation — that the cube was a safety device which prevented rapid inebriation by forcing the drinker to take extreme care while imbibing the mix.
Having got the situation under control (mirrors avoided, firmly seated, mouth guard applied), I finally found time to take in the surroundings. The place was a stylish mixture of classic wood and leather, and modern abstract, inoffensive patterns. The lighting was dim, the music was rhythmic but not dancingly so – just fast enough to keep patrons from falling asleep, and just loud enough to prevent our neighbours from eavesdropping. Not that we had many neighbours – it was a Thursday night and most regulars were saving their money and livers for Friday.
The lack of fellow drinkers was well compensated by beautiful people who worked in that place. The svelte hostess in a hugging red dress was a definite head-turner, while girls would surely appreciate all the personal life time the bartenders sacrificed in the temples of fitness, also known as gyms.
Rereading the previous paragraphs I’ve noticed that I made quite a few theological references. With this background it now seems a bit uncanny that the cocktail ordered by Olga was called City of God. I won’t be surprised if on my next visit to Gold Coast I find that Stingray is renamed to Cthulhu.
Regardless of my mystical misgivings, I actually liked the place and we visited it next evening. It was Friday night and the place transformed – it became livelier, noisier, crowdier. The air was charged with excitement of people who survived another work week and came there to celebrate the achievement. The good thing about that bar was that its seating spilled into the hotel lobby where the music was not so loud. We occupied one of the coffee tables there, made an order and entertained ourselves by people-watching.
The customers usually arrived in same-sex groups. The giggling girls were primped up and were always stopped for ID check by the bouncers who obviously enjoyed that part of their duty. The boys were wearing that casual uniform of Friday-night revellers – skinny jeans, “going-out shirts” and, of course, sunnies. They would give a familiar nod of long-time regulars to a guard and pass him without breaking stride. When they looked at other customers their faces expressed confidence and challenge – “See, we are going to a trendy bar and we are going to have fun. Just give us a minute to grab a beer and we’ll be ready for a seriously cool selfie, mate.”
Talking about cool things brings me to my second cocktail named Coolcumber — a portmanteau derived from “cool” and “cucumber”. The recipe was simple, a variation of Gin Sour, but the taste was elegant. This time the bartender provided the promised garnish which was fixed to the edge of the glass by a tiny peg. (I wonder if someone actually manufactures pegs for cocktail garnishes, or it was pinched from a toy clothesline.)
The name of the cocktail ordered by Olga was a different type of portmanteau — geographical — as it was called Mexican Tiki Punch. I can imagine a Polynesian expat in Mexico making his favourite drink with local ingredients and recognising their country of origin by prefixing it to the traditional cocktail name. I’ll probably need a few more drinks (and another post) to explain how this concoction appeared on the Australian shore. But never mind the name, the cocktail was fruity and easy-drinking. The noticeable acidity was balanced by a reasonable amount of sugar and I would call it a great long drink if Olga didn’t finish it so quickly.
In conclusion, I can say that, pro tem, Stingray is my favourite cocktail bar in Gold Coast. There is another Q building in that city — Q1 — which houses a potential trophy contender, Seventy7 Bar, but, as I wrote before, that place operates in a different time zone on weeknights, so Stingray’s position will be pretty safe until I find a sacrificial weekend.