The spirit of New Year  

NEW Year's Eve is synonymous with fireworks, midnight kisses and colourful, cooling cocktails.

"New Year's Eve means celebration - and so do cocktails," operations manager at The Landing Bar and Kitchen Zac Davis said.

"Cocktails have always been produced and then presented for special occasions."

Davis said traditionally the mixed drinks were created with men in mind, with cocktails such as the Manhattan and The Old Fashioned featuring dark spirits enhanced by bitters and citrus flavours.

The late 1970s gave rise to a new wave of female-friendly cocktails derived from the martini, including the Cosmopolitan, Sex on the Beach and Appletini.

"But now we're seeing a re-emergence of traditional cocktails forming a foundation for what we're doing today," Davis said.

"We're seeing a re-emergence of classics, as well as modern twists that will also appeal to a male audience.

"The new year is about new experiences, so why not start with some new flavours?"

Davis said The Landing Bar and Kitchen considered the cocktails on its drinks list as its unique touch.

He said the bar wanted to play a role in the way Novocastrians learnt about spirits, acting as a conduit for them to make their way through five or six different gins, for example, and learn to decipher different botanical and regional aspects to spirits as they would wine.

"We believe we have one of the best back bars in Newcastle, if not Australia," said Davis, who co-owns Sydney bar Tipple.

"We source our boutique and premier spirits from boutique suppliers, not just the mainstream.

"For example we use Zubrówka Bison Grass Vodka that has a distinct grain flavour profile and Joseph Cartron apricot brandy.

"We also have a fruit juicer, that allows us to include fresh fruit in all of our cocktails to active real sugars.

"Our house gomme - which is a sugar syrup - is made using specially selected sugars that gives a unique flavour profile."

The bar's cocktail list (cocktails are $16) takes inspiration from its nautical location and rests heavily on rum, the first currency of Australia, and gin, produced from spice trails in Asia patronised by Europeans as they circumnavigated the globe.

The bar's signature cocktail is the Harbourside Martini, which is passionfruit pulp with Zubrówka Bison Grass Vodka, Joseph Cartron creme de peche and cloudy apple juice shaken and stirred into a coupette.

The St Tropez is also popular and described as "what Dean Martin would have tippled while holidaying in the millionaire's playground".

Davis says it is easy to make cocktails at home, provided you follow a recipe, use fresh ingredients and the most premium spirits you can afford. Drink it straight away, as heat destroys the flavour.

"It's important to think of cocktails in the same way we think about cooking, in that they are about marrying flavours together and having an even balance between sweet and sour."

Davis said instead of combining Maker's Mark with cola or ginger ale, he combined it with sugar, bitters and freshly cut orange zest as it "really brings out the oakiness of the bourbon. Great for Sunday afternoons on the deck."

CELEBRATE: Zac Davis, the owner of The Landing Bar and Kitchen, with a  Harbourside Martini. Picture SIMONE DE PEAK

CELEBRATE: Zac Davis, the owner of The Landing Bar and Kitchen, with a Harbourside Martini. Picture SIMONE DE PEAK