Pavement Whispers: amaro takes centre stage at Before + After, a new laneway basement bar opening soon in The City

Pavement Whispers: amaro takes centre stage at Before + After, a new laneway basement bar opening soon in The City

Amaro, the bittersweet Italian herbal liqueur known to many as a post-dinner digestivo, has seen a sharp spike in popularity in recent years. The stomach-settling sip is becoming increasingly more common on the shelves of Brisbane’s best bars and restaurants, moving from unheralded elixir to the in-vogue drink of choice for discerning drinkers. George Curtis is funnelling his own love of amaro into the mortar of his own bar, Before + After – a low-key libation spot opening in The City later this year. Here, expect to find an assortment of amari – from the seductively sweet to the boldly bitter – as well as a range of amaro-infused snacks like shrimp rolls with Fernet Branca mayo and affogato-style amaro floats. Here’s what we know …

When it comes to convincing drinkers to try something different, George Curtis believes that it all comes down to a bit of educational enthusiasm. If there’s one sip that George is enthusiastic about above all others, it’s amaro. Drinking it, working with it or talking about it – so strong is George’s affection for amaro that he’s making it a central focus of his own bar, Before + After. The seasoned hospitality veteran (previously bar manager of Agnes, where he was part of the lauded restaurant’s pop-up and opening team), is in the early stages of assembling the venue, which will be found off the beaten path down a George Street alleyway. Inner-city denizens will recognise the semi-subterranean space as the former home of Bean, a cosy coffee spot that operated in the basement of the heritage-listed St. Francis House building opposite Treasury Brisbane. Once George gets his hands on it, he’ll be converting it into a hospitable hideaway boasting a rustic copper-accented aesthetic, repurposed furnishings and a collection of retro amaro posters hanging from the walls.

Before + After comes at a great time for Brisbane City’s dining landscape. With Donna Chang located on a neighbouring corner and Rothwell’s Bar & Grill, Banc Brasserie & Wine Bar and Exhibition recently helping reinvigorate the inner-city restaurant scene, George is looking to position his bar as a place that’s perfect for both pre-dinner drinks and post-dinner digestifs – a literal before-and-after dynamic designed to kick off or wind down a night on the town. Guests can saunter in early to sample Before + After’s range of seasonal cocktails made from ingredients native to Queensland, including a signature negroni, amaro mixed with pineapple that has been juiced to order, and a selection of highballs infused with imported Swedish whisky. Central to the offering is, of course, amaro. George, who helped curate Agnes’ stellar digestif program, has already been hard at work sourcing Before + After’s globe-spanning selection, with roughly 15 vintage bottles (including a 1970s Fernet Branca and a 1940s Zucca Rabarbaro) bolstered by a 45-strong mix featuring classic Italian expressions and drops from America, France and Australia. Amaro isn’t all that’ll be available – guests will also be able to select from 20 gins, 20 whiskies, a clutch of interesting wines and tins from local craft breweries. George has recruited the help of good mate Evan Nagel of Alba Bar and Deli to assist with the creation of Before + After’s own menu of bar food, which will reportedly feature amaro-spiked appetisers like shrimp rolls with Fernet Branca mayo, anchovies on toast with citrus amaro oil and an amaro float made using Maleny Food Co. gelato, as well as fish crudo with vermouth gel and charcuterie.

A four-week fit-out for Before + After is expected to begin in August, with George targeting a late-August or early-September opening. We’ll have a look inside for you when Before + After opens.

The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.


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