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May 25, 2023

The drinks at High Spirits are fire

Nestled upstairs in a West End late-night hot spot, High Spirits is bringing big drama to Adelaide's over-serious cocktail scene.

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  • Words and pictures: Claudia Dichiera

Owner Jamie Tierney opened High Spirits this year with the goal of bringing a grand spectacle to Adelaide’s nightlife.


High Spirits
20 Gilbert Place, Adelaide 5000
Wed—Sun: 6pm ’til late


According to Jamie, the bar, which is located above Shotgun Willies on Gilbert Place, is all about “the fun stuff” and prides itself on creating the “drama that hospitality should have”.

This “fun stuff” is better shown than explained.

Jamie pauses our conversation to pour a spirit on his arm, reiterating there would be only one quick photo opportunity for CityMag before he burns himself.

“I’ll set the bar on fire and breath fire off the bar and, you know, do some fun things from time to time,” he says.

“I’ve got a strong belief that anyone can make you a drink. There’s a hundred bars in Adelaide that can do it, but I provide an experience. We try to keep it more personal in service.”

Jamie spitting straight fire


Contributing to the bar’s excitable atmosphere, High Spirits offers a range of theatrical cocktails, with the Zombie, pictured in the slider above, being a fan favourite.

“The Zombie is the highest selling drink and has been since we opened… because people just go, ‘I want whatever that is’,” Jamie says.

“So we set it on fire and then we shoot flames off the top of the table.

“[High Spirits uses a] specialty spray bottle that sprays a really fine mist filled with over-proof rum, and it gives us the ability to shoot flames… off the tops of drinks.”

Another melodramatic favourite is Up in Smoke, which has a poppable bubble sitting atop the glass.

The sour concoction is mixed with Plantation 3 Stars white rum, watermelon and lime.

The Up in Smoke cocktail. This picture: Dylan Sanders.


Jamie gathered inspiration for High Spirits from his travels as a young hospo worker, combining this experience with some of his other interests to create what he calls an “inclusive” bar.

“I’ve always loved that aspect of Tiki, and then I love hip-hop and that style of music,” Jamie says.

“So High Spirits came around as this entity to these loves.”

However, Jamie’s quest to gain residency in hospoland was not easy, having spent most of his career in top-level fine dining in Melbourne.

In post-COVID Victoria, landlords are difficult and the food and beverage scene is overly competitive. This has made it difficult for emerging small business owners to break in.

It took one fortunate fumble for Jamie to instead consider a move over the western border.

“I was literally searching everyday [for a space] and one day… I forgot to click Victoria only, and this space popped up,” Jamie says. “I flew up here about four days later and put an offer in.”

Luckily for Jamie, the tenancy he stumbled across was located in the boozy goldmine of Gilbert Place, already home to Shotgun Willie’s, Memphis Slims and Hains & Co.

Jamie in his natural habitat


Jamie is still acclimating to the Adelaide way – 5pm weekend shop closures and the like.

He was also surprised by Adelaide’s patriotism for South Australian produce, and realised he needed to adjust his wine and spirits offering accordingly.

“Being a Victorian, for me it was quite difficult coming here because South Australians are very ingrained in supporting local,” Jamie says.

“[As a Victorian], we pioneer a lot of our own products, but I feel South Australians are a lot stronger in supporting South Australian products.

“I would say 80 per cent of the gin we [stock] is South Australian.”

As well as being home the best gin and wine in the world (in CityMag’s opinion), Jamie has come to appreciate the city’s close-knit community, particularly amongst hospo workers.

“The hospitality scene here is really tight – everyone’s very helpful. Me and the guys downstairs have a really good, symbiotic relationship. We work really well together,” Jamie says.

“I run out of lime, I’ll run down the road and borrow them from someone, so it’s a really nice situation they have here where everyone is very friendly.

“Whereas Melbourne, it can be a little bit more competitive because there’s so many venues.”

High Spirits is located upstairs at 20 Gilbert Place and is open from 6pm ’til late Wednesday to Sunday.

Connect with the business on Instagram.

A Zombie in the making

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