Ginuary 31st: sloe on the rocks.

And once again we’ve come to the end of the road! I marked the occasion today by heading to the end of another road, to drop into Nonesuch Distillery for my first visit.

You’ll find the distillery around half an hour out of Hobart, just past Sorell. Nonesuch currently exists as a humble wee thing of a shed on a working farm, but there are a whole hoard of expansions on the horizon. I need no more than a shed, a still, and a whole bunch of gin to be pleased, so I was sorted. Nonesuch first hit my radar a few months back at a little whisky house, hidden over on the small gin shelf (which I made a beeline for, of course). The question I really wanted answered was: why lead with sloe gin as your distillery champion?

Funnily enough, despite having a big chat with Nonesuch’s head distiller Rex, I don’t think I really got an answer to that. Don’t you need to lead with gin to make sloe gin? Yes, of course… and can adding sloe and sugar hide a bad base product? No, not really. You have to start strong! Rex is proud of his sloe and the gin that bolsters it, so he has finally buckled to pressure and bottled Nonesuch Dry Gin as well as the sloe champion. But today is a day for sloe gin, and so Nonesuch Sloe Gin it is.

 

Bonus feature succulent.

 
One of my questions for Rex was, “How do you best enjoy sloe gin?” I guess I still don’t really have my head around it. Is it meant to just be treated like normal gin when you look at things like G&Ts and martinis? Rex says yes, why not? He recommends the best sloe G&T is actually half sloe and half dry, so I’m going to have to try that one soon too. I’m still getting my head around sloe gin, so I’m obviously going to have to head out and have another chat to Rex sometime in the near future.

  
But for now, keeping things simple and lovely, cheers to the end of another Ginuary. Thanks for coming on the ride.

Ginuary 28th: the Twenty-Eighth.

I had another plan for tonight, but then it was a beautiful, rainy evening and I wanted somebody else to do the work for me. So I texted my pal Barnes and went down to say hi to him at South Seas Cocktail Lounge. The name ‘Barnes’ may ring a bell—he made me a beautiful Beetroot Collins at Ash & Bester’s last Ginuary. Between then and now he’s opened this new tiki bar. Funnily enough, it’s still a tiny, dark space, like A&B… I should talk to him about that; maybe he works best in the dark!

South Seas is coming up on its first birthday in Hobart and it’s such a joy to have it. It’s honestly tiny, only fitting a maximum of 25-30 people (and even that’s cosy). It’s also very well hidden, close to Salamanca but far enough away that you have to want to go to South Seas, and South Seas alone. It’s a tiki bar, yes, but the cocktail menu ranges from zombies to classics to bowls to new creations. There’s something for everyone!

I had originally planned on having a Suffering Bastard, but when Barnes said he was whipping up something just for me, I wasn’t going to dispute that luxury!

  

I got to name it, and historically I have a very numeric approach to drinks of Ginuary. My bespoke bottle of gin made at McHenry last year was named Ginuary 10. This bespoke cocktail made of Tanqueray, Aperol, Dolin bitters, lemon and grapefruit, topped with crushed ice and soda? This is the Twenty-Eighth. Fresh, summery and desperate to be drunk on a beach somewhere, this drink is my jam. Thanks, Barnes. 

Ginuary 24th: Café Americano @ the Void Bar.

I finished work at MONA two hours before close today, which meant that I rewarded myself with a knock-off down in the void bar while most of my workmates were still busy working. It was grand. 

The Void Bar’s current cocktail menu is quite impressive: a couple of punches to share, a page of creative things, and a page of classics. I’d had everything from their classics list but that was ok—drinking on location is generally a time to try something fun.

Can’t beat that sandstone.

From what I could gather, the Café Americano is just a negroni with some cold drip coffee and chocolate bitters. Sorry, I shouldn’t say “just”—it was awesome. The bartender at the Void Bar poured out Poltergeist gin, Maidenii sweet vermouth, Campari, and coffee, splashed a couple dashes of chocolate bitters, stirred it all and then poured it over the beautiful big cube of ice you see above. 
It was a very, very good way to end a work day. 

Ginuary 19th: Sloe & Sour @ Teatro Southbank.

What a day I’ve had! I could have gotten away with using what I spent the majority of my day doing as my gin of the day, but I think I’ll save it for the finished product. I’ll probably post the work in progress to Instagram, though…

On with today’s gin!

I did have to squeeze in a gin cocktail at some point today, if only to enable my new friend Amy to reacquaint herself with gin. We were off to see a music gig and just managed to score an hour up our sleeves to find something near to Hamer Hall in Melbourne to fill our bellies and wash it down. 

I am likely a pretentious jerk at times when it comes to food, and I’ll admit that the riverside Southbank restaurants in Melbourne wouldn’t be my go-to, but they were close and we were hungry on a timeframe. Teatro was a pleasant surprise. Amy and I split a pizza between us (it was fresh, with beautiful melted cheese and a chewy, woodfire-bubbled crust) and grabbed a gin-based cocktail each from the list. 

  
My Sloe & Sour was Plymouth sloe gin, chambord raspberry liqueur, peach (chunks, evidently), lemon and pineapple juice. The description mentioned that “this is a great cocktail even if you’re not a gin lover” which I mean, of course, it’s sloe gin. It’s essentially gin with a heap of berries and sugar added, and everyone loves sugar. The combination of chambord and pineapple juice even turned a little blackcurranty on the tongue, which was interesting!

Teatro saved me from having to venture out after the gig in search of a drink (I was willing but anticipating exhaustion). Of course, I could have still done that (and even used it for the 20th once the clock struck past midnight!), but with a 6am flight the next morning looming, I opted for traipsing back to my pal’s place, reorganising my bags and having a little nap before the morning alarm. 

See you next time, Melbourne! Miss you already. That was way too quick.

Ginuary 18th: Sage Advice @ Boilermaker House.

Ah, Melbourne! I do love drinking in you but gosh, I don’t have much time on this fly-by trip. I was grateful that my pal was happy to grab some dinner and a cheeky gin in town before we headed out to the Dandenongs! Dinner just happened to be right near a newish little bar that piqued my interest… 

Boilermaker House are purveyors of malt whisky and craft beer, first and foremost, so I actually felt quite chagrined enquiring after a gin cocktail. It was certainly no doing of the staff I spoke with, who were lovely—I suppose as someone who happily drinks whisky and beer as well, I put that feeling on myself. The House does have a short but sweet cocktail menu, and once I was aware that they are the younger sibling of Melbourne’s famed Eau de Vie, I knew ordering off that wasn’t going to be a problem for me.

Sage Advice is a combination of Beefeater gin, peach brandy, fresh sage and ginger, and lemon juice. It comes served in a glass made from an old wine bottle cut in half, full of crushed ice to the point where it’s spilling over the sides. Fresh sage, lemon slices and cherries serve as garnishes, and you can bet I ate those cherries. Delicious. The drink itself is complex and absolutely delicious, herbal and fresh and I wanna do it again. 

 

Sage advice: try this drink. You’re welcome.

 
Maybe next time I return I’ll get a whisky chaser, too.

Ginuary 15th: Cool Hendrick’s @ Cott & Co’s Beach Club.

Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men aren’t actually that well laid and your energy’s diverted by the swell surrounding you that’s all focused on the fact that your brother’s getting married tomorrow and you’ve been helping to set up and entertaining family all day and you just have to find the nearest available gin drink at a beachside pub and drink it in order to continue to successfully maintain your weird passion project.

  
The Cool Hendrick’s is a mix of Hendrick’s (SURPRISE!), lemon, lime, fresh mint and sugar syrup. Shaken, served up. Fresh and fruity and passable. 

Now please excuse me, I have to finish my prep for what I’ll be drinking at the wedding reception tomorrow, then I need to get as much beauty sleep as possible, because as Miss of Ceremonies I gotta be on my game.

Ginuary 12th: the Gibson @ Society Salamanca.

One of the best things about this Ginuary is the excuse to finally get to a couple of newer venues in my city of Hobart. Society Salamanca opened in the second half of 2015 and as soon as it was on my radar I knew it was a place I needed to visit!

Spot the gin shelf.

Society’s Instagram taunted me with wonderful things but it was this post that pushed me over the line—I had a Gibson tagged for this Ginuary and there it was, waving at me. Sign me up, Society, I’m yours.

Too popular for a non-crowded photo.

Take a look at that pickled onion! No baby cocktail onion for a Society Gibson—you get a Tasmanian classic Blue Banner pickle as big as a bull’s eye sitting in your glass. Not only that but here they like to make their Gibsons with McHenry barrel-aged gin, adding further to the beautiful savoury flavour of the drink. I also timed my first visit well for Tapas Tuesday, where $2 pintxos hit the bar from 6pm. First in, best dressed for some wonderful snacks that I definitely paired with the right drink!

I was able to have a chat with Angela, one of the legends running Society, about their incredible selection of gins. The bar has a strong, proud focus on Tasmanian and craft Australian products, and Angela knows her stuff, too—she has an opinion on every gin on the shelf, and knows what garnish best suits each one. I got a cheeky peek at an upcoming offering from the bar, but I’ll be keeping that up my sleeve until later in the month—suffice it to say it’s possibly the most fun I’ve had yet this month, and I can’t wait to do it again!

For now, I’ll leave you with a challenge.

Can you pick them all?

Ginuary 8th: Chilli Cucumber Cooler @ the Glass House Hobart.

I’ve been working down at Brooke Street Pier in Hobart over the past couple of weeks and it’s made me very weak at resisting the urge to drink and dine like a lady of leisure. Luckily, Ginuary is a wonderful excuse, and a very long work day today ended at the Glass House.

I love how many options are available in Hobart these days for good cocktails. When I moved down here just over three years ago the options were limited and, speaking as someone who had only just kicked off her Ginuary adventure, that was very upsetting. Each time a new venue has opened since then, a little bit of my broken heart has mended. The Glass House has been one of the most exciting openings, with a beautiful location right at the end of the new pier.

Looking out over Sullivan’s Cove from the bar.

The Glass House is technically an extension of the Islington Hotel, opened as a location to send hotel guests for a drink (as I said, options in Hobart have been on the smaller side). It also serves as a showcase for the local Tasmanian products that one of the Islington’s owners exports to Hong Kong. 

Both food and drinks can be found at the Glass House—the food menu is inspired by Japanese and Korean cuisine, and the cocktail menu revolves around classic stirred and shaken drinks (with occasional minor variations to incorporate Tasmanian products).  There are two cocktail lists—the fundamentals list was put together by Alex Watson, the Glass House’s general manager, and the seasonal list is more evolutionary, made up of things the bar staff are into right now.

Kafka and Clifford making magic.

It was a drink on the current seasonal menu that piqued my interest when doing Ginuary planning—the Chilli Cucumber Cooler. A true summer beauty, from the looks of it, and bartender Kafka—the drink’s creator—was happy to whip one up for me. And one for another patron while she was at it.

Double trouble.

The playbook for the Chilli Cucumber Cooler, after some refinement, is as follows: Poltergeist gin, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, ginger liqueur, lime & chilli bitters, lemon and cucumber, and topped with a splash of ginger ale. This is a kicker of a long drink, cool and refreshing on hot summer days. 

The lineup.

 
The flavour took me by surprise when I first tried it—I was expecting something sweeter, but as soon as my palate adjusted, I was sold. That’s Kafka’s hand showing. Less of the sweetness, more of the complexity. The drink came about from trying to find a fun way to use the chile liqueur, and with summer just around the corner Kafka went for something longer and cooler to combat the heat.

Mid-make.

 
Let’s be real here—she nailed it. Not only that but I think this drink pairs really nicely with the fresh seafood options from the food menu. Imagine a serve of fresh salmon sashimi with a drink like this. Done and done.

Thanks to Alinta, Clifford and Kafka of the Glass House Hobart for enabling today’s gin. A refreshing tipple in a beautiful location, what more could you ask for?

Chilli Cucumber Cooler.

Ginuary 3rd: Süd Polaire Frozen Negroni @ the Taste of Tasmania. 

Historically, the third of Ginuary is the day I celebrate at the Taste of Tasmania (3/5 years now, with exceptionally good excuses for the other two). The festival itself is getting a bit same-same for me—things don’t appear to change much year to year, the real challenge is in scanning the stalls for any new and appealing treats.

The main thing that’s kept the Taste exciting for me is watching the gin offerings expand each year, to be honest, because they have! The first year I went (2013), literally the only thing gin-flavoured inside was McHenry Distillery’s stall that wasn’t even touting itself as McHenry’s, but rather “the Spirit of the Tasman”, and gin certainly wasn’t the focus of that stall! It just happened to be there. These days McHenry’s stall is out on the beautiful lawn with a big lovely “Bathtub Gin” banner. This year I noticed that they had some boozy sorbets on offer there! But I was so busy, I missed trying them. A terrible error on my part. But that’s enough about McHenry Distillery, oops!

This post is to sing the praises of the 2016 festival’s saving grace, the Frozen Negroni.

 

FROZIE NEGROZIE

All hail!

 

I had been so underwhelmed (while expecting to be) by the festival on my first scan through (prior to Ginuary) that I completely missed this nugget. Bless one of my Instagram friends for mentioning it! On my next lunch break, I made a beeline for Domaine Simha’s stall and snaffled one with great joy. It was a hot day, too, so it was an absolute treat. A negroni-flavoured snow cone, if you will. And I will. I mean, I did. And I continued to each time I was near the festival grounds.

Today marks the finale of the Taste this year, but I very much look forward to finding out more about the brand new Tasmanian gin used in the frozen Negroni. I’ll be honest, when I first saw the bottle of Süd Polaire on the stall counter, I thought it was a bottle imported from Iceland or somewhere Scandinavian. But no. Of course, as it was at Domaine Simha’s stall, the logical explanation is that they’ve branched out from luxe wines to include a luxe gin!

Süd Polaire is handcrafted from a triple-distilled wine (no surprise) spirit. Individually vapour infused with ten different botanicals, some of which are top secret but of course Tasmanian pepperberry is on the list. It’s billed as an “Antarctic Dry Gin”, so I’m yet to find out if they’ve just cheekily renamed a London Dry style, or if it’s more New Wave. Though with a wine base, would it instead have a comparison with Gin Xoriguer? Having said that, Süd Polaire uses a wine spirit base (tell me more!).

Like I said, I’m very much looking forward to spending a little more time getting acquainted with Tasmania’s newest gin (this title doesn’t last long these days, to my utter delight).

Ginuary 24th: Beetroot Collins @ Ash & Besters.

A lot can happen in twelve months. Almost exactly a year ago, I went in to Ethos Eat Drink for a pretty delicious apricot gin sour. Twelve months (and two days) later, Ethos has expanded… and expanded… and expanded. Out the front of the restaurant is a providore and a frozen yoghurt joint… and underneath the restaurant, next to its beating heart, is Ash & Besters. Ash & Besters do cocktails, and they do cocktails good. Tonight Barnes sorted me out with a Beetroot Collins.

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Chocolate and beetroot and ginger, oh my!

“We recreate this venerable tall drink with Lark’s Godfather dry gin, beetroot, chocolate, house-made ginger liqueur and Bittermens habanero chilli shrub.”

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And fizz. I mean, Collins. Same guy.

I wish I had more photos to share of this beautiful space but I headed in here after a full day of work (I hope the rest of Australia is enjoying their long weekend, sure) and my phone battery didn’t quite survive the full sitting—plus we had a full house at the bar and I didn’t want to startle anyone with any paparazzo activity (it’s pretty intimate down in the belly of the beast).

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Sneaky peek at some lustworthy shelf contents, ai.

I know one thing’s for sure: I’ve updated my New Years resolutions to include “hang out at Ash & Besters more often”, because that’s all I want to do now.

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