Event, Melbourne

One more night for this pearl



I’ll be the first to admit, I’m late to the party on this one.

For the past six days the crew at Black Pearl have been part of a collaboration with Bacardi, leading up to tonight’s Legacy Cocktail competition final.

What it means for you is a list of 10 Bacardi cocktails, including Fred Siggins’ excellent Empire of Dreams, are up for grabs from one of the most talented bar teams in the country.


Get down there tonight to try some of these great drinks and stick around for the party when the Australian winner of tonights Legacy comp is announced.


In case you’ve never been, the Black Pearl can be found on Brunswick St in Fitzroy, number 305.IMG_5890 IMG_5893 IMG_5902


Melburnians. Forget the Cup and put your money down on this.


Turns out that #baxterchef isn’t the only person from Masterchef willing to turn their hand to pairing dishes with cocktailian creations.

Bombay Sapphire are stepping things up a notch with MasterChef judge Gary Mehigan, matching 10 dishes with each of the botanicals which give Bombay Sapphire its world famous taste. The ‘Urban Turban’ Raj Nagra has put his head together with Sean Forsyth on the cocktails and will be returning to his homeland to celebrate and invigorate the trade.

35 smacks gets you 2 dishes and 2 cocktails, with the option of buying more should you be hungry, thirsty or just greedy.

The event is running at 64 Sutton, a new warehouse venue on the cities upcoming Northern fringe. Places are limited, and it is all only going down between the 10th of November and the 6th of December.

www.projectbotanicals.com.au for all the details and tickets.



Paired Dish

Almond Swizzle Pacific Oysters
Lemon Thyme Collins Crisp Tostaditas with Cured King Fish
Juniper Sublime G&T Blue Swimmer Crab Toasts
Liquorice Hanky Panky Liquorice Grilled Quail
Angelica Negroni Tartine of Field Mushrooms
Coriander Chinese Lantern Vietnamese Rolls with Yellowfin Tuna
Cassia Blackberry Fix Sticky Braised Pork Ribs
Cubeb Berry Fizz Crunchy Chicken Slider
Grains of Paradise Flip White Chocolate & Pepper Berry Cheesecake
Orris Root Aviation Strawberries & Cream

196DISCLAIMER: My team and I are working with Bombay Sapphire to bring this idea to life.


Fair enough.


Grab your fixie, sling your pug in your backpack and pedal uphill to your nearest bottle store Bondi Hipsters.

You can buy vodka made from nature’s ancient grain superfood, Quinoa.

Double bonus if you’re still claiming to be somewhere on the celiac scale too, this bad boy is gluten-free to boot.

Seriously though, the liquid is worthy of your lips and the story really does stack up.

The Fair story starts some nine years ago, before the breakfast du jour was an organic quinoa porridge with roof foraged honey and house cultured yoghurt.

Nine years ago breakfast sophistication was a Four’n’Twenty and a strawberry Oak for most Australians. The Frenchman behind Fair Spirits choose quinoa not for its achingly contemporary credentials but because it was the only grain available in sufficient volume that actually provided a reasonable return 1200-sum small landowners who farm the grain.

The liquid comes from an Armagnac still and the taste has real depth because of it. Bigger mouthfeel and flavour than you’d reasonably expect from a vodka, delicious.

Most of the distribution is in the smaller independents, but keep an eye out for this tasty vodka and it’s beautiful packaging.

Get in touch with the Australian distributor if you’re looking for a deal. Gregoire Bertaud is a cool dude.

If you’re looking to design a cocktail steeped in hipster madness, they also do a Goji liqueur.

Totes amaze.

Event, Unusual Martinis

A really tasty appointment


The extremely welcoming welcome drink, Joe McCanta’s Le Fizz.

Most brands lead with their credentials.

Most brands spend a long time talking about themselves, how their artisanally sourced ingredients are transmuted in branded gold in specially designed hand-packed mud houses by indigenous banjo players.

Most brands  spend so long talking about themselves I’m too thirsty to truly appreciate the first sip.

Most brands are not Grey Goose.


A couple weeks back, I was deemed sufficiently influential to attend #tastebyappointment, the elegant branded consumer experience being rolled out around the world by Grey Goose.

Tucked carefully upstairs in a private room at Gowings, the world’s best tasting vodka™ decided to talk not about itself, but about taste and its very personal nature.

I commence with a flute of Le Fizz.

Frustrated by guests reaching not for vodka but for Champagne at events, Global Grey Goose Ambassador Joe McCanta devised this elegant twist on a French 75 to satisfy the style choices of his guests while also driving depletion. The mix of St. Germain, lime juice and Grey Goose is bought alive with a dash of soda. The pleasing result is further proof that everything does indeed taste better for the addition of the beautifully bottled elderflower liqueur. My only complaint is that the first three glasses must have had holes in them, given they seemed to be drained very quickly.

Almost too soon I am ushered into a beautifully arranged room and shown a place at the well-set table.


Cue Joe McCanta.

In the galaxy of global brand talent, McCanta truly shines. His easy Californian charm holds the rooms attention as he introduces the evening and bids us all to try what turns out to be a yeasty and somewhat average piece of bread adorning our side plates.

It turns out, the trick of taste is intentional, McCanta has asked the kitchen to omit salt from the mix. A smear and a sprinkle transforms average to outstanding.

Salt rocks, if you’ll pardon the pun.


Our second lesson arrives as the entree.

Three morsels epitomise sour, sweet and bitter. This exercise is about determining our own, unique personal taste preference.

Unsurprisingly, things turn out bitter for me.

The lesson is reinforced by some cut crystal cocktail making. Building our very own vodka old fashioned tweaked to match salty, sour, sweet and bitter is surprisingly engaging distraction.

There is vigorous agreement around the table of our own flavourful superiority.

My bottle seems emptier than most.

I make another.


The main is placed before me.


The third lesson is about umami.

Not a large wave that crushes coastal villages, but the flavour that enhances everything else.

Potentially a little  je ne sais quoi.


The steak comes paired with a truffle martini.

$600 worth of black truffle, sous vide’d into the Grey Goose. James Marcel Bernard Wynn-Williams mentions other ingredients but my head’s too full of truffle to truly take it in.

My mind wanders to thoughts of geese stuffed for Christmas.

If you want to know what cocktail pairing with food is about, this is a great example. a mouthful of food and a mouthful of cocktail add up to something bigger.

Something better.

Something umami.

Unctuous, in the best possible way.

GreyGoose_TastebyAppointment_QTHotel_DLPhotography_190914_0571The meal finishes with a little pear-on-pear action.

A pear tart with some chilled Grey Goose Poire.

The buttery custard and almond crunch saves me from cloying sameness, but it is a hard landing after the tropospheric truffle.

I adjourn to the members lounge to pursue my bitter tastes.

Choice words and battle stories are shared by the gathering throng.

Something about cocktails in space.

Good times all round.

I try another.

and another.

and, responsibly, another.


All too soon I am in a cab atop the Anzac Bridge, peering West across the inky water at Glebe and my home beyond.

I am struck by the presentation of a vodka comfortable with who it is.

Comfortable to let me connect their brand to my experience.

Comfortable enough to let the passion of its people shine brighter than a neon POS display.

Most brands simply talk about themselves.

Most brands are not Grey Goose.



Yes to Scottish Independence

A while back I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with Iain Macmillan, master distiller at Tobermory and Ledaig, amongst a handful of other independent distilleries producing unchill filtered treasures off the West coast.

He was a smart and hilarious companion, and thoroughly (hopefully) eclipses my many ums in these four videos for Dan Murphy.


The Illuminati exist, and they’re buying up all the really good whisky

Diamond Jubilee Sample

Jonathan Driver, the erudite global ambassador for all things both Blue and Johnnie Walker is in Sydney town again this week, with a $200,000 bottle of whisky in his rollaboard.

Driver has both the responsibility and privilege of being the public and private face of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, and the expressions above that. It’s the stories from the pinnacle of planet blue that caught my attention while sharing a table with the man himself and a curated culinary experience from #baxterchef.

“There is a world that is invisible, that exists behind closed doors that normal people just don’t have access to.” Driver expounds “You’ve got to bring something like this (Johnnie Walker Diamond Jubliee,) it is the price of admission.”

The Diamond Jubilee project has opened plenty of cloistered doors for him around the world these past few months. If you’re lucky enough to be spending time with him, make sure you ask about a man with a penchant for rock hard food, and the wisdom of informing at elast a few close friends of your whereabouts while moving in the most rarefied circles.



The pineapple is an international symbol of hospitality


and that’s really your first clue that something rather special is going on down the immaculately thatched stairs that lie beyond these doors.

The Papuan dancehall that is The Cliff Dive has long had a reputation as a place not so much to end the night as a place to push the night in a ditch, steal the night’s wife and shake it for hours on the dancefloor.

Much has changed in Sydney’s most urbane drinking precincts. An ill-considered policy of locking punters out of clubs in an effort to curb idiots punching one another left Alex and Jeremy, owners of this tiki gem and perennial tequila masterpiece Tio’s, with a hole in their cashflow.

Faced with such a change many would have gone to the wall, complaining bitterly of forces outside of their control. Some might have even marched, petitioned or tattooed slogans.

What these boys did is even more bold. They looked at what they could change.

Sitting beside them at the bar, you can’t ignore their creativity.

The chatter between the two is constant. Testing, asking, confounding and even occasionally congratulating. Theirs is the stubborn kind of creativity that just won’t take no for an answer, the kind that sticks to the plan of having a hand roped wall behind the DJ, even when it turns out to be a much bigger job than first thought.

What they’ve done is taken a space that already worked well late and given it some early evening legs. Booths and flexible seating options abound, there are stools at the bar. Grouper swim, at leisure across the dancefloor. It’s always been good here,and they’re constantly making it better.

Behind the bar is where the big changes have happened.

First, there’s food. Yurrippi has sprung from the left hand end of the bar. The skewers have been written about plenty by everyone else, they’re tasty.

Second, the drinks are rocking. The pair have partnered with Michael Chiem to lift the bar to what are now world class levels. The list provides a lesson to the tiki-curious with references to and drinks from some of the leading lights in tiki around the world.

The Zombie is excellent, existing at a point where strong, sweet, spicy and sweet coalesce in the best possible way. Served in an idol, the drink looks as good as it tastes and the stance on the mug foreshadows the effects of drinking too many of these wondrous serves.

Miss Cavendish is an example of what happens when tiki comes downunder, tequila mixes up with rum and citrus, the pebbled ice giving texture, the roasted bananas everything else.

For me though, the Jungle Bird is where it is at. This campari forward tiki classic is served almost as a slurry over a huge sphere. It’s got balance, style, texture and flavour. Easily the best version I have had anywhere.

I’ll be back soon to try the rest. You should too.

16-18 Oxford Square.

DISCLAIMER: You might have seen the odd mention in print of The Cliff Dive in recent weeks. I’ve been adding pleasure to my work helping the boys tell their story, along with members of my more beautiful and more talented team at Hill+Knowlton Strategies. They remain our only client with a Jungle Bird on their list.