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.


Competitions, Unusual Martinis

World Class: Erik Lorincz

Diageo’s World Class Competition unfolds a few times a year in Australia. In State Capitals around the country; shakers, stirrers, barmen (& women) and even the odd mixologist bring their A game and a great cocktail for a chance to pit their skills, share their knowledge and not inconsiderable banter and win a spot in the Australian finals and a chance at going to the Worlds.

Earlier in the week I was lucky enough to get some insight into the World Class finals from the 2010 winner, Eric Lorincz.

From its grassroots in each of the 3o something countries now a part of the global contest, the level of competition at each stage increases. The camaraderie between the contestants remains constant, but the judges especially elevates from the amateur enthusiast to the global elite. Peter Dorelli, Gary Regan, Hidetsugu Ueno, Dale DeGroff, Salvatore Calabrese & Alberto Soria judged the final six rounds.

“What’s most impressive about Diageo World Class is how every aspect of the craft of bartending is tested by the challenges and judges. You need to be creative, thorough and skilled – it’s daunting… These 21st Century bartenders are the pioneers of a new golden age of the craft,” said DeGroff.

Erik is every inch World Class, from his winning smile, to his expert handling of the journalists and their questions, through to the signature long pour on his Tanq 10 martini (which better aerates the beverage) not to mention the finickity approach to zesting the drink so only the lighter aromatics flavour the drink.

The contest has obviously been a big step up for the young man, Peter Dorelli has hired him to front the American Bar at the Savoy in London, which is where you’ll have to go if you want a long poured martini of your own.

I wonder how long it will be until the best in the world come to Australia. My money is on pretty soon…

Cocktail, Unusual Martinis

Unusual Martinis #2

Curry Martini

Sometimes just producing a more meaty martini doesn’t quite cut it. For those times, and probably only as a first drink, i give you the Curry Martini. This drink was invented by Rush, a Nepalese bartender at Opia at the Jia Hotel in Hong Kong for the 42 Below Regional finals.

The Curry Martini

Muddle red and green chilli, lemongrass, shallots, coriander, ginger and garlic in the bottom of a Boston Glass. Add 30 mls 42 Below Manuka Honey vodka, 15 mls ginger liqueur, 30mls pineapple juice. Add a dash of egg white for a silky consistency and a dash of simple syrup for balance. Top the glass with ice and shake vigorously. Double strain the drink into a martini glass to ensure none of those pesky chili seeds make it through to burn your mouth. Garnish with chili, onion and coriander and let the flavor explode on your palate.

You can even watch Rush make it himself on youtube.

Rush likes his with a reinvention of the Falling Water cocktail, but its great on its own as well.

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Cocktail, Unusual Martinis

Unusual Martinis #1

140.x600.eat.fallcocktails.baconSometimes it’s easy to focus on the classics. The crisp, dry bite of a perfectly stirred Gin Martini; the nutty richness of a well made old fashioned; the smoky depths of a Sazerac or the rich fruity and herbal notes of a Woodford Manhattan.

Other times you need to push the boat out. Sometimes a reply of ‘make me whatever you want’ unlocks an impish desire to do something a wee bit silly, something unexpected, something like a bacon martini.

It might surprise you, but there are a huge number of variations of a bacon martini online. Most, posted by Canadians and the calorie consuming southern cousins are thick sweet and rich with maple syrup and occasionally sugar as well. Personally, my preference is for liver failure over obiesity so I’m going to lave the syrup for my pancakes and focus on the bacon and booze.

The Bacon Martini

Take a couple of rashers of bacon, streaky if you must, home cured wild if you can. Slap them on some foil and throw them under the grill, the grill should be hot and you should keep an eye on it, lest you be left with a charcoal martini. The idea is to get the bacon crispy, with most of the fat out of it (the surface of the finished drink should have tiny grains, NOT pearls of fat on the surface. Pat the bacon down with some paper towels to remove any excess grease and place one rasher into a mixing glass for each drink you intend to make. (you might want to do a couple of little rashers, as pictured above as a garnish, I’ve also found pancetta useful for this…)

Muddle the bacon with a big stick, it should break into little chips, increasing the surface area and releasing its bacon-y goodness. Add 55 mls of 42 Below vodka  & 5 mls of 42 Below manuka honey flavoured vodka to the bacon. Ice the glass and stir it for about 20 seconds to achieve a silky level of dilution. If you have an excess of fat in the drink, it can be clarified by dipping a piece of bread quickly into the drink, absorbing the fat. 

Strain the liquid into a martini glass and garnish with a small piece of charcuterie. Olives or roasted garlic could work too.


A big thanks to Jacob Prain, once upon a time barkeep at the Matterhorn in Wellington, New Zealand and more lately of Hamilton House and Chinatown in Shanghai for letting me in on this little gem of a drink.


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