A signature cocktail for a signature gin.

A wrote a couple of weeks ago about Jason Chan’s gin project from the Margaret River, Tradewinds.

When my bottles arrived, i was lucky enough to spend ten minutes talking about the Cutlass, the 100 proof Australian gin, with a delicious savoury addition, the native bush tomato. As well as an overview of the idea, Jacky shared a signature drink to showcase the spirit.

The Cutlass Cocktail

Chan’s spec called for 60mls of the Cutlass, a large barspoon of Rose’s lime marmalade, about 15mls of freshly squeezed lime and 8 basil leaves, shaken hard and double strained up.

It’s a hot day here in Sydney today, so the photo, I upped the recipe by half and double strained it into a jar over a couple of big cubes. The colour is better when it’s up but it tastes great either way.

The marmalade sweet is delicious, the basil brings a huge freshness that accentuates the mouthfeel of the 50% abv Cutlass beautifully. It opens up the savoury bush tomato as well, the true point of difference of his product.

It’s a great drink and a great product.



Greenhouse goes up

On Friday, something pretty amazing happened in Sydney. A great new restaurant and bar opened on the water, in the Rocks.

Waterfront real estate has been at a premium in Sydney since the fleet arrived and pushed the natives of Bennelong of their lands.

These days, getting anything on the foreshore requires a Herculean effort and that makes the Greenhouse that much more remarkable. Perched on Dawes Point, with incredible 270 degree views of Sydney’s harbour and icons, there is just no place like it.

A creative collaboration between a Dutch architect, Joost Bakker and Melburnian hospitality hero, Jason Chan, this temporary structure is the most exciting erection Sydney has seen since the Opera House went up.

It’s a concept that’s all about the local and the sustainable.

The cladding is sourced wherever the Greenhouse turns up, as is the straw that acts as insulator. The exact materials change with the various locations and provide Joost a chance to play with sustainable materials and utilise better products as they turn up. The oil from the kitchen powers the onsite generator.

The beers, Stone Wood from Byron, Little Creatures et al are chosen for the two factors of proximity and quality. Spirits too come from Australia, Chan’s own Tradewinds Gin from Perth, and 666 Vodka from Tassie will make cocktails-a-plenty on the upstairs deck of easily the best location for a bar in this entire town. Food falls in line with the same theme; it has to come the smallest distance so it arrives fresh, and at its most delicious. The milk even comes straight from the farm in a bucket, to be processed into cheese and yoghurt in the kitchen.

The constructed frame all fits in the two orange containers that serve as the conveniences upstairs (with plastic folding tables for doors, no less) and the galley below. It has visited Perth and Melbourne already. Next it will be off to Europe, further destinations are still being finalised but the wide eyed crew who staff this ship are all awed at the journey they’re about to undertake, Milan is up next, everybody’s amped and it shines through in the service.

I’ll be back next week to sample the fare and the cocktail list, plus to take maybe a thousand photos.

The Rocks is no longer just for the tourists, get down there Sydney!

It only lasts for six weeks.

There are no bookings, so expect a wait. Expect it to be worth the wait as well.

Legends of Bartending, Spirit

Global Product Exclusive: Tradewinds Gin

Gin fans, there’s a new kid in town. Actually, two new kids. They’re brothers and they kick ass.

The one in the clear bottle, he’s the little brother. A refreshing spirit, capped at 40%abv and lovingly washed in the waters of the Margaret River before being shipped out for your enjoyment. He carries a strong punch of citrus, shines in a Gin and Tonic, or in a Martini made with Lillet. Test him in an Aviation, hide a little Creme de Cacao behind him in a 20th Century, Lime him up in a Rickey or a Gimlet. This is a gin that can stand up against anything in the world and it’s being made right here in Australia, by Jason Chan and his band of merry men.

The dude in green, he’s the big brother. Slipped into the bottle at 100 proof (50%abv,) if you’re not careful he’ll knock your fucking block off. The higher percentage give’s “The Cutlass” a great punch at a first sip, what follows is again citurs forward, but with a curious difference. The addition of Australian natives wattle, lemon myrtle and the bush tomato craft a finish that is highly unusual and extremely tasty. Test it out in a Pink Gin, a martini with Noilly Prat, luxuriate over your morning rituals with The Cutlass in your Red Snapper, partner it with pretty much any savoury herb, think Basil, Rosemary or Lemon Thyme. Funk it up a little with any of the savoury teas, Lapsang Soochong goes great guns. This is a singular product that will be talked about and sought after all around the world. There’s also a signature cocktail, that I’ll be whipping up over the weekend.

Yes, those are wine bottles that it comes in, and their are no plans to change that. “The history of Margaret River is the production of really fine wines, we wanted to give a nod to that provenance as we start a new legend or premium spirit production” Chan explains. “We will be etching the bottles as production ramps up”

Distribution is being sorted out right now, it sounds as though Neil Perry is keen to add it to his Beetroot Snapper, Golden Monkey too will be an early Melbourne stockist and Flinders will be one of the first cabs off the rank for you Sydneysiders keen to get a taste too. One of Chan’s partners has connections to an online channel too, so those inside and out of Australia will be able to source a bottle, hopefully without too much trouble.

The Greenhouse, the upcoming pop up concept collaboration between Chan and Dutch born architect Joost Bakker will also be serving up Tradewinds, so get down and check it out when it opens in a couple of weeks time. They’ll be making the tonic water on site, so expect the best G&T’s this side of the Royal Geographic Society.

This is the start of a journey for Chan and his Margaret River Distillery, I hear murmurs of vodka and hopefully much more. The product is awesome, so it’s got to be a space to watch with interest.


Buffalo Trace White Dog

Buffalo Trace makes some of the best bourbon in the world. Their antique range is simply amazing, even though the Ryes that represent the pinnacle of their product do not actually carry the Buffalo on their bottle, they have developed a fast following among those who prefer their whiskey to be American.

White Dog is a bit of an oddity that the distillery have been selling for 4 or 5 years now. The thing most people don’t realise is that they have been making it for 274 years. White Dog is the unaged, or new make spirit, fresh of the still and into a bottle. A few years in charred oak and you’ll have bourbon. Without oak, the spirit is sharp and spicy, with a distinct popcorn note.

The distillery holds the White Dog days in October, and I’m told that’s only way to get your hands on one of these little bottles. That might explain why there are so few high res photos of the bottle anywhere online. I’d love to be proven wrong on this point, with the reasoning being I might be able to give a bottle a home.

Some people might call this moonshine, but i’d beg to differ. The White Dog uses a grain mash, and has complexity in spades because of it. Shine is mostly down to sugar for its taste, flavour and kick. This results in a product that will peel your face off and leave you speechless.

The White Dog on the other hand will leave you speechless for a whole different set of reasons.


Ron Zacapa 30th Annivesary

The two most popular posts on my blog are for the Solera 23 and the Centenario XO from Ron Zacapa. Partly because of its contribution to my stats, but mostly because of it’s unbelievably smooth finish, the brand has become one of my firm favourites.

There will be some out there who say the rum is more liqueur than spirit. They will say the mass produced column stilled products of the Caribbean offer a truer interpretation of what rum should be. They might even be right.

Whatever your feelings on the subject of what the best rum in the world is, Zacapa is undeniably very special. This is their most special product. It is Ron Zacapa Centenario 30 Anniversario. Identified by the blue label on the traditional glass bottle with the pecate relief that the XO come packaged in, and delivered in a velvet lined blue box with two custom commissioned Reidel crystal glasses, this bottle is so rare it’s almost a myth.

Most bottles give up a little history when you start down a path of research. Not so this one. Bottled in 1996, 30 years after the brand’s inception, the blue labeled bottle predates the blog powered liqoursphere that holds much of the worlds information of all aspects of things alcoholic. Jason told me it is actually 23 yr old Zacapa, as opposed to Solera aged Zacapa that contains rum as old as 23 years. It does lack a little of the Limousin that the XO carries, so it could potentially be the right answer.

One of the interesting little snippet I found in trying to find definitive answers on this bottle was a fella who’d talked to a company that analysed the Zacapa product and noticed a higher than expected percentage of heavy alcohols, usually present because of pot stilling. The guy also talked about the fine press sugar syrup standing a lower proof run in the still and carrying across more of the flavour (and sugar, presumably) which might be why it tastes a bit more liqueury.

Good luck finding one of these. I’d suggest a standing bar in Tokyo, or the Japanese end of eBay would probably be you best bet.


Mount Gay Tricentennial

A Rum of Rums from the Rum that created Rum. Only 3000 bottles of this, purportedly the finest of Caribbean spirits, were released to market in 2003, to commemorate the 300th Anniversary of the Barbadian brand.

Inside the bottle is a master blend of Rums from 1969, 1974 & 1976. Interestingly for a distillery that claims 300 years of history, these are the oldest stocks they have. Conveniently they can blame Piracy for any losses I suppose…

The rum itself is extremely fine. The Mount Gay standards of Vanilla, Coffee and Bananas are there, the slight nuttiness too. The scent is absolutely intoxicating and both it and the taste have a depth that is only matched by the finest aged spirits. Utterly and completely delicious.

As for purchasing one, they occasionally come up online, and I’d be happy for anyone to share a link in the comments. For Sydneysiders, there is a single bottle perched atop the shelf in Duty Free. Supply being what it is they’re asking $2,500 for it, a ten fold increase of the release price.

Is it worth it? Well price is always a subjective measure. As the existing bottles are drunk, supply diminishes. What is inside is the pinnacle of a distillery that has tremendous experience, a worthy addition to any celebration.


Gran Patrón Burdeos

This is the first of what promises to be a series of extremely fine, and extremely rare spirits from around the globe. To my brethren from the Southern hemisphere, you will unfortunately know the pain I feel most days when I read of finds and tastes from my friends in the US and Europe, that I’m not going to find here in Australia, daily basis or no.

To my friends up North, these might not be the boutique cottage productions you flaunt so readily in your recipes and posts but they are at least as rare, and in most cases prohibitively expensive. Hopefully a few you might not have heard of, certainly a few of these were new to me. It’s nice to finally get a score on the board.

Enough pontificating, let’s talk about the Gran Patrón Burdeos, in the gorgeous bottle above. Anyone remotely in touch with popular drinking culture will be familiar with the Patrón marque, whose rough finished bottles with the round cork stopper found a fast and faithful market with the celebrity set who’ve carried the brand around the globe. An even luckier few might have laid lips on Gran Patrón which exchanged glass for crystal, added a third distillation and added a couple of hundred bucks to the price tag.

The Burdeos has another couple of steps. First the twice distilled spirited is rested in barrels of American and French Oak for a period of at least a year. It is then distilled a third time and racked in Bordeaux barrels, Luxist seems to think they are from Chateau Margaux, which would justify the massive price jump, but I can’t find confirmation of that anywhere else. You’ll get the fine unleaded crystal bottle you see above, the bee crystal stopper and a specially designed corkscrew to get at the stuff to begin with.

The spirit itself is very fine, the sawdusty funk you expect from the 100% agave tequilas has mellowed with its marriage in oak and the Bordeaux treatment adds some sweetness, vanilla and dried fruits to the mix. It is very moorish and extremely palatable.

If you’re lucky enough to be offered a taste, you’d be a fool not to. I’ve never seen in on sale here in Australia, but the truly keen amongst you can buy a bottle here for US$699 plus the postage. You’ll get a nice black walnut box included in that price too.

If anyone was stuck on what to get me for Christmas, this would definitely tick all the boxes.

Bar, Melbourne

On Tour: Sousoul

One of the things I’ve found to more true than anything else as I’ve moved through bars, sampling drinks and talking to bartenders, is that a list of twisted classics usually should be avoided.

Classics became just that because of the fine memorable taste the mix delivered. Take inspiration from the recipes sure, but you can’t improve on perfection.

Or can you?

On the mini crawl Jason Chan took me on after dinner at his, Sousoul was one place he’d mentioned a couple of times. The cocktails and their quality came up again as we crossed Chapel street and ducked down Greville St, beside the clocktower. As he popped his head into the new outpost of Ladro Pizzeria, next door to Sousoul, I’ll admit I was thinking “I’ve been drinking stuff you can’t buy anywhere, how is any cocktail meant to follow that?

Making it the door we were met by Nathan, our consummate host, Jason recommended and ordered the Chocolate Sazerac (below). The smoked cocoa is a triumph in this drink, I’m not sure if it has the fabled ‘wrongness’ of the rye and anise match in the original, but I’m sure Matt Preston would pull out his new favourite phrase “it’s yum yuck, a triumph” before hurling the glass at the back wall.

Well done Sousoul, one from one thus far.

My eyes didn’t get much further down the list before my eyes rested on the Aviation in 2010 (below).

Fuck with the classics, be my guest, but the Aviation is my personal favourite, opening a good gin up with citrus and the funky sweet lick that maraschino brings. Frankly I don’t care if they used to drink it with Creme de Violette. Most of the new liqueur approximations of this floral throwback stamp out any of the subtlety of the simpler ‘modern’ version (although none of my books have a violet version, isn’t that the Blue Moon?) Sousoul have updated the cocktail but my three ingredients are the ones in the glass.

That’s a tremendous tick in my book.

The boys behind the bar have captured an essence here. The Creme Yvette’s that are coming in the second wave of production are greatly improved. Adding it to the liquid in the glass might be dicey, so what’s the other option?

At Sousoul, the other option means spherification of the liqueur in a tidy little caviar spoon on the side. After the astringent brilliance of a perfect Aviation in the glass, these purple pearls wash your mouth with sweet floral goodness, ready for the next rinse.

I loved it. It is exactly what it set out to be: the very best Aviation you could put up.

I’m thinking of driving down again this weekend, just so I can have it again. If you are in Melbourne and only are going to have one drink, this, in my opinion, should be it.

I stand by what I said. Don’t fuck with the classics, unless you can do as well as this.

160 Greville Street, Prahran, VIC, Australia, 3181 (03) 9529 5670

On Google Maps here.

Bar, Melbourne, The Cure

On Tour: Batch

Chur cuz. Sick of the fucking bouncing kangaroos? Worried about that thing with the beady eyes you always thought was a bear but apparently is called mar-soo-pee-ill? Simply looking for a place where you can consistently find a decent cup of coffee, free from the hands of the pervasive criminal element?

Rejoice reader, this paradise exists and you can find it hiding at 320 Carlisle Street, Balaclava in Melbourne’s wonderful southern suburbs.

This place might be a cafe, but the fact you also get a measure of El Dorado 25yr old rum means that this little cafe has a back bar that many cocktail establishments around the world would envy. Breakfast and booze in one tidy package, Cure and Cause in four tight walls.

Started some time ago by another ex-Kiwi like me, Batch brings the cosy feel of Dunedin or Kingsland to Sydney’s southern sister. Jason Chan, owner, master barista and rare spirits aficionado can be found strapped into the coffee machine delivering perfect espresso, time, after time, after time.

Simply a must visit in Melbourne.

Shop 1, 320 Carlisle Street, Balaclava (03) 9530 3550

On Google maps, here.

Oh, this will probably help too: