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Secret Cocktail Club - Gin Business

Gin Business Gins & Cocktail.jpg

Ahead of World Gin Day 2018, we started the party a little early with the 2018 instalment of our Secret Cocktail Club, a series of pop ups in private locations that are designed to explore in each session one spirit and whether the choice of spirit makes a difference in the featured cocktail. For this one, we looked at gin and the Bees Knees cocktail. 

The Bees Knees cocktail is a classic blend of gin, lemon juice and honey. First made popular during Prohibition to mask the harshness of bathtub gin, different recipes call for different proportions. The early reference to the recipe in David Embury's The Art of Mixing Drinks would have us all mixing equal parts of the three ingredients. For this event, we followed the proportions set out in the book Sasha Petraske Regarding Cocktails, which uses 60ml gin, 30ml lemon juice and about 22ml honey syrup. The honey syrup in the book is a mix of 3 parts honey: 1 part water and we used a stringybark honey made by a local producer in NSW. The choice of honey can in itself also have an impact on the cocktail as different varieties of honey will bring different flavours to the party - but that is a story for another tasting session!

Gin Business Table Setting 1.jpg

Firstly we sampled a variety of gins, with a mix of boutique and well known brand in the mix. On taste were the Jensen's, the Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks, Chase Great Dry Gin and the Young Henry's Noble Cut. In its entirety, the line up represented the evolution of gin. The Jensen's for being a recreation of a historical recipe (which unless you have thousands of dollars, would be as close as you can get to tasting gin from the 19th century). The Bombay for being the first to make gin sexy in an era of vodka drinkers, Hendricks for making gin hip, Chase for marking the start of the grain to glass concept and the rise of boutique "craft" gin producers in the UK (and the gin using a different base spirit to the others) and Young Henry's as an example of how modern day gin producers in Australia are putting a spin on the old world definition of the category (and for bringing a completely different flavour profile of gin to the table than the others).

For a cocktail which was created to mask the hero ingredient, we honestly did not think that there would be such a variance in the final cocktail. But yet, once put side by side, even the newest gin drinkers at the table could discern a difference between all 5 cocktail samples. The Jensen's with its subtle and smooth tones ended up integrating seamlessly with the lemon and honey and was a firm favourite over the Bombay (which still carried the juniper-y kick through). The cucumber notes from the Hendricks really came through on the palate even on the cocktail and more than one person at the table didn't like that combination with the other ingredients. Yet another favourite was the Chase, the sweet notes from the apple cider base spirit used in the gin creating an overall tasting effect similar to stewed apples. The least favourite of the evening was the Noble Cut, both neat or in a cocktail - somehow the addition of the hops to the botanical infusion dampened everything else that those at the table associated with gin.

As an experiment, the night proved to be great fun on a social front, with the smaller format providing guests to interact with one another and contribute their two cents to the discussion. And of course on the booze front, we drank some fabulous (and not so fabulous) gins and cocktails and learnt a thing or two about how the choice of gin really matters in at least this, the Bees Knees cocktail. Thank you all who came, and we look forward to the next Secret Cocktail Club pop up where we'll be exploring....rum! 

Summer Aperitif Tasting with Kamm & Sons

Kamm

Wow! We couldn't have picked a better way to kick off our inaugural event as Cocktail Co. Just in time for summer, we hosted a British garden party to welcome our special guest for the evening Alex Kammerling of British aperitif Kamm & Sons, who had flown in from the UK to lead us through an aperitif tasting. 

Kamm Aperitif Tasting

Taking place at a private studio on Jones Bay Wharf, we mingled with Alex over welcome Brit Spritzes before curtains were metaphorically pulled back to reveal an intimate sit down tasting.

Kamm Aperitif Tasting Front
Kamm Aperitif Tasting

Explaining the origins of bitter spirits and the concept of the aperitif, Alex took us through a tasting of 6 different aperitif and one amaro, including his own creation Kamm & Sons, whilst along the way explaining the challenges of creating a new spirit. As a bonus, he whipped out a very special expression of the Kamm & Sons, which had been aged in Ardbeg whisky barrels for some months and so new, it had not even been released as yet in the UK! A very special treat and a very special evening all round, we can't wait until that comes out. 

Kamm Aperitif Tasting set up

Sea to Still - an interactive journey

Sea to Still group shot

On our last event under the Sydney Cocktail Club banner, we ventured out of the usual tasting venues for an interactive adventure in the northern beaches of NSW. Presented in partnership with Dramnation, the day saw us all meeting at Wynyard on a bright sunny morning for a bus pick up to North Curl Curl beach. Along the way, expert forager Diego Bonetto entertained the crowd with tales of how he started out in foraging together with a brief background on the ethics and legalities of foraging.

Sea to Still bus

On arrival at North Curl Curl beach, we enjoyed an informative and entertaining walk around the surrounds, Diego enthralling us all with nuggets of information about plants we encountered along the way. Who knew that the innocuous looking morning glory flower contained properties that could get you high if ingested in enough quantities???

Following our foraging walk, we stopped for a short mini-picnic by the sea, with sea inspired canapes to slake the morning pangs. On serve was a dram of Old Pulteney whisky or the Manly Distillery Gin served with a selection of PS Sodas and tonic. 

Refreshed and ready to roll, we headed to Manly Spirits Distillery Co, Sydney's first coastal distillery for a tour of their inner workings followed by a tasting of their gins and vodkas. Manly Spirits are also the first Sydney distillery to utilise foraged botanicals in the making of their spirits, and the maritime influence was evident when tasting their gin and the vodka.

Sea to Still Manly Spirits

We then made the short walk across to local brewery 4 Pines, where we were given a tour of their facilities. For those who drink whisky (of which Manly Distillery is slated to release in 2019), the process of whisky distillation essentially starts with making beer, so understanding the process of beer making gave us all an insight into what whisky makers have to master right off the bat. Our tour concluded with a generous tasting paddle of 5 of the brewery's flagship beers and many then stayed on to make the most of the food menu whilst some headed back to the bar at the distillery for a couple of cheeky cocktails to close off our Good Food Month event!

Sea to Still 4 Pines Brewery

A huge thanks to Diego Bonetto, Manly Spirits Distillery Co as well as 4 Pines Brewery for their expertise and hospitality. This was truly a Sea to Still experience like no other! A big mighty thanks also to the Jugernauts for taking some amazing photos (as pictured above) and video of the day

Tonic Taster (with a little gin)

Tonic Tasting

As the gin craze continues, so does the demand for the most ubiquitous gin drink of them all - the Gin and Tonic. So we thought it was about time to revisit this drink but the tasting session was one with a difference. Why? Because in this one, we were not examining the gin, but the mixer. Forming at least 3/4 of the drink, why wouldn't you pay the same attention to the tonic as you would the gin?

Tonic Tasting Moores Gin and tonic

So it was on a bright sunny Saturday afternoon, we gathered a bunch of gin enthusiasts at a private waterfront location to answer this very question. For this session, we chose to feature as our hero gin, the Moore's Vintage Dry Gin, most recently awarded the Double Gold in the IWSC awards in London in 2017 and a great example of a classic London Dry but with a little of an Aussie twist. Against it, we pitched the Fever Tree Indian tonic, Strangelove no 8, Fever Tree Naturally Light, East Imperial Burma and Old World tonic and the bonus; the Ledgers tonic that was the only one sweetened with the artificial sweetener Stevia. 

Tonic tasting group

As insights go, this session was mind blowing to say the least. Whilst some preferred the tonic on its own, when it came to mixing with the gin, it was another story, which illustrated our case perfectly that not all tonics are created equal. As more and more tonic providers seek to differentiate themselves in the premium mixers market, it is important that consumers understand the difference in taste between all of them and how it would pair with different types of tonics. In all of this however, there was one crowd favourite that stood our both on its own and paired with the gin - the Strangelove no 8, itself a new release at the time of tasting and slightly different to the rest for its addition of juniper in the mix.

Strangelove Tonic 8

Read on next for our encore of the next session, when we paired a different gin with a different range of tonics to find out the perfect tonic...to the gin!