Trends may come and go, but quality artisanal spirits and boutique producers are here to stay, says Mike Bennie.
Mike Bennie predicts your next tipple.
ROMANO E LIDIA LEVI GRAPPA ALLA CAMOMILLA 2014, $169 A remarkable grappa that comes from an old family recipe, this is a wildly aromatic, gently floral spirit infused with chamomile flowers. It’s a wonderful drink on its own, best enjoyed after dinner. BROUHAHA RASPBERRY SAISON (CAN), $7.50 Raspberries grown near the brewery in Maleny, Queensland, are used in this killer beer. Brouhaha does things just a little differently, and the pleasingly bitter saison tang here keeps the palate bright and refreshing. Such wicked drinking. ARGALÀ ARTISANAL PASTIS, $89 Pastis is one of those really quaint drinks that requires a little ceremony to bring out its best. Serve over ice in a tall, small glass with a jug of iced water alongside to dilute to taste. The Argalà is one of the world’s best and most anise-rich in flavour. Take it in small sips. LAURENT CAZOTTES GUIGNES ET GUINS (WILD CHERRY)
500ML, $95 The French master of fruit liqueurs, Laurent Cazottes, uses local orchards to produce exquisite distillates. This is ultra-fragrant, pure-tasting and superb served solo, or blended in a delicious spritz cocktail. STONE DOG MEADERY HEADING TO THE COAST MEAD, $20 This clean, traditional-style mead is made with raw, unfiltered macadamia honey and isn’t too sweet, so there’s a lot of moreish drinkability involved. Serve lightly chilled to savour the pure honey flavours. It’s thrilling to see this style.
HARDYS HIDDEN ORCHARD STRAWBERRY
FRUIT WINE, $13 Okay, so the wine purists are going to have me hung, drawn and quartered, but this doesn’t taste bad with a good chill. Indeed, it’s fun, thirst-slaking and something different to sip on. Serve it really cold over ice with a fruit platter.
LIKE FASHION, DRINKS go through phases of popularity. The ’70s gifted us sweet rieslings and the rise of cask wine, and the ’80s meant you could dive into an ice-cold wine cooler such as West Coast.
The ’90s gave us creamy cocktail culture, where Toblerones and Mudslides led us down the garden path. Then the noughties came, bringing premium vodkas and, more recently, fruit-infused wines and ‘frosé’, a wine/ice adult slushie.
Now we seem to be shifting into an era where a new ethos is influencing our drinks culture.
Michael Chiem is one of Australia’s leading drinks people at Sydney’s brilliant PS40 bar, which specialises in housemade carbonated drinks. “We’re trying to push the boundaries, using ingredients that aren’t well used,” he says. “We’re fermenting drinks in-house and preparing cocktails and non-alcoholic pairings like chefs would. Importantly, we’re seeing greater sustainability in drinks-making and inventive ways of using ‘leftovers’.”
Luke Ashton is the multi-award-winning co-proprietor of This Must be the Place in Sydney. He sees a greater emphasis on health. “People are looking for a fresher palate and lighter alcohol,” he says.
Ashton also cites increased interest in local products. “It’s important to look for artisanal producers of spirits, wine and beer to differentiate and make our drinking culture more potent.” He predicts a rise in interest in fruit distillates and highquality infused spirits.
Angus Burton, from Boutique spirits importer Spirit People, agrees. “I think the next thing is a continuation of local spirits and wine, and more sophisticated benchmarking in terms of spiced spirits and herbal styles. Top-quality vermouths, local herbal-infused grappas – someone has to have a good crack at a local Aperol/ Campari with native botanicals.”
Here’s my pick of unsung hero products emerging in our drinking culture.