Three Gin Cocktails That Embrace Salt This Summer

Inside T Australia’s The Yes Issue, our resident drinks expert Fred Siggins explores how savoury and umami flavours found their way into your martini.

Article by Fred Siggins

Gin martini_1All you need to make a white Negroni — the perfect showcase for salty, briny gins. Photograph by Fred Siggins.

With more than 400 gins now available on the Australian market, there’s a dizzying array of styles and flavours to choose from. Traditional London dry-style gins (which don’t have to be made in London), are oily and piney with the resinous flavour of juniper, usually backed up with the brightness of citrus and the earthiness of orris root or angelica. Many contemporary Australian gins lean into a brighter, more perfumed style that relies heavily on native ingredients such as lemon myrtle — brilliant when executed well, but often tipping into soapiness. Tropical fruit flavours like pineapple and passionfruit have made a strong showing in Aussie gins recently as well, and why not?

But gin has always exemplified a certain spiritous sophistication that attracts adult palates — those earthy, dry botanicals, the bitterness of tonic, the saltiness of olives in a martini. Stepping into this great tradition of gin as the anti-sweet-tooth tipple is a new generation of Australian premium gins that lean on salty, savoury and umami flavours to distinguish themselves from their fruity, floral kin. To achieve this distinction, these new-wave savoury gins rely on unique ingredients that, despite gin’s 500-plus-year history, have never before graced the inside of a martini glass. 

“In the past 10 years, fruit-forward gins have been flooding global markets,” says Harriet Leigh, head of hospitality at Archie Rose Distilling Co. in Sydney. “These gins have their place, but, personally, I prefer more savoury, more bracing flavours. We recently released a Salt and Pepper twin pack with a salt gin and a pepper vodka. The salt gin is a real masterpiece, with sea celery, sea lettuce and lime. It’s a thoroughly modern gin that makes you feel elegant and sophisticated as you slurp a martini with an olive on the side.”

Olives, of course, have long been associated with a good dry martini, and Victoria’s excellent olive growers were the inspiration behind Four Pillars’ Olive Leaf Gin. Head distiller Cameron Mackenzie says Olive Leaf Gin was a long road to travel, dating back to a 2015 collaboration with the Spanish gin producer Santamanía [now Destilería de Madrid]. “We went over there with the aim of sharing botanicals and knowledge,” Mackenzie explains.  Together, they made a gin called Cousin Vera’s. “It was delicious,” Mackenzie says. “Savoury, delicate, soft and textural. It was the first time I had a chance to work with more savoury botanicals like bay leaf and rosemary. But we always felt we could make the gin a little bit more confident and intense, so we continued to tinker with the idea.” 

A friend of Mackenzie’s who works for the premium Victorian olive oil producer Cobram Estate invited him to the olive harvest at the Boundary Bend grove. “As we walked through the olive groves, the aromas were incredible — green, herbaceous, fresh and savoury,” recalls Mackenzie. “That reinvigorated the savoury gin idea that led to Olive Leaf Gin.”

Asked about the response to the project, Mackenzie says drinkers and bartenders seem just as enthusiastic about savoury-style gins as he is. “The feedback has been amazing and, truthfully, I was nervous about it,” he says. “It’s a long way from the citrus- and spice-forward gins we usually make. Bartenders, in particular, have embraced it and taken their martinis to new heights, and it also seems to have good momentum in the US with the martini set.”

As well as recognisable ingredients such as salt and olives, Australian producers are also pushing boundaries and palates with less expected additions to their savoury gins. At South Australia’s Never Never Distilling Co., it’s oyster shells. “We made our Oyster Shell Gin in collaboration with Society restaurant in Melbourne,” says Never Never’s head distiller, Tim Boast. “They wanted a gin specifically for martinis, so we looked at the flavours in our own region that would work for them. Oyster shells enhance mouthfeel when distilled, so we knew they would be perfect.”

Oyster Shell Gin takes much of its inspiration from South Australia’s beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula. “We source the Pacific oysters from American River on Kangaroo Island,” says Boast. “Other ingredients like coastal daisy bush, round mint and saltbush grow freely all the way up and down the Port Willunga coastline, and we get marsh grapefruit from the South Australian Riverland. Finally, we add Tasmanian wakame to deliver an umami rinse to the final spirit, which ‘tricks’ the tastebuds into picking up a hint of oyster.”

But for Never Never, it’s not just about wandering around in the bush to see what smells good. Its collaborative projects are a direct response to what bars and restaurants are requesting. “A lot of the bars we collaborate with are asking us to create gins specifically for the purpose of a martini experience for their menu,” says Never Never co-founder Sean Baxter. “A lot of the ingredients we use are there to amplify the mouthfeel and texture of the spirit, which are incredibly important for martinis.”

Baxter suggests drinking Oyster Shell Gin in what they’ve dubbed a “Shelly”, a classy riff on the ridiculous Aussie drinking tradition of a “shoey” (sculling a drink out of a shoe). “Pour the ice cold gin into the empty shell of a fresh oyster straight after it has been consumed to mop up any jaunty little seaside lingerings,” he says. The Never Never crew also love replacing tequila with their gin for a savoury, saline twist on a margarita that they call the “Oyster Shell Tommy” (see recipe at left).

Sebastian Costello is the head judge for gin at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards, the largest competition for Australian-made spirits. He has seen a marked uptick in savoury-style gins in recent years, a trend he attributes to the way people are drinking. “There has been a rise in consumers ordering more savoury drinks at the bar,” he says. “Think dirty martini or red snapper [a bloody Mary made with gin instead of vodka]. You don’t want the gin to be bright and citrus-driven in those drinks — it wants to be savoury and oily. Producers are also starting to concentrate on what people are eating with their drinks, like pairing your martini with an oyster, so we’re seeing gin makers incorporate those flavours into the gin-making process.”

Costello notes that as the trend takes hold in the still-young local gin market, the results  are improving all the time. “The longer our gin makers play around with these flavours, the better the results get,” he says. 

Asked if he has any other thoughts on the style, Costello sums it up simply: “Yes,” he says. “They are delicious.”

gin martini_2
The Four Pillars Olive Leaf Martini features drops of olive oil and briny olives on the side. Photograph by Tomas Friml.

Savoury Twists

White Negroni

While every gin maker will tell you their particular gin makes the best martini, my favourite cocktail to showcase these savoury, salty gins is a white Negroni, especially with gins that have a little bit of coastal funk. This lesser-known Negroni variation is a bit brighter and lighter than the traditional recipe, perfect for an afternoon in the sun. The added layer of salinity acts like a pinch of salt in your cooking, really lifting the herbal flavours and creating a lovely balance of sweet, bitter and umami.


30ml savoury gin
30ml gentian liqueur (a traditional European bittersweet liqueur — Suze is the most widely available brand)
30ml aromatised white wine (such as Regal Rogue Lively White vermouth or Lillet Blanc)


Add ingredients to a rocks glass. Fill glass with ice and stir.

Garnish with a twist of grapefruit peel and a sprig of rosemary.

Four Pillars Olive Leaf Martini

A savoury martini for the salty-minded; this is how the team at Four Pillars likes to drink them.


60ml Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin
20ml Maidenii dry vermouth
3 drops good extra virgin olive oil
Lemon peel
Green Sicilian olives in brine


Add gin and vermouth to a mixing glass with lots of ice. Stir until chilled and diluted to taste.

Strain into a cocktail glass that has been chilled in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

Twist the lemon peel over the drink to express the oils, then discard. Use a pipette or the end of a chopstick to add three drops of olive oil to the surface of your martini.

Serve with a side dish of as many Sicilian olives as you like.


Never Never’s Oyster Shell Tommy

“Our Oyster Shell Gin makes a better coastal ‘margarita’ than any of those cheap imported tequilas,” says Sean Baxter, co-founder of Never Never. “If someone was able to convince a bartender back in 2010 that tequila works in a Negroni, then I can get people to try Oyster Shell Gin in a margarita in 2023.”


60ml Never Never Oyster Shell Gin
30ml freshly squeezed lime juice
15ml agave nectar
Half a pinch of salt


Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. 

Shake furiously until the outside of the shaker gets frosty.

Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass rimmed with kelp salt.

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our fifteenth edition, Page 40 of T Australia with the headline: “Salty About Gin”

How Woodford Reserve and Maybe Sammy Are Making Your Home the Hottest Bar in Town

A collaboration between the bourbon maker and award-winning mixologists is empowering drinkers to flex their at-home cocktail skills.

Article by T Australia

woodford reserve_maybe sammy_1Photograph courtesy of Woodford Reserve.

As the cost of living appears to constantly rise, Australians are turning their homes into the most exclusive bars in town, heralding the emergence of the “Home Fashioned Cocktail Hour” as the latest affordable luxury trend. According to a recent national survey by the bourbon brand Woodford Reserve, 77 per cent of Australians are re-evaluating the expense of nights out, with 59 per cent finding them costly and 41 per cent confessing to spending over $150 per outing.

As a result, many are choosing to embrace the era of the ‘Home Fashioned Cocktail Hour’, with 49 per cent of Aussies now favouring a cocktail night with crudités over the traditional three-course dinner party (34 per cent).

Now, Woodford Reserve has partnered with Maybe Sammy, an award-winning bar, and interior designer and stylist Briellyn Turton to transform homes into the most coveted bars in town. Paolo Maffietti, Bar Manager at Maybe Sammy says that Aussies’ love for cocktails is the driving force behind the transformation.

“We want to help them get comfortable with their at-home mixology skills so they can relax and enjoy hosting their friends,” says Maffieti. As we see this rise of the cocktail hour sweep the nation, it’s really exciting to be able to bring this to Aussies’ homes.”

The partnership brings a luxurious twist to three classic cocktails, including the exclusive “Woodford Reserve Home Fashioned,” designed to impress your guests while keeping costs below $10 per guest. With simple recipes that require minimal ingredients and equipment, anyone can become a mixologist in the comfort of their own home.

Interior designer and stylist Briellyn Turton highlighted the allure of hosting at-home cocktail parties: “It’s such a great way to bring people together. Sometimes hosting can be intimidating when you don’t know what to do with your space,” she says. “It was exciting to partner with Woodford Reserve so we could help Aussies get their homes bar-ready, creating the perfect atmosphere.”

The research also uncovered the desire for more autonomy during social gatherings, with 50 per cent of Aussies choosing cocktail nights at home to curate their own music, 40 per cent to save money, and 34 per cent to craft a personalised experience.

The “Home Fashioned Cocktail Hour” is not just about sipping on expertly crafted drinks; it’s about the experience, the ambience (and the savings).

Happy Hour: 3 Tequila Cocktails to Start Your Weekend Right

Low-effort, maximum flavour drinks for tequila lovers.

Article by T Australia

818 tequila_1Photograph courtesy of 818 Tequila.

The celebrity wellness category has picked up momentum in recent years, thanks in part to GOOP’s Gwyneth Paltrow, growing in tandem with public interest in healthier, alcohol-free lifestyles. Alcohol consumption among adults has seen a decrease, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting that Australians are consuming less alcohol today than at any point in the last 55 years.

Despite these findings, celebrity booze brands are on the rise. The actor (and former T Australia cover star) Idris Elba founded Porte Noire Champagne with Connaught Cellars. George Clooney lends his star power to the Diageo-owned Casamigos, and Ryan Reynolds opted for clear spirits with his Aviation Gin.

It didn’t take long for the business-savvy Kardashians to make moves on the market, with the model Kendall Jenner launching her own brand, 818 Tequila, in 2021. Offering consumers a choice of Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, and an Eight Reserve, 818 embraces traditional practices – harvesting their agave plants at peak maturity after six to seven years, before slow-cooking each batch in traditional ovens for roughly 30 hours. Following tahona wheel extraction, the tequila is naturally fermented before distillation inside alembic copper pot stills, then aged in American and French oak barrels.

This month, the B-Corp certified 818 celebrates a new milestone: its official launch into Australia.

“We are thrilled to be launching 818 Tequila in Australia, and we hope that 818 will find success here as it has all over the world,” says Jenner of the brand’s Australian launch. “818 is all about a sense of community and bringing people together, and we think our ethos aligns perfectly with the Australian consumer.”

To celebrate the local release, try these three low-effort, max-flavour cocktails to ease you into the weekend.

818 tequila_5
The 818 Pura Margarita. Photograph courtesy of 818 Tequila.

818 Pura Margarita (Blanco)


60ml 818 Tequila Blanco
30ml fresh lime juice
30ml agave syrup (50 per cent agave nectar, 50 per cent water)


Shake all ingredients with ice.

Strain and serve over fresh ice.

818 tequila_2
The 818 Espresso Martini. Photograph courtesy of 818 Tequila.

818 Espresso Martini (Reposado)


60ml 818 Tequila Reposado
40ml chilled espresso
20ml coffee liqueur
5 ml cinnamon syrup (optional)
Espresso beans (for garnish)


Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice.

Shake for 15-20 seconds until foamy.

Strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass.

Garnish with three espresso beans and serve

818 tequila_4
The 818 Old Fashioned. Photograph courtesy of 818 Tequila.

818 Old Fashioned (Añejo)


75ml 818 Tequila Añejo
1 cube of sugar
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Splash of water
Orange peel


Add bitters, water, and sugar to the glass

Muddle to make a paste

Add an ice cube and tequila

Garnish with cocktail cherry and orange peel

Nothing To Mock: Modern Non-Alcoholic Cocktails to Savour After Dry July

As our resident drinks expert Fred Siggins discovers, alcohol-free cocktails are a serious proposition.

Article by Fred Siggins

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails_1Bouvardier’s Honey, I Burnt the Yoghurt cocktail. Photograph courtesy of Bouvardier.

When I first started bartending about 15 years ago, non-alcoholic cocktails, universally referred to as “mocktails” at the time, were a source of derision for most professional drink-slingers. Why waste precious energy mixing up a cocktail that made less money and wouldn’t even help you get drunk? But I always loved making them. 

Mocktails allowed me to share my craft and its associated culture with designated drivers, kids out for special birthday dinners, pregnant women who didn’t want to feel left out of the fun and anyone doing the hard work of being on the wagon in a society obsessed with intoxication. To me, it felt like noble work, because bartending is about more than getting people pissed; it’s about being a good host, no matter the needs of the person at the bar. 

Thankfully, the culture has changed dramatically in recent years, and despite a spike in pandemic-related alcohol consumption, there are more and more Australians now choosing not to drink for a night, a month or a lifetime. And where adult-oriented non-alcoholic drinks were once limited to a couple of flavourless zero-per-cent commercial beers, there’s now a profusion of non-alcoholic wines, craft beers and even spirit substitutes on the market.

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails_4
Bouvardia’s cocktail list changes with the seasons, refined behind the venue’s striking green marble bar. Photograph courtesy of Bouvardia.

Bartenders, too, have changed their tune on the once mocked mocktail, as most decent bars now offer at least one non-alcoholic cocktail on their menus and pride themselves on doing them well. At Melbourne’s high-concept Bouvardia, the team aims to challenge the perception that non-alcoholic and low-ABV cocktails are just some juice mixed with cordials. “We want to make sure that whether it has alcohol or not, every drink we offer is developed with the same thoughtfulness and inventiveness,” explains operations manager Zii Diggles. “Offering these non-alcoholic cocktails provides an inclusive space where everyone can indulge.”

Bouvardia’s list features “Honey, I Burnt the Yoghurt”, a non-alcoholic cocktail that’s one of the tastiest drinks on offer. Made with caramelised yoghurt, salted honeydew melon and Packham pear juice, its flavour is reminiscent of Yakult, yoghurt lassi, condensed milk and chai tea but more complex, light and subtle than any of the above, with a creamy sweetness masterfully balanced with lactic acidity.

At Sydney’s award-winning Maybe Sammy, a whole section of the menu is dedicated to non-alcoholic cocktails, despite the venue’s decidedly classic and booze-driven approach to drinking. Co-owner Stefano Catino says that having non-alcoholic options is part of making his bar as inclusive as possible. “Having a non-alc section on the list is really important to us because we don’t want people who aren’t drinking to feel awkward,” he explains. “I love non-alcoholic cocktails myself, especially when people put 100 per cent of their creativity into it.”

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails_3
Bouvardier’s Honey, I Burnt the Yoghurt cocktail. Photograph courtesy of Bouvardier.
Non-Alcoholic Cocktails_2
Photograph courtesy of Bouvardier.

When there’s not so much time for creativity, non-alcoholic spirit alternatives offer a simple solution for sober sipping. Lyre’s, for example, produces a range of zero-ABV “spirits” including everything from gins and rums to bourbon and tequila-style drinks. Cara Devine manages busy Melbourne rooftop bar Bomba and also hosts the popular YouTube channel “Behind the Bar”. She often makes use of Lyre’s products to make simple drinks for her teetotalling patrons and fans. “Lyre’s Italian Spritz has some bitterness and body to it like Aperol or Campari, so it works really well with StrangeLove Salted Grapefruit soda,” says Devine. “With some fresh fruit for garnish in the middle of summer it’s just as good as anything alcoholic.”

In today’s drinking culture, cocktails are more than just an alcohol delivery system with a silly name. They are about escapism, fantasy, frivolity, storytelling and socialising, stunning bars and special occasions. For drinkers being kind to their livers and brains by reducing or eliminating booze, all these beautiful aspects of cocktail culture should still be on the table.

The Potent Return of the Clarified Milk Punch

Dairy-based cocktails are a centuries-old tradition and have, in recent years, undergone a renaissance.

Article by Fred Siggins

Punch Room London 2Milk punch gets the floral treatment at the Punch Room at London’s Edition hotel. Photography courtesy of the Punch Room at Edition Hotel.

For most, the thought of adding booze to milk might recall the strange mid-20th-century libation known as the White Russian and its semi-ironic late ’90s revival thanks to the cult Coen Brothers movie “The Big Lebowski”. But dairy-based cocktails in the form of clarified milk punches are a centuries-old tradition and have, in recent years, undergone a renaissance. Featuring everything from Froot Loops-infused milk to curry leaves, they have become a fixture of high-end cocktail lists around the world. 

Clarified milk punch involves curdling milk with spirits and/or citrus juice, which turns it into a clumpy, disgusting mess. But when the mixture is strained and the milk solids removed, what’s left behind is a richly textured and delicious clear liquid. Light, silky and with a delightful complexity, these old-yet-new-again creations taste far better than they sound and offer a drinking experience unlike any other. 

“The textures you can achieve with a milk-washed and clarified cocktail are incredible,” says Jenna Hemsworth, a Sydney-based bartender and consultant. “They’re also a treat for guests who haven’t experienced them before, because the discrepancy between how the liquid looks and tastes is so striking.” Hemsworth is referring to the fact that milk punches end up almost completely clear once the liquid has been properly strained off but retain a smooth texture, along with the balancing tartness of the citrus and the undiminished taste of the other ingredients. The resulting drinks are both visually engaging and surprisingly full-flavoured. 

According to the cocktail historian David Wondrich, the earliest extant recipe for milk punch comes from a tattered manuscript by a housewife named Mary Rockett, dated 1711. Mrs Rockett’s version involves the rind and juice of eight lemons, a gallon (almost four litres) of brandy, two pounds of loaf sugar, grated nutmeg and two quarts of milk, curdled and strained. It’s enough to make a dozen 750-millilitre bottles, which will keep almost indefinitely due to the preservative powers of citrus, sugar and alcohol. 

Caretakers Cottage Milk Punch
Caretaker’s Cottage in Melbourne’s CBD adds whisky and tea to the mix. Photography by Fred Siggins.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, before the rise of the personal, single-serve cocktail, the preferred way to ingest spirits in company was punch. Fabulous concoctions of brandy and rum were mixed by the gallon with citrus, tea, cane sugar and spices, all of which were exotic and exciting ingredients at the time. Mixed in large, ornate bowls and served with matching cups, punch was enjoyed as a group throughout an evening of merrymaking. 

Countless recipes survive for these party-starting mixes, and every upscale tavern keeper, gentleman of means and proud hostess in the English-speaking world had their own version to wow their guests. These were the precursors to modern mixology and with them began the inspired naming of spirits-based drinks, lavish garnishes and theatrical preparation rituals; it was the birth of drinks as art. Throughout, clarified milk punch was a staple version of the colonial era’s trendiest drink.

By the middle of the 19th century, complex and time-consuming punches had fallen out of fashion, replaced by much simpler single-serve cocktails of the kind still enjoyed today. But recently, like so many of the laborious cookery techniques of the pre-industrial era, from craft beer to pickling to artisanal cheese, milk punch is making a comeback thanks to industrious modern gourmands. 

For those who want to experience the drink in a most luxurious setting, there’s the Punch Room at London’s Edition hotel, considered a world leader in modern interpretations of historical punch recipes. Decked out in dark brown leather, wood panelling and teal tufted velvet, the venue serves 30 different punches. Its signature milk punch includes pineapple, spices, Ceylon arrack (a Sri Lankan spirit made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers), Somerset cider brandy, Cognac, rum, oolong tea and full-fat milk. An early mover in the milk punch revival, the Punch Room has inspired a generation of bar professionals.

Firebird Milk Punch 1
The blend at Firebird in Prahran, Melbourne, features an infusion of Thai lime leaves and curry leaves. Photography by Fred Siggins.

After its initial popularity in Mrs Rockett’s time, milk punch had a good run for well over 100 years and was even bottled and sold commercially by various companies. Queen Victoria was so enamoured with the version produced by Nathaniel Whisson & Co that she named them “Purveyors of Milk Punch to Her Majesty”. The Melbourne-based cocktail bottler Loro is reviving this sort of classic recipe, teaming up with Mörk Chocolate to produce Cinnamon Bun Milk Punch with local rye whisky and orange liqueur. Loro’s innovative take turns a chunky slop of milk-soaked cinnamon buns into a high-class cocktail fit for a queen.

At Firebird in Prahran, Melbourne, milk punch gets an exotic twist with an infusion of coconut, Thai lime leaves and curry leaves. In Brisbane, at Savile Row, where the current drinks list is inspired by fabrics traditionally used by tailors on the London street from which the venue takes its name, bartenders serve a blend called Cashmere. Made with gin, macadamia liqueur, grappa, honey, apple juice and lemon, it’s designed to emulate the texture of that cloud-soft wool. 

“Pure cashmere is silky and feathery-light — a fabric of comfort and elegance,” says the senior bartender Andie Bulley. “Milk punch translates that amazing feeling to our palates. Using the soothing and familiar flavours of an apple martini, this drink also leans into the feeling of comfort we associate with cashmere.”

Vegans, do not lose heart. Should one want to try one of these elixirs without the animal product, Melbourne’s The Cloakroom Bar has a punch made with the milk of coconuts rather than cows. Gabrielle’s Punch, the work of the manager James Armstrong, includes a strawberry-infused blend of rums, as well as melon liqueur, strawberry and mint syrup, berry tea and a solution of acids designed to emulate the flavour of Champagne, all clarified with coconut milk. “I developed the drink to make milk punch available to people who are lactose intolerant or vegan,” Armstrong says. “The taste reminds me of strawberry Starburst with a toasted coconut element, but everyone who tries the drink finds a different flavour of something nostalgic to them, which I love.”

Nostalgic or new, the milk punch is here to stay, yet another old-time tipple made fresh by ever-expanding palates and crafty bar managers.

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our twelfth edition, Page 46 of T Australia with the headline: “Milk and Honey”

The ‘Summer in a Glass’ Bringing Together the Wine and Spirits Worlds

A once obscure aperitif from Normandy, France, is undergoing a tropical revival via luscious Australian fruit, native aromatics and bright graphics.

Article by Fred Siggins

Mistelle_1Økar’s modern take on mistelle shines in a Sundown cocktail at Fitzroy’s Black Pearl. Photography by Fred Siggins.

What do you get when you take fruit juice and fortify it with a spirit distilled from the same fruit? The French called it mistelle and for those in the know about this esoteric drink, it’s called delicious. With a long history in the wine and cider producing regions of France, this little-known tipple is making a comeback in Australia with new-wave brands capitalising on an abundance of excellent fruit and the younger generation’s willingness to try new things. 

Sweet, complex and bursting with fresh fruit character, mistelles are commonly served on the rocks as an aperitif, but they function just as well as a cocktail ingredient or as a bright and balanced after-dinner drink (they pair brilliantly with cheese).

Traditionally, mistelle is produced in either a pineau or pommeau style. The former refers to grape juice, usually from a particular wine varietal or region, which is  fortified with an eau de vie (unaged brandy) made from the same grapes. For example, juice from gewürztraminer grapes might be mixed with eau de vie de marc de gewürztraminer to make a gewürztraminer pineau. Similarly, in the case of pommeau, apple juice is mixed with an apple brandy from the same region. 

In Australia, these styles are hardly prolific but there are examples out there. Bremerton Wines in Langhorne Creek, SA, produces mistelle by fortifying juice from a special parcel of chardonnay grapes and maturing it in oak for at least 24 months. Adding the spirit prevents fermentation, ensuring the juice tastes fresh yet has the stability required for cask maturation.

“Our location — close to the south coast and Lake Alexandrina — influences our climate, allowing for lovely fruit flavour and sugar development while retaining natural acidity due to cool evening breezes,” says Bremerton’s winemaker and co-general manager Rebecca Willson. “I believe the natural acidity retention is perfect for a balanced, light fortified wine like mistelle.” 

Other examples include the Blanc and Rouge pineaus from Peacetree winery in Margaret River and a stunning apple pommeau from Tasmania’s Charles Oates (the spirits arm of the cider producer Willie Smith’s), which is readily available and well worth a try. 

Other producers are appealing to a younger generation of drinkers with interesting takes on the style, like Rhubi Mistelle, made from rhubarb juice, and Økar Tropic, which features moscato and gewürztraminer grapes aromatised with orange and native tamarind. The director of Økar, Brendan Carter, sees mistelle as a significant opportunity to bring together the country’s rapidly growing spirits industry and established wine industry in a unique way. “Given the explosion of gin over the last decade, the current wine surplus we have domestically and favourable taxation conditions for mistelles, you can see the potential for new and exciting vinous creations to hit the market,” says Carter.

As well as being very drinkable on their own, these modern mistelles have captured the imagination of Australia’s mixologists, finding their way onto cocktail lists across the country. Alejandro Archibald, the bar manager at the Flinders Lane restaurant Nomad, includes Økar Tropic in his seasonal spritz, a Bellini with verjuice-poached yellow nectarine, saffron, vanilla and prosecco. “It’s like biting into the best damn nectarine you’ve ever had in your life,” says Archibald, “except bubbly, a little more complex and stupidly refreshing.”

Perhaps the best incentive to crack open a couple of these wonderful bottles comes from the 2022 Drink Easy Awards, an annual competition that aims to find the country’s best wines, beers, spirits and alternative adult drinks. Taking out the No. 1 spot to be crowned “Best Drink in Australia” out of more than 1,000 entries was none other than Økar Tropic. The official judges’ feedback reads: “Glossy, full-flavoured, long and bitter. An absolute bloody winner over ice — this is summer in a glass.

The writer of this article was the head spirits judge at the 2022 Drink Easy Awards.

By Black Pearl

This drink is currently on the menu at the Melbourne cocktail institution Black Pearl in Fitzroy. Sweet, savoury and sparkling, it’s a warm-weather delight. 

30ml Økar Tropic
20ml Noilly Prat dry vermouth
10ml verjuice
10ml simple sugar syrup
7.5ml (1 1/2 tsp) mirin (Japanese
rice wine)
2.5ml (1/2 tsp) olive brine
80ml sparkling wine

Add all ingredients except
sparkling wine to a highball glass. Fill the glass with ice, top with sparkling wine and stir to combine. Garnish with a wedge of fresh orange skewered with
a Sicilian olive. Enjoy in the sun.

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our eleventh edition, Page 30 of T Australia with the headline: “Mistelle, My Belle”