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You needn’t look much further than the back of any good bar to know that Australia is in the midst of a craft spirit boom. At the forefront of this resurgence is gin, an oft-maligned spirit whose versatility, from distillation to drink, is casting the herbaceous tincture in a striking new light.

“As part of the craft cocktail movement in Australia, bartenders as a whole have rediscovered a love of gin and the versatility it provides with flavours,” says Samuel Ng, a brand ambassador for Four Pillars, the artisan gin distillery at the forefront of Australia’s boutique booze brigade. “Gone are the days of seeing a terrible, rough and watery G&T as the only gin drink on offer, made with no love and care. Then, on top of that, [there’s] the amazing produce Australia has access to [that] has got everyone excited about the gin we can make here.”

Distillers like Four Pillars’ Cameron Mackenzie are pushing the boundaries of the spirit, says Ng, which in turn is fuelling the creativity of Australia’s bartenders. The effect is, naturally, a trickle down one that in turn whets the appetite of the customer. The demand is palpable enough that venues like Melbourne’s The Mill House are staging dedicated events like The Gin Club, launching August 31, to help educated drinkers in what he describes as “a really fun and relaxed environment.”

It’s part of a broader effort by publicans, distillers and devotees alike to dispel once popular notions that the drink is, to turn a phrase, the ruin of mothers. “All of these [misconceptions] are not true whatsoever,” says Ng, who has spent the better part of the last decade working in bartending, beginning with a notable stint working under Paul Wilson during his tenure at South Yarra’s Botanical, before spending four years (two at the helm) of Melbourne’s world-famous Black Pearl in Fitzroy. It was under his supervision that the bar won its first Spirited Award for Best International High Volume Cocktail Bar. “If you’re sad, and you drink, chances are you’ll probably get sadder,” he continues. “If you’re happy, you’ll have a cracking time! Gin that’s made poorly will taste rough, and the bitter component comes from quinine-heavy tonic, not from the gin.

“All cocktails are about balance, both between the ingredients that you use, and also the right amount of dilution. A fantastic bartender will take what you feel like drinking at the time, and translate to the flavour in the glass, and the perfect amount of dilution so you get the full flavour of gin as well as all its supporting flavours.”

Below, Ng shares with GRAZIA a recipe for a gin-based cocktail that celebrates both the increased care with which we’re approaching the spirit as well as the advent of gin season, amongst other things.

“Coming into the warmer months, we crave things that are lighter to match with the weather. All the ingredients in this drink are designed to usher us into the warmer end of the year, with stone fruits coming into season. The ingredients are light and bright. Gin and apricots match beautifully; lemon gives it a lovely, sharp fresh element with the honey taming the acid. A little bit of absinthe gives it a lovely fresh, floral element on the nose without being imposing.

“Making this at home, if you don’t have an atomizer, you can put the absinthe in the cocktail, I would say half a teaspoon, so about 2ml. When you shake the cocktail, use as much ice as will fit into the shaker and don’t over shake. Four or five seconds as hard as you can is probably enough. Strain the cocktail over some fresh ice.

“This is delicious at any time, especially with some friends at The Mill House, where it is being served exclusively to launch its Gin Club events.”

Flinders Lane Fling
45ml rare dry gin
15ml apricot brandy
25ml lemon juice
10ml honey water (2:1 honey:water)
shake and strain over ice.
Splash of soda water (30ml)
Garnish with a few pumps from an atomiser of absinthe and a small rosemary spring

Credit: Courtesy of The Mill House

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