Just before the turbulence of March 2020, Michael Bascetta (co-owner of Melbourne’s Bar Liberty, Capitano and Falco Bakery) – along with his team from hospitality-focused community hub and co-working space Worksmith – put on Melbourne Cocktail Festival.
The idea was simple: to champion the city’s world-class cocktail bars and the country’s booze producers. “We started Melbourne Cocktail Festival to enable bars and brands in Australia to really be able to be amplified and really celebrate cocktail culture in Melbourne,” Bascetta tells Broadsheet. “We felt that we have some brilliant cocktail bars in Melbourne, but cocktail culture was a little behind other places in the world.”
The pandemic kept Melbourne’s bars shut until late last year, so Bascetta took a virtual side-step with the launch of Good Spirits, a new online bottle shop, in November. It’s like a never-ending cocktail festival; it combines craft spirits and liqueurs from local producers with bottled and batched cocktails from some of Melbourne’s best bars.
Discovery is at the core of Good Spirits, and it’s not hard to descend into the lesser-known. It does monthly bottled-cocktail collabs, including one with Fancy Free that resulted in the Lassi Lassi Bang Bang: a two-serve blend of Bundaberg rum, coconut and mango that’s spiced then clarified, leaving it crystal clear. There’s also Black Pearl’s all-Aussie Tortuga, a riff on the classic Martinez cocktail, made with the bar’s own amaro, Never Never’s Triple Juniper gin, Marionette’s orange curacao and Unico Zelo’s yuzu vermouth. The Everleigh’s summer-ready range of spritzed bottled cocktails also makes an appearance.
There’s a handful of curated packs designed to help you grow your knowledge and appreciation of spirits and cocktails. The All Australian Pack includes Byrdi’s Smoked Apple Spritz, Tip Jar’s Australian Negroni and Black Pearl’s Tortuga.
Beyond cocktails, the whisky wizards at Melbourne’s Whisky and Alement are doing some zany boilermakers (a beer and whisky pairing). The latest is Dan’s Vanilla Doughnut, a combo of Dainton’s Apocalypso II Second Wave NEIPA (with a zombified Dan Andrews on the can) and a “juice bag” of Tassie whisky from Springvale Distillery.
Also expect a focus on vermouth. “[It’s] something that I’m personally really passionate about,” says Bascetta. “Eight years ago, I was [working as assistant manager] at Attica when Maidenii started … We actually bought the first two runs. Now it’s really coming to the fore with a lot more people drinking Negronis, which is really exciting, but also just drinking it straight up over ice or [with] soda.”
As life returns to some semblance of normal, Melbourne Cocktail Festival is bound for a return in 2021, but Good Spirits means it won’t just be for Melburnians. Expect digital classes and tastings, with taster packs to be sent out to accompany the events.
Good Spirits ships Australia-wide.