As bars embrace batched and pre-made cocktails, it’s becoming more common for them to package drinks up for us to take away – but that doesn’t mean a compromise on quality.
We spoke to some of the country’s top bars and bartenders who are bottling what they do best. Just add glassware, maybe a garnish if you’re feeling fancy, and you’re all set.
Antica Fashionista – Bar Americano
Melbourne’s Bar Americano has been batching and bottling cocktails since it launched in 2011.
“Batching eliminates much of the risk or sloppy lazy bartending,” says owner Matt Bax. “They’re superior to mixing on the fly … it's like making a good stock or soup. Would a chef start from scratch each time a soup is ordered?”
The latest is Bax’s twist on the Old Fashioned, called “Antica Fashionista”, dedicated to his friend Maurice Terzini, a luminary of the Sydney dining scene.
“It’s important the product brings something to the market that someone at home can't mix,” Bax says. “Our Antica Fashionista has 17 products in it, many of which are macerated and infused before mixing. That's not something people generally have time for.”
Bax is keeping the exact recipe close to his chest, but he reveals it features bourbon, house-made Amaro, and touches of Mediterranean herbs, fruit and spice (we paid a visit to push the bartender for the secrets but, like his boss, he stayed tight-lipped). Bax recommends serving it in a chilled glass with ice and an orange or lemon twist for garnish. It’s a long, spiced flavour experience and an ideal aperitif.
Antica Fashionista costs $35 for a 200ml bottle and $69 for 500ml. It’s available at select bottle shops and online.
Elderflower Gimlet – Cocktail Porter
If you’re all caught up with Maniac on Netflix, the Gimlet might be your new drink of choice, something that hasn’t escaped Tim Philips-Johansson, owner of Sydney’s Dead Ringer and Bulletin Place, and consultant at mixed drink subscription service Cocktail Porter.
“Perhaps this will be the beginning of a perfect marriage in popularising this fine cocktail,” Philips-Johansson says of his Elderflower Gimlet, which will be available online in a couple of weeks.
A Gimlet is typically made with two parts gin, one part lime juice, and soda. For Philips-Johansson’s version, he replaces the lime with elderflower syrup, and the gin with vodka. It’s a slightly sweeter experience, with floral and subtle with light citrus notes that work well alongside a mid-afternoon summer snack or as an aperitif.
Traditionally a Gimlet is served in a pre-chilled glass (sans ice) but Philips-Johansson is happy to break the rules – especially if you’re outside in the Australian summer. Just add a lime twist.
The Elderflower Gimlet launches on November 6, and costs $17, or $45 for three. More information here.
Salt and Pepperberry Negroni – The West Winds Gin
Bottled cocktails are wonderful, but how about cocktails in a can? And we don’t mean a tinnie. We mean an old-school tuna can. Continental Deli in Sydney nails it with its “Can-Hattan”, but it’s only for drinking-in.
The West Winds Gin, in Margaret River, WA, released its gin and tonic in a conventional can a while back, leading head distiller Mitch Keane to ask himself, “What else can we put into a can?” The answer: the Salt and Pepperberry Negroni, released in small tins earlier this year. It quickly sold out, but a new batch is in the works for release on December 1.
Keane’s recipe uses Broadside Salty Navy Strength Gin (made with salt water and sea parsley), with two Tasmanian pepperberries dropped into each tin before sealing. The hurdle, once he decided on the packaging, was actually getting the drink inside. It took a while to find a helping hand.
“We found a guy with a massive canning machine, from the 1920s or something, cast iron monster of a thing,” Keane says. “We spent a day – I was measuring out Negroni and he was canning them.”
Keane traces the idea back to Victoria’s Meredith Music Festival, where he says he was stuck drinking cans of Gordon’s gin and tonic. Now? “We’ve just upped our festival game.”
The Salt and Pepperberry Negroni costs $10 per 100ml tin, and will be available online from December 1.
Small Batch Bathtub Cut Negroni – Prohibition Liquor Co
Prohibition Liquor Co’s bottled Negroni began as a way to show off its Bathtub Cut Gin, served at its stall at Adelaide Central Market.
“Every second person that came through said, ‘Right, I’ll grab a bottle of that to take’,” says co-founder Adam Carpenter. At the time, he was telling people cocktails don’t go in bottles. “In the end we worked out we were the stupid ones, because we kept saying no.”
Carpenter’s plan was to make it a truly Australian Negroni, starting with gin, Applewood Okar Amaro and unfiltered Maidenii sweet vermouth, and adding native ingredients including thyme, tart Davidson plum, finger lime and strawberry gum. The combination has a surprising coffee note to it, and is less bitter than a traditional Negroni.
“You don’t get the bite of bitterness that you do from Campari, but what it replaces that with is 60 botanicals,” says Carpenter. “So you get length and depth of character.”
The bottles are 500ml, which he says will pour just over eight 60ml Negronis. “Put it over some ice, with a bit of orange peel, and you’re done.”
Prohibition Liquor Co’s Small Batch Bathtub Cut Negroni costs $100 for 500ml, and is available online here.
Blood Orange and Bitters Spritz – Sofi Spritz
We’ve all seen it. Over the last few years, in sunny beer gardens around Australia, a steady increase in people sipping on spritzes. After years of quietly kicking along, the bubbly bittersweet drink has well and truly made a return.
Sofi Spritz was created by Tom Maclean, who was inspired by aperitivo culture in Italy to quit his job in finance and dedicate his life to cocktails. In this version of the Italian classic, Maclean combines Aussie riesling, bitters, blood orange and sparkling water. It’s not as bitter as more traditional versions, but not overly sweet either.
“If [you] like it a little bit more bitter, maybe add a squeeze of lemon or lime, or if you like it sweeter you can [add] peach or berries,” he says. “Some people add a bit more alcohol like gin or vodka, or even soda water to cut it back.”
A four-pack of Blood Orange and Bitters Spritz costs $16.99. It’s available at bottle shops and online.
Vodka Soda – Vodka Soda &
This one might seem like a bit of an outlier. It’s basic on all fronts, with simple black-on-white packaging and only two ingredients (the name is the clue).
It’s not a complex cocktail balancing an array of big flavours, but sometimes that’s a nice refreshing change. It comes in a tinnie with a 360 tearaway lid, which comes off in its entirety leaving you with a pretty handy vessel for summer drinking. Being a simple vodka and soda with no sugar or sweeteners (not even a squeeze of lime), this drink gives you a lot of space to add your own garnish, dash of citrus, fruit pulp or fresh herbs – and it’s only 73 calories a serve.
Vodka Soda & is available in bottle shops across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and ships nationally. More info and stockists here.