Festival season is heating up in the northern hemisphere, while us poor schmucks are stuck Down Under for the winter, shivering and enviously scrolling through Instagram. The folks at imaginative bar and soda factory PS40 feel our pain, and this weekend they’re launching PS40 Festivus: 10 festivals in one place, in drink form.
From Lunar Festival to Day of the Dead, Dark Mofo, Thanksgiving, Japan’s cherry blossom season and Oktoberfest, PS40 is distilling the spirit and energy of those events and celebrations into a series of drinks.
Harvest festivals, which are celebrated around the world throughout the year, are recreated with a cocktail of manzanilla sherry, peach oleo (butter) and fermented rice, reflecting the tradition of fermenting excess harvest produce into spirits.
HoagieNation, a festival created by musos Hall & Oates (Out of Touch, You Make My Dreams), has been reimagined in drink form with Aquavit (a Scandinavian spirit), Cynar (a bitter Italian liqueur), sherry, peach bitters and spiced oat (get it?) milk. The drinking vessel is wrapped in a banana leaf so it’s “out of touch”.
“A couple of the standouts for me are Harvest and Dark Mofo,” PS40 co-owner Michael Chiem tells Broadsheet. “Fermented products or fruit ‘wines’ are a big trend in the cocktail industry currently, but this fermented rice wine we make is no trend. It’s a traditional Korean drink called makgeolli, which takes at least 14 days to make. We use a recipe one of our bartenders Ho has dug up – it helps that he is Korean. It pairs really well with the sweetness of the peach, which we’ve been able to preserve since the last season, and the dryness of manzanilla sherry.
“Carbonated mulled wine [in the Dark Mofo], was a bit of a piss-take, because you’d expect a warm delicious drink during these wintery months. But this one is cold and fizzy.”
Non-drinkers will be catered for too, with PS40’s signature house-made sodas also available. Expect concoctions such as Myrtle Soda (lemon-myrtle extract and bubbles), Smoked Lemonade (water smoked by LP’s Quality Meats, lemon, lime zest and juice, rosemary and Murray River Salt) and Wattle Cola (toasted wattleseed, kola nut, vanilla, cinnamon, star-anise, nutmeg, citrus zest, ginger, lavender and coriander seed). PS40’s craft sodas are found at esteemed establishments such as Firedoor, Saint Peter and Bennelong, so you know they’re good.
Chiem says he came up with Festivus as a way to move towards “amping up our creative cocktail processes”, as he looks at moving PS40’s soda factory off-site.
“The task here was to do super interesting drinks that guests wouldn’t be able to replicate at home, but at the same time have them be able to relate to the drinks without needing to know everything about it,” he explains.
Chiem says there’ll be a series of events to tie in with the festive drink menu, but nothing has been locked in yet. And if he wasn’t stuck in Sydney brainstorming excellent drinks for its residents, which festival would he most like to visit?
“I'd probably go to Dark Mofo, even though it’s the closest one,” he says. “Each year it is so different. I think it’s got a very brave and bold approach to a festival, and you’d always be on the edge of your seat.”