Whether you’re a footy fan or not, it’s hard to avoid finals fever. And really, why would you? Victoria gets a public holiday on AFL Grand Final eve and New South Wales (conveniently) has one the day after.
Chris Hysted, World Class ambassador and bartender at the Black Pearl, says whenever you’re entertaining at home it’s important to make everything as easy as possible for yourself. “You want to be able to talk to and hang out with your friends,” he says. “You don’t want to be trapped in the kitchen shaking drinks.”
He has created a food and cocktail pairing to suit any stage of the game, meaning it’s tailored to the match and the atmosphere. As a Victorian, he naturally has the AFL in mind, but his plan can be adapted to suit any sporting event.
First quarter: Bloody Marys and sausage rolls
Hysted thinks there’s no better way to kick off the day than with a smart twist on a Bloody Mary. “The fresh vegetable juices awaken and freshen the palate,” he says, “so you’re ready for all the food ahead.”
Because the drink is tomato-based, Hysted suggests pairing it with mini sausage rolls. Save on washing up by using them as a cocktail garnish.
Makes one. Approximately 1.6 standard drinks.
50ml Ketel One vodka
1 x lemon wedge (squeezed)
50ml fresh tomato juice
50ml fresh cucumber juice
5 dashes green Tabasco sauce
A good pinch of salt
Stir all the ingredients together over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with a skewer of mini sausage rolls.
Second quarter: Boilermakers and party pies
An Esky of beer is a Grand Final tradition, but this year why not turn that beer into a Boilermaker instead? Hysted says pairing beer with a nice whisky is a classy start to the second quarter. It can also give your guests something other than the game to talk about if the score isn’t going your team’s way.
Boilermakers are also a perfect pairing for that footy favourite, the party pie. “The beer will help cleanse the palate, and the fruit and malt qualities of the whisky will help enhance the pie’s pastry and gravy,” says Hysted.
The orchard-fruit characteristics of Singleton Spey Cascade Scotch whisky match well with a lightly hopped beer, such as a pacific ale. If you’re not a beer drinker, cider works just as well.
Makes one. Approximately 2 standard drinks.
285ml fruity, hoppy beer (or cider)
30ml Singleton Spey Cascade Scotch whisky
Pour whisky into a glass tumbler and top with pacific ale.
Third quarter: Premiership Quarter Punch and sausages-in-bread
The all-important, defining third quarter. “This is the most exciting part of the day,” says Hysted. “You don’t want to be stuck behind a kitchen bench making drinks.” He recommends a batched cocktail – something that can be made in advance and stored in the fridge. When it comes time to serve, pour the cocktail into a punch bowl and guests can help themselves.
The Premiership Quarter Punch is a match for sausages if you fired up the barbeque during half time. “This light, aromatic punch pairs perfectly with classic snags in bread with sauce. The whisky works beautifully with the sausage, while the chamomile and tonic pair well with the ‘dead horse',” says Hysted.
Premiership Quarter Punch
Makes 10 serves. Approximately 1.9 standard drinks per serve.
450ml Bulleit Bourbon
250ml fresh lemon juice
150ml white-chocolate liqueur
150ml chamomile-infused Bianco Vermouth 1l tonic water
Build all the ingredients together in a large punch or mixing bowl and refrigerate until required. Serve over ice and garnish with a wheel of lemon.
Fourth Quarter: The Final Countdown and leftovers
You might be looking to celebrate; you might be feeling bitter. Hysted’s Final Countdown will suit either mood. It’s a four-part cocktail (a part for each quarter), and each part falls into three pillars: celebratory (tequila), bitter (Italian bitters) or sweet (vermouth and honey) category. “It’s also the colour of a brand-new Sherrin,” says Hysted.
The day’s food has mostly been abandoned by this point, too. The party pies are tepid, and fat is beginning to congeal on the sausages. But for when you do inevitably find yourself hovering over the table, picking at the leftover potato salad, this cocktail will help cut through any greasiness or richness.
The Final Countdown
Makes one. Approximately 1 standard drink.
15ml Don Julio Blanco tequila
15ml Italian bitters
15ml sweet vermouth
15ml honey water (two parts honey thinned with one part water)
Dash orange bitters
Stir all the ingredients together in a mixing glass over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the scent of victory.