From above storied Lygon Street grocer King and Godfree, Johnny’s Green Room is back after months of renovations with a fresh lick of paint, a menu written by Karen Martini and drinks by ex-Bar Americano bon vivant Matthew Bax. Throw in music direction by the team at Hope Street Radio and you have yourself one heck of a Carlton evening
So, what do people want to drink as the sun sets across Melbourne? Which cocktails sing alongside a slice? Here’s drinks aficionado Matthew Bax with Johnny’s Green Room in three drinks.
I came to know this drink during my time in Munich. The Germans are an unlikely barometer of worldwide cocktail trends but a barometer nonetheless, evidenced in their early adoption of the Caiparinha and Aperol Spritz. I would argue Germany has done more for the promotion of some cocktails than their countries of origin. The Hugo is another example. Hailing from the Dolomites in South Tyrol, the Hugo is so popular in parts of Europe that it has become a victim of its own success. It’s not often considered in depth, and I think it goes a little unappreciated for its simple and floral formula of deliciousness. At Johnny’s Green Room, we have our very own market garden, so when I first set my eyes on the luscious bounty of mint my mind immediately landed on the mint-forward Hugo. I wanted to add a little more punch to the original, so I’ve worked gin into the recipe and replaced the utterly useless soda water (in my opinion) for a beautiful bianco vermouth. The concoction comes alive with fresh lime and a generous splash of prosecco.
Championing the spirit of sprezzatura with this drink. The Italian penchant for effortless elegance. Would you rather enjoy a gelato or a spritz on a hot summer’s day? Let us spare you the pain of that choice. Here at Johnny’s Green Room our extended family includes the best gelato in Australia: Pidapipo. It would be a sin not to incorporate this product into our drinks program. Our first collaboration is an interpretation of the 16th-century Venetian palate cleanser, the Sgroppino. It’s also a little nod to Bondi’s Icebergs dessert where our chef Karen Martini, together with Maurice Terzini, redefined modern Australian Italian cuisine. The cocktail is essentially a lemon vodka Spritz, lightened with prosecco and finished with a serve or freshly whipped Pidapipo limone sorbetto. It’s a super-fresh, fun, grown-up version of a spider.
Our DNA is proudly Italian, but the Margarita is still in high rotation even on the Amalfi Coast. My first menu for Johnny’s is somewhat of a tipsy road trip around Italy. Each drink tells a little story of the gastronomic diversity of the country. Our version of a Spicy Marg takes us to Calabria with the use of peperoncino chilli, which dominates their epic “la cucina povera” cuisine. The normal suspects line up in this one, alongside peperoncino-aged reposado tequila. We took a great deal of time working with the kitchen team to develop the perfect spiced salt for the rim. Being a rooftop we serve all our Margaritas on the rocks to ensure the freshest, coldest version of this classic. We feel incredibly lucky to be working with such a celebrated brigade of chefs, so this drink includes another nod to the kitchen and their amazing pizzas. The Peperoncino Margarita is finished with a drizzle of house chilli oil.