Published on 21 October 2020
Melbourne Gin Company founder Andrew Marks stepped away from a career making wine at his family’s estate, Gembrook Hill, to learn the dark arts of distilling after challenging himself to create the perfect gin. Applying winemaking principles to the process of distilling gin, Marks isolated each botanical’s contribution to the overall flavour profile of his gin and then blended them to create something harmonious. After several years of R&D, he released the signature Melbourne Dry Gin in 2013, which went on to become a firm favourite both at home and in many G&Ts, Gibsons and Negronis mixed by some of Victoria’s best venues. Perfectionist that he is, Marks continued to experiment with distilling methods to create a follow-up gin, the Single Shot, in 2018. Alongside his gin pursuits, Marks continues to make wine in the Yarra Valley at Gembrook Hill and under his own label, The Wanderer Wines.
The last three delicious things I drank were a 2017 Gembrook Hill sauvignon blanc, a Paloma made at home with white tequila over a frozen grapefruit ice-block and topped with lemon, lime and bitters soda, and a Bees Knees. For the Bees Knees I used 40ml of Melbourne Gin Company Single Shot Gin, 20ml of lemon juice and 15ml of honey syrup, shaken and strained into a cocktail glass.
As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is City Wine Shop on Spring Street. It’s a great place to grab a bite and an interesting glass of wine at the bar or alfresco, or to take an aperitif before heading out to catch a show or dinner.
My favourite place to buy booze is… there are so many to choose from. Favourites include Prince Wine Store, Rathdowne Cellars, Blackhearts & Sparrows and the Seddon Wine Store. They all have great selections and service and they’re institutions in their neighbourhoods. To me, that’s the definition of a great local bottleshop.
When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I know that everything is back to normal and the pandemic is behind us.
The Victorian spirit I’m digging the most right now is the Victorian spirit of resilience with which we’ve all been dealing with the lockdown.
There’s no better value on a wine list or in a bottle-shop in this state than buying direct from the producer. Many are offering free delivery, which is a great deal in these times.
I’d love to see us distilling more Campari alternatives in Victoria so that we can come up with our own truly Victorian Negronis.
My guilty pleasure in the drinks cabinet is a birth-year bottle of Calvados, sitting in my drinks cabinet for special occasions. Calvados is an amazing drink: at its best, it captures the purity and freshness of apples in a spirit framework. Typically it comes out to cap off a meal when I’m catching up with old winemaking friends.
The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been in the last six months. With lockdown, we haven’t been able to dine out and there’s been a great return to home cooking and to eating and drinking at home. I think for many people it’s been a great opportunity to support local. People have been rediscovering their local suppliers, be it of beer, wine and spirits, or fish, meat and vegetables. I’m hoping it’s a trend that will continue – there are so many world-class producers right here in our backyard. Perhaps there’ll be a resurgence of the dinner party post-lockdown as people seek to impress their friends with their rediscovered culinary talents. That said, I can’t wait for the return of restaurants and bars, which contribute so much to our culture and the fabric of our society.
For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is Michael Madrusan. He’s brought a lot to the drinking culture of Melbourne with his bars The Everleigh, Heartbreaker and Bar Margaux. Each bar has great character and offers something a little different. The Everleigh is there when you want a high-end cocktail bar, where if you don’t know your Gimlet from your Tom Collins you can always go with a Bartenders’ Choice to end up with a delicious cocktail. Heartbreaker is a fun rock-and-roll dive bar, where a great jukebox meets New York-style pizza slices and anything can happen. Bar Margaux is more of a cocktail bistro with very late night service for the night owls among us. Top all that off with the Navy Strength Ice Company, which makes beautiful ice for the perfect drink, and you could say Michael has played a large part in shaping Melbourne’s drinks world of today.
You can stock the home bar with Melbourne Gin Company or add some wine from Gembrook Hill or The Wanderer to your next picnic; all are taking online orders. Follow @melbourneginco for drinks inspiration or @gembrookhill for the latest from the vineyard.
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