Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tonics and gins: news round-up

Dutch Courage Officers Mess, Brisbane

There are all sorts of interesting things happening at the moment in the world of local tonics and gins, so I thought I'd list them all in the one place in this here round-up.

Blood Moon Tonic

There are just THREE DAYS LEFT to pledge for Blood Moon Tonic, so what are you waiting for?

If you missed my earlier spruiking of it on social media, Blood Moon Tonic is a new business run by my very good friend Karolina. She's producing Australia's first handcrafted tonic syrups for commercial sale, using whole cinchona bark instead of the synthesised quinine and artificial flavours used in most sugary commercial tonic water.

For those who haven't tried tonic syrups before, they're a bit like cordial in that you dilute them with sparkling/soda water (or still water, if you prefer) to your desired strength. You can drink it with gin or other spirits, or as a grown-up non-alchoholic beverage, or even use the concentrated syrup as a cocktail ingredient.

There are three initial flavours: one traditional recipe, one with Australian native botanicals, and one which is wholly unsweetened (ideal for those who are quitting sugar or who prefer to add their own non-sugar sweetener like stevia). I was lucky enough to taste some test samples in June and can confirm they are the bee's knees - I love being able to tinker with my tonic strength depending on which gin I'm drinking. But don't just take my word for it: Mr Max Allen wrote a terrific article in The Australian about Blood Moon Tonic and what he thought of the syrups.

My gal Karolina is doing the whole thing by hand, grinding up spices in her mortar and pestle. To kickstart producing Blood Moon Tonic in commercial quantities, she launched a crowdfunding campaign on Pozible which has been wildly successful (she met her initial target of $10k in less than three days!) and which ends on Friday. Pledge before Friday by pre-purchasing some tonic syrup and you'll be getting numbered bottles from the first batch, delivered just in time for Christmas. Get on it pronto, people! I'll see you at the launch party.


Blood Moon Tonic

Daylesford and Hepburn Mineral Springs Co.

Also in Victorian tonic news, it's awesome to see that Daylesford and Hepburn Mineral Springs Co has launched what they believe to be the world's first certified organic tonic water, using their terrific natural carbonated spring water and quinine from chinchona bark (read their lively blog post about the process here). Barely a month since it launched, but already an Australian Made Award finalist at the Fine Food Australia expo last week. I haven't got my mitts on a bottle yet, but am really keen to do so - if you'd like to do the same, check the DHMSCO website for stockist details.

Photo source

And in gin news:

- Later this week Yarra Valley distillery Four Pillars Gin is launching its 'Gunpowder Proof' navy strength gin, which clocks in at a hearty 58.8% booze by volume. The Gunpowder Proof replaces half of the oranges used in production with NSW finger limes (a native botanical also found in Stone Pine Distillery's dry gin) and will be a limited 2015 release, produced only while finger limes are in season. To get your hands on a bottle, place an order on the Four Pillars website from Friday.

Photo source

- Sydney has its first local gin! Newtown brewers Young Henrys launched their Noble Cut gin on the weekend at the Small World Street Festival in Marrickville (Broadsheet has photos). As noted by Callan Boys in Good Food, the Young Henrys Noble Cut gin is made with hops, cascara, Australian green tea, native pepperberry, coriander, bush tomato, juniper, coriander, angelica root and other botanicals. Look out for it soon in discerning stockists near you.

Photo source

- Here's a fun upcoming gin event: the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) is holding a pop-up gin bar *inside* the Old Melbourne Gaol on Friday 17th October. I went along with friends to a pop-up whisky bar in the Gaol that NTAV ran earlier in the year (pictured below), and we had heaps of fun wandering in and out of the cells, learning about single malts and 19th century penal reform. The $40 ticket price includes two drinks from a selection of gins and gin-based cocktails (or wine or beer, but come ON), with additional drinks available for purchase and an optional Gin Mare masterclass for an extra $15. There'll also be food, a band and uniformed sergeants rattling batons menacingly along the prison railings, to really get you into the gaolhouse spirit. Bookings can be via Trybooking here (and NTAV will also be getting piratey on 21st November with a pop-up rum bar on the Polly Woodside (!), bookings for which can be made here).

Pop up bar at Old Melbourne Gaol

- Mornington Peninsula distillery Bass & Flinders has been running a great series of gin masterclasses, both at the distillery in Red Hill and in Melbourne, which give participants the opportunity to not only learn about gin but to play with different botanical distillates to create their ideal blend. At the end of the class you get your own bottle blended to your specifications! The October masterclass held at Southbank's Wine House has sold out, but keep an eye on the Bass & Flinders website and FB page for the November and December masterclass dates that will be announced shortly.

Dutch Courage Officers Mess, Brisbane

(By the by, gin lovers: if you find yourself in Brisbane anytime soon you MUST visit the newly opened gin bar Dutch Courage Officers Mess - 105 gins and counting! I was up in Brisbane on the weekend speaking at the Eat Drink Blog conference, and went to the bar with Elly from gin blog The Ginstress and some other conference delegates. I *ahem* got through five gins - just 100 to go next time...)

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Shortstop Coffee & Donuts comes to Melbourne (batter up)

Shortstop Coffee & Donuts
12 Sutherland Street, Melbourne (map)
9642 0807
Open Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 4:30pm
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Urbanspoon

Earl Grey and rose

Yesterday saw the soft opening of Shortstop Coffee & Donuts, a cafe in a sidestreet off Little Lonsdale bringing next-next-level donuts to the hungry masses. Shortstop is the brainchild of Anthony Ivey (who just under a year ago teamed up with the guys from Doughboys Doughnuts to run Melbourne's first coffee-and-donuts pop-up) and his kitchen guru Sinye Ooi. Open Monday to Friday (sorry, weekenders), but with plans to open on weekends down the track.

Shortstop Coffee & Donuts

Much like Anthony's previous longtime employer Market Lane Coffee (which serves specialty coffee, no decaf, no skinny milk, no tea), Shortstop has a similar purity of vision coupled with an absolute dedication to quality. They do excellent coffee and they do excellent donuts, and that's the whole menu. The meticulous consideration that Anthony and his team have given every step of the project - the extensive overseas research followed by months of recipe testing, the selection of flavours and ingredients, the chic fitout, the branding etc - has been evident to those of us who've followed Shortstop's realisation over the last year. The coffee is Market Lane, natch, and you can have it black or with Schultz organic milk.

Shortstop menu

In addition to the fluffy yeast-raised ring and filled donuts more commonly seen around Melbourne, Shortstop is serving cake donuts (made from a moist crumb cake batter) and French cruller donuts (made from choux pastry and piped by hand). I tried a few cake donuts on my US trip last year and wanted to reacquaint myself, so I tried the beautifully perfumed Earl Grey and rose: Earl Grey cake with an injection of lemon myrtle and a rose water and rose petal icing. What really stood out for me was the nuanced flavour of the dough - in my experience, some of the other fancy donut places around town tend to coast on the flavour in their glazes or toppings, with somewhat flavourless dough. That wasn't the case here.

Earl Grey and rose

I also had a taste of the banana and chocolate hazelnut cake donut (I'm breaking my usual rule about photos of half-eaten food in order to show you the banana cream custard hiding inside). Shortstop makes its gianduja (Nutella-like spread) from scratch. Totally worth the sugar headache I had later in the day.

Banana and chocolate hazelnut

A heads up before you visit: don't be surprised if there's a queue. And although the generously staffed kitchen will be baking fresh batches of donuts continuously throughout the day, some flavours will probably be unavailable when you saunter in. The good news? To be guaranteed the flavours you want, you can pre-purchase your donuts the day before (orders placed by 1pm can be collected the next day; minimum of 5 donuts per order) via Shortshop's nifty website. Everybody wins!

Shortstop donuts