Agave fields.

During the early 1900s cocktails were all the rage from Europe to America, particularly centred around the cities of Milan and New Orleans. The Italians perfected aperitifs and amaros; the French, liqueurs and pastis and the Americans led with bitters and of course spirits. Strong spirit producing countries, like Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland and Russia, were largely unaffected by the cocktail craze and their love of straight spirits eventually spread all over the world. Straight spirits continued to gain popularity and, by the 1960s, easily outsold cocktails on a world scale. 

This started to change when global drink-driving laws were implemented. Straight spirit consumption waned and lower alcohol drinks, like wine and beer, gained a serious foothold. Then, as happens in the fashion industry in a much shorter time-span, cocktails came back into vogue.

Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant without a decent cocktail list, probably with a couple of house cocktails and a good selection of cocktail ingredients. Speciality bars started springing up world-wide, from whisky to gin to dedicated cocktail bars, with everyone outdoing each other in assortment, variety and showmanship.

Australia has produced its own whisky for quite a while, but distilleries are now all the rage and spirits that do not require an expensive wood regime and prolonged ageing are at the forefront of the country’s spirit production and consumption. Australia makes world class gin and other white spirits – a Tasmanian distillery has beaten the Mongolians at their own game, producing a whey vodka that is simply outstanding. The country now produces its own aromatised wines (e.g. vermouths), amaros and bitters, all finding their way into a plethora of cocktail bars across the country and overseas. What used to be a simple science has grown into an industry producing syrups, fruit essences and speciality mixers.

You only need a few utensils to make a variety of cocktails: cocktail shaker, strainer, bar spoon and nip measure. You can of course expand from there to such tools as ice block moulds and absinthe spoons. The possibilities are endless. 

Tip of the Ice

To produce clear ice cubes, you need to start with clean water (I use bottled water). Boil the water twice then fill your ice mould. Cover with plastic wrap before placing it in the freezer.

I like to serve some spirits ‘on the rocks’, literally. I do not like the dilution you get with ice, so this is what I suggest: go to the beach and find round, preferably granite, pebbles about the size of a 10-cent piece. Boil them in salted water twice, then once in plain water. Leave to dry then place into the freezer. These rocks will hold their temperature as long as the average ice cube but won’t dilute the drink. 

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Cocktails

Aussie Lafayette
French Vermouth
Dubonnet
Fleurieu Distillery Single Malt Whisky
In an old fashioned glass pour 1 part vermouth, 1 part Dubonnet, 6 parts whisky and stir together with as much ice as you like. Note on the French Vermouth: this is where you control the sweetness of the cocktail. You can use anything from a bone dry vermouth to a sweet one.

Bitter Sweet
Wonderfully refreshing and so easy to make.
60ml Fernet Branca Menta
lemonade

Pour Fernet Branca Menta into a wine glass and fill up with ice and lemonade. Stir and serve. 

Campari Shake
This is an unusual but delicious mix of Campari and grappa. 
Campari
grappa

Vigorously shake 4 parts Campari with 1 part grappa and lots of shaved ice for at least 3 minutes and strain into a tumbler. The secret here is the longer and more vigorously you shake it, the better the end result. It should be quite frothy.

Dark Ayudacal
Michelada is a Mexican beer cocktail which mixes beer with lime, chilli, salt, soy and Worcestershire sauce, but I find it too chewy for Australian summers. Here’s my version:
1 bottle Modelo Negra (Mexican dark beer)
1 tablespoon Crawley’s agave syrup
juice of 1 lime
lime wedge to garnish
Pour lime juice into a beer glass. Add agave syrup and top up with beer. Garnish with lime wedge.

Horse Neck Spritzer
30ml applejack
1 lemon
ginger ale
Peel lemon in one continuous motion and place the peel in a Collins glass with enough peel overhanging for it to stay in place. Add applejack and ice, stir then fill up with cold ginger ale. 

Negroni Sbagliato
Directly translated: a spoilt Negroni. It seems a barman inadvertently used Prosecco instead of gin and a new cocktail was born.
Campari
Punt e Mes
Prosecco

Put equal parts Campari and Punt e Mes in an old fashioned glass, add an ice cube, stir and fill it up with ice-cold Prosecco. 

Rows of Roses
Did you know the largest rose garden in the southern hemisphere is only 15 minutes from the distillery that makes this rose vodka?
60ml Twenty Third Street Distillery Riverland Rose Vodka
lemonade
dried rose petal to garnish
Pour vodka into a highball glass, add ice and stir. Fill up with lemonade and garnish with rose petal.

Seriously Nutty Piper
Pfeiffer Seriously Nutty Apera (a seriously good, Australian apera, formerly allowed to
be called sherry)
Ron Zacapa Sistema Solera Rum
Mix equal quantities of the apera and rum. Pour into a cocktail glass with one large cube of ice. Stir well and serve.

Trinidad Sour
Cocktail conceived by Giuseppe Gonzalez while he was at the celebrated Clover Club in Brooklyn. It’s different and it’s really good to boot.
90ml Angostura bitters
60ml Crawley’s Orgeat
45ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
30ml Michter’s Straight Rye Whiskey
1 egg white

Combine the bitters, orgeat, lemon juice, rye whiskey and egg in a cocktail shaker. Seal and perform a vigorous dry shake for 30 seconds, then add the ice. Shake again for 30 seconds, and divide evenly between two cocktail coupes.

Whiskey Swizzle
30ml green Chartreuse
50ml lime juice
2 drops Angostura bitters
60ml Koval Single Barrel 4 Grains Whiskey
mint leaf to garnish
Mix ingredients with lots of shaved ice. Shake, strain into a wine glass. Garnish with mint.

White Negroni
My favourite take on a Negroni.
Mezcal Vago
Suze
Cinzano Bianco
orange slice to garnish
Pour 1 part Mezcal Vago, 1 part Suze and 1 part Cinzano Bianco into an old fashioned glass. Stir well. Add one large block of ice. Garnish with orange. 

White Velvet
I like to make this as a long drink, serving it in a large wine glass.
Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin
Cointreau
pineapple juice
Combine 8 parts gin with 1 part Cointreau and 2 parts pineapple juice. Add ice, stir and serve.