It was a throw away line from a dear friend of mine last Christmas; “you should come and visit me in Oz next year”, she said with her trademark enthusiasm. “Yeah, sure thing” I said, laughing and rolling my eyes. A week later I’d googled flights, researched where I’d like to go and was just about to send my holiday request to work. With the big three-O a mere 18 months away I had a carpe diem moment, yes I could go to Australia, on my own and drink all the delicious wine. So I did exactly that.
I hadn’t realised how freakin’ huge Australia was so careful planning was crucial and I had to conceed that I couldn’t do it all in two weeks. I flew to Sydney and spent four days exploring the beaches, nearby Blue Mountains and eating the most amazing brunches. I stayed in the very hip Surry Hills and it was love at first sight, the architecture was amazing and nestled in between the beautiful houses were amazing coffee shops, galleries and vintage clothing shops.
Much like in the UK, craft spirits are big in Oz. I’d heard about Archie Rose distillery from someone in a bar on my first night, (I figured out quickly that you’re never sat alone in a bar in Australia for very long.) Based in the Sydney suburb of Rosebery they are the first distillery in the city for over 160 years! Their bar was incredibly chic but somehow understated at the same time, I spent the first 5 minutes drooling at their quirky and very well stocked back bar. I then noticed the very handsome bar staff and so turned my attention accordingly.
My pal and I had a very fun and informative tour around the distillery which for just over a tenner is brilliant value as it included a tasting too. We tried vodka, gins and my personal favourite, their white rye. It’s basically a rye whisky before it becomes an actual whisky which, in Australia, means two years ageing (three in Scotland by comparison). Kind of sweet, smokey, delicate and oh so fun to use in cocktails.
The bar was surrounded by barrels of their whiskies, patiently ageing and also teasing the likes of me who was desperate for a sneaky taste. Plenty of delicious cocktails followed and after a bit of a lock-in and a Spotify-off, I left feeling wonderfully tipsy, educated and then sad that this place wasn’t in my neighbourhood back home. If you’re ever in Sydney, I couldn’t recommend these guys enough, they’re really going places. I would hang out here every weekend if I could.
I’d been told that Manly Beach was where the cool kids hung out and that I had to visit the hot-off-the-press distillery; Manly Spirits Co. Founders David and Vanessa have teamed up with fellow Brit Tim (a friend of a friend) who’s kicking some distilling ass. He’d earned his gin stripes after working as the Global Brand Ambassador for Beefeater for many years so is pretty much a gin King. In their very stylish tasting bar I got good and merry trying their gin and vodkas. Using their Terra Firma vodka, Tim made me the most delicious espresso martini, it was all about the roasted wattleseed (y’know, wattleseed) that made it chocolate-y, earthy and nutty. Delish.
These guys are all about making the most of their surroundings, there’s a dude who is a pro forager and sources local marine botanicals that means their gin really stands out. Tim is also in the whisky game, sadly I was a few years too early to have a try, damn regulations. Send me a bottle when it’s ready, yeah?
Catch the very reasonably priced ferry to Manly Beach in the morning, eat your way along the boardwalk whilst checking out the toned and tanned physiques playing beach volleyball, a cliché I know but a great one. Hop in cab up to the distillery and work your way through their boozy flights, have a tour too. When you’re done, pop next door to the 4 Pines Brewery for a refreshing and freshly brewed beer. I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend a day.
Since I was heading to wine country in a few days, I made Sydney all about cocktails and boy, did they deliver. The boutique spirit boom is still in its infancy which is very exciting. In the next few years there’ll be loads of distilleries popping up all over the place so it was very special to meet those at the forefront, passionately leading the charge.