A collaboration of Tony Conigliaro of East London’s Drink Factory and Ashley Palmer-Watts, Chef Director of Dinner by Heston (Melbourne & London), has resulted in a cocktail list utterly unique and, in part, influenced by Australia’s maritime history.

As head bartender Darren Leaney of Dinner by Heston Melbourne explains, research into the history of alcoholic beverages and cocktails in particular can be sketchy at best, but small nuggets of information can be plucked from the history books to illuminate origins and reference British colonial times. The following four cocktails developed for Dinner by Heston Melbourne are some of our favourites. These pre-dinner drinks are also illusions of a sort, as weird and wacky as anything you’d expect from the land of Blumenthal. The seemingly impossible taste sensations of these re-crafted classics will have you coming back for more.

Olive Leaf Martini (c 1930)

Subtle Ligurian olive aromatics add a superbly tight and focused sweet character to this martini. It also features delicate rose water and honeysuckle hints of flavour from the beautifully blended dry vermouth. Darren explains that a rotary evaporator is used to distill the vodka with olive leaves. The resulting new vodka, rich with an olive grove aroma, features an additional herbaceous pungency and is blended with the dry vermouth – an element that adds complexity but doesn’t overpower. This is one seriously delightful martini.

Bloody Mary (c 1920)

Vodka re-distilled with Worcestershire sauce and horseradish adds depth of spice to (Dinner by) Heston’s Bloody Mary – a drink that seems perhaps more consommé than cocktail (if you can imagine an almost gin-clear chilled Spanish gazpacho with the delicate appearance of a French consommé). Confused? Well, that’s all part of the magic. The base of the drink is a fine broth made from tomato, miso, carrot, onion, mushroom, celery, leek and garlic, finished with atomised oil of celery, verjus and pepper distillate. The complete cocktail is clean tasting yet brilliantly complex with layered vegetable flavours. Aromatics of tomato, pepper and celery combine to make this an enriching and invigorating yet delicate aperitif.

Terroir Barossa (c 2012)

Flint, clay and silver needle tea are each distilled with vodka to create Terroir Barossa, a cocktail that features sandstone-like layered aromas of benzoin (resin obtained from the bark of the Styrax benzoin tree, often used as a fixative to slow the release of essential oils in perfumery), labdanum (plant resin obtained from Mediterranean shrubs of the rockrose family) and vanillin. Despite the earthy ingredients, when chilled and blended with sugar syrup, the palate sensation is so far removed from any regular cocktail offering we’ve tried that is seems absolutely other-worldly. Study its aromas carefully though and subtle mineral fragrances – perhaps subconsciously burned in the mind – reveal themselves. There are fleeting hints of wet flint, damp hay and, strangely, a cold morning’s winter garden. It seems Tony and Ashley have somehow managed to distill the very essence of morning dew. It’s sheer magic.

Cider Gimlet (c 1500)

Dinner by Heston’s cocktail bar menu explains how as early as 1497 foods rich in vitamin C were used by explorers to spare sailors from the disease scurvy. It was found the vitamin could be preserved by adding fruit to alcoholic spirits. Flavour-wise, the sharpest tool, or most acidic in the cocktail list collection, is the Cider Gimlet. Calvados (an ultra-dry, wild yeast fermented style of brandy from Domfront, a French appellation that combines pears with cider apples and develops strikingly farmyardy hay and soil aromas), Dinner’s famous acidulated butter and verjus are added to cider to create a cordial. The final drink has a pleasing bright acidic bite combined with a smooth, layered and very textural butteriness. The finish is long and smooth with lingering barnyard flavours.

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