It's no secret that Sydney is a city that likes to drink. Stretched-out sunny days and endless water views have long underpinned Sydney’s reputation as a city primed for afternoons spent sipping cold brews, which accounts for the boon of small bars and gastropubs that provide ample settings for such leisurely undertakings. But while Australia has been on the front foot of the craft beer craze that has swept the world these past years, it is only recently that the same experimental spirit has gotten a firm hold on the country’s distilling scene. Small-batch distillers and experimental artisan makers have lately been cropping up all over the place, redefining how the country drinks its cocktails—not to mention pushing the limits of what we expect from staple liquors such as gin and whisky.
From refined drops that rely on all-native ingredients, to take-home cocktails brewed and packaged by some of the country’s most revered bartenders, to an unexpectedly delicious hybrid of wine and gin, we round up some of the best liquors brewed locally. Best of all, they're available to purchase in most bottle shops around town.
Four Pillars Gin
As soon as Four Pillars can release a batch of its seasonal Bloody Shiraz Gin, it sells out. An odd predicament considering the adventurous nature of such a combination—rich shiraz grapes and dry, spicy gin—but people have grown to trust whatever it is that the Melbourne-based distillery throws at them. Over the relatively short time that Four Pillars has been operating (the idea was spawned in 2013 during a road trip along the west coast of North America, and actuated when the three co-founders bought their first still 18 months later), the distillery has won multiple gold awards at international spirits competitions for all five of their mainstay gins. In addition to these staples, Four Pillars releases a number of limited-edition gin varieties that err towards the unusual—for instance, their annual Australian Christmas Gin, infused with Christmas pudding spices; their self-explanatory Spiced Negroni Gin; and gin-infused products such as the Four Pillars Breakfast Negroni marmalade.
Archie Rose Distilling Co.
Another multi-trick pony, Sydney-based Archie Rose Distilling Co. specialises in gin, but spreads their expertise across a range of core and limited-release whiskies, vodkas and rums. Known for their Signature Dry Gin, in recent years the distillery has increasingly started experimenting with new flavours and collaborations, such as their ArchieMite Buttered Toast Spirit, infused with toast, butter and umami breakfast spread flavours; and their now sold-out Behemoth Aged Spirit, an unspecified dark spirit aged in ex-Bourbon casks that featured Double India Black Ale from Victorian craft beer company, KAIJU! Beer. The distillery, based in the inner-south Sydney suburb of Rosebery, is open to the public, and offers guests a food and drinks menu consisting of signature cocktails and produce from some of the city’s best producers.
Only two years old, Underground Spirits has already made significant innovations to the traditional distilling process. The Canberra-based distillery was founded by fertility specialist and robotic surgeon Toby Angstmann who, after a tour of a Scottish whisky distillery, decided to apply his medically trained brain to the process of spirit-making. Back at home, Angstmann began experimenting with distilling techniques that eliminate impurities in spirits earlier in the process. The result of this is the sub-zero, sub-micron cryofiltration process that Underground Spirits now uses to create its smooth whiskies, vodkas and gins, which lack the same alcohol burn you usually feel when drinking a spirit neat. In addition to the straight stuff, Underground Spirits has started releasing specialty infused blends,
such as an invigorating Cold Brew Coffee Vodka and spicy Shiraz and Pepperberry Gin.
The Everleigh Bottling Co.
Essentially, what the launch of The Everleigh Bottling Co. means is that you can take one of the country’s bars with you wherever you go. The brainchild of bartenders at The Everleigh—a pocket-rocket of a bar in Melbourne’s inner-north—the initiative consists of tiny, pre-bottled cocktail mixes that can be bought at bottleshops throughout the country. So good are they that other hotels and bars—such as The Dolphin Hotel in Surry Hills—have started adding them to their menus. The tight product list boils down to four perfectly crafted cocktail staples—a Martini, an Old Fashioned, a Negroni and a Manhattan—with occasional special releases thrown into the mix.
Another iconic Melbourne watering hole, Bar Americano built its reputation on serving only classic cocktails, crafted to the most exacting standards. In a similar coup for those looking for portable cocktail options, Bar Americano recently launched their own ‘hometender’ range. Consisting of drops such as a Negroni, an Americano, a Brooklyn and the newly launched ‘Antica Fashionista’ (a twist on the Old Fashioned), the Bar Americano ‘hometender’ range makes you feel as skilled as a veteran bartender even while simply pouring from bottle to glass, maybe zesting the rim if you’re feeling fancy.