Australia is known and loved for its foodie culture, and I love nothing better than getting out and about to explore my own backyard. Recently, I went on a roadtrip with a twist: visiting three local independent gin distilleries on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. While I’ve always enjoyed a cheeky gin and tonic (it always tastes better when you’re cooking), I wanted to know more about how this superb spirit is produced.
Accompanying me on my gin distillery Sunshine Coast day trip was our designated driver Scotty (safety first, peeps) and Pedro De Luca from Boiling Pot Brewing Co, who I met when I attended the Noosa Eat & Drink Festival. As master brewer, he makes the most delicious craft beer and knows his alcohol, so who better to come with me on my day-drinking expedition? (Bonus: he’s also a very hilarious companion… check out the video below for his uncanny Chewbacca impression!)
Gin is a flavoured alcohol that, while featuring many other various botanicals, contains juniper as its predominant addition. Juniper is a small, berry-like botanical (it’s not actually a berry) and has a fresh, citrussy essence.
Incredibly complex and versatile, gin is ideal in a huge variety of cocktails, although you can’t go wrong with a humble gin and tonic (I like a tropical G&T, too!). And it’s no longer the tipple of choice for grandmas – gin has had a modern makeover, with hundreds of exciting flavours and varieties to choose from.
Visiting (l-r) Pomona Distilling Co, Sunshine & Sons and Seabourne Distillery.
“When gin became more popular about 10 years ago, it broke up into earthy, spicy, citrus and floral flavour categories,” Robin Yates, founder of Pomona, explained to me. “It’s as creative as cooking: you’ve got thousands of ingredients you could use to get whatever flavour you want out of your gin. And, when you like creative things, making gin is perhaps even better than making a batch of muffins!”
If you’d have asked me a few years ago, I probably would have opted for muffins, truth be told. Honestly, it’s taken me a while to develop my love for gin and tonic. I was never very enamoured with the taste and put it down to gin just not being my spirit. But turns out it’s been the tonic all along that’s been standing in my way. Get the right tonic, and it makes miles of difference to your gin.
When we met with Adam Chapman from Sunshine & Sons, he matched some of his gins with Fever-Tree mixers for that optimum harmony. And I could totally see what he meant.
“We’ve paired our gin with the Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water,” he said. “It really allows the botanicals of the gin to sing.”
And, for something a bit different to your classic gin and tonic, I couldn’t wait to try the distillery’s Pineapple Parfait Gin. Mixed with Fever-Tree’s Elderflower Tonic Water and finished with a fresh wedge of watermelon, it was fruity, tropical and downright refreshing.
What a view!
What I love about gin is the alchemy of all those botanicals, herbs and spices working their magic together – with hundreds of ingredients to use in the infusion process, it feels like there’s an infinite amount of flavours waiting to happen. For Thiago Lopes, master distiller at Seabourne Distillery, it was all about staying true to local ingredients to create not just an amazing gin, but a vibe all of its own.
“When I came here to Queensland, I wanted to create something to remind people of Noosa when they’re drinking this gin – it doesn’t matter where they are in the world,” he said.
And his unusual but inspired additions of Australian natives certainly do that: sea parsley, river mint and peppermint gum are just a few of the botanicals that make it into the distillery’s bottles. The result? Vibrant, easy-sippers that bring the essence of the Sunshine Coast straight to your tastebuds.
I can’t resist a refreshing classic gin and tonic, whatever the occasion.
When we first set off on our road trip, I don’t think I appreciated just how creative you can be with gin-making. But after chatting to the distillers and tasting a whole load of gin with premium tonics from Fever-Tree, I’ve got a much better understanding of the more modern, contemporary styles out there. And I think I’ve also evolved in the way I like to drink it… especially since I’ve discovered a newfound love-love relationship with pink gin.
Robin summed up the unison quite perfectly. “Gin and tonic is like bacon and eggs, or strawberries and cream,” he mused. “Certain things together just work.”
Cheers to that.
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