On The Shelf – Koerner Wine Shiraz Mourvèdre

By The Lady

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We believe that summer is the perfect time to be lapping up some delicious wines … well, any time of the year is a good time. Who are we kidding? But seriously, summer Down Under is great as the evenings are warm, light, and lend themselves for sipping down a glass or two of vino to wash away the day. Our most recent venture is with local winemakers Koerner Wines.

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Koerner Wines is based in the Watervale area of the Clare Valley and run by SA brothers Damon and Jonathan Koerner. While they have both spent time gaining valuable experience around the nation and the globe, they both grew up in the Clare Valley and I suspect they have a nostalgic urge to keep it local. Thus, most of the grapes used in their wine comes from the local surrounds and from a vineyard owned by their own father! Koerner specialise in super-low production runs, think batches of only 10 cases, so when you come across one make sure you snap it up quick like we did. We managed to acquire a few of their delicious treats, and decided to start with the Shiraz Mourvèdre.

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The Shiraz Mourvèdre was a perfect blend of the rich Shiraz and the bold Mourvèdre. It had a bright colour, attractive colour that really caught the eye.  The wine also had the perfect amount of weight and oomph to it for a summer’s eve. You can definitely drink this now, there was almost a juicy freshness to it, but if cellaring is your thang then we could see this developing some deeper, richer and smoother flavour. Additionally, the spiciness and fruity aromas were rather prominent in this lovely beauty and translated into a delicious drop of wine with a nice balance between dark berries and spice. We also really love the design of their labels. Each bottle proudly dons the same filigree style grapevine in a rainbow of wine inspired colours. Let me tell you, I am certain their is a pot of gold at the end of the Koerner rainbow!

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Now Serving – 12 Days of Butter

By The Gentleman

12 Days of Butter

Readers, are you aware of how hot it was in little old Adelaide, South Australia today? It was 32°C today or 89.6 Fahrenheit for our American friends. That is far to hot for all the delicious warming festive cocktails we’ve been seeing. Delicious hot-buttered rum or glorious spiced mulled wine makes our mouths water and nostrils flare in anticipation for drinking the flavour of Christmas…and then a single bead of sweat slides down our face as we think how hot and disgusting that is going to make us feel on a 32°C day! What are we to do!? Get a little weird that’s what. Take the hot, buttery, spiced goodness of many a good-looking festive drink and chill that sucker down. Introducing the 12 Days of Butter. Your arteries have been warned.

Those festive spices yo

Those festive spices yo

 

12 Days of Butter

30ml spiced butter syrup

30ml Bulleit Bourbon

45ml Le Birlou Apple and Chestnut Liqueur

Apple slice to garnish

Grated Nutmeg

Ice

 

Grab your cocktail shaker and pour in your syrup, bourbon and liqueur. Add ice. Put the lid on and shake. Now the butter syrup is going to solidify a little bit so you need to double strain this bad boy. Grab an old fashioned glass and stack two ice cubes on top of each other. Use the ice to hold your apple slice in place. Double strain into the prepared glass and grate nutmeg on top of the ice.

 

Spiced Butter Syrup for 2

50g unsalted butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup water

5 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp vanilla essence

Pinch of salt

 

In a saucepan melt butter over low-medium heat till it smells nutty and starts to turn slightly brown. Stir and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Add water, sugar, vanilla and spices. Leave on the heat until the sugar is melted and combined with the butter. Remove from the heat and leave the spices in there to infuse. This also allows the syrup to cool down. Leave to infuse for at least 15 minutes, but you can leave it longer if you like. Strain to remove spices.

12 Days of Butter

The 12 Days of Butter was exactly what we were looking for. The drink is still rich and full of all those delicious spice flavours. In particular the grating of nutmeg on top makes the drink smell and taste heavenly. It’s smooth and buttery, feeling nice on your tongue and going down really nicely with a noticeable and delightful punch of vanilla. Smooth butter and vanilla, that’s what we’re talking about people. Christmas is a time to indulge and it doesn’t get much more indulgent than drinking butter. The drink is rich with a sweet almost caramel flavour and just fills you with this very festive, European Christmas sensation. As The Lady said, it tastes like Harry Potter, something like the grown up, classy version of Butter Beer Harry would magic up when remembering the good old days of kicking Voldermort’s ass. It has all these festive, wintery notes yet it’s far more suited to the Australian climate. The Le Birlou is also a nice addition to the typical winter drink stable. Le Birlou has a smooth flavour that really compliments the butter. Plus chestnuts and apples seem pretty festive to us and we think you should add a bottle of this to your repertoire (in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere). There is also no unpleasant bourbon aftertaste, it just enhances the spices and lets the butter and Le Birlou take over. Although be warned, there is a bit of a kick here. Finally, if you can wait a little before you start drinking or savour it slowly because if you do that apple slice is not only going to provide a hint of apple sweetness to the aftertaste but it’s going to soak up those flavours and be the most delicious note to finish. A crisp bite of butter, spice, booze and apple. Now that’s Christmas.

12 Days of Butter

We were a little concerned this wouldn’t work the way we wanted it to, but any fears we had were squashed as soon as we took that first sip. It was everything we were looking for and more. A festive, flavour packed drink that took everything we loved about those warm Christmas drinks and made it so we could drink it in Australia without the fear of sweating up a storm.

12 Days of Butter

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On The Shelf – Four Pillars Gunpowder Proof Gin

By The Lady

Four Pillars Gunpowder Gin

A few weeks back, we were lucky enough to attend the Adelaide launch of Four Pillars Gin and were one of a few to sample, prior to the release date, the great and powerful Gunpowder Proof Gin. At the launch, we were all told the story behind the name of the gin which we found rather interesting. Back “in the olden days”, sailors in the navy were provided with a supply of gin and those clever sailors suspected that perhaps their beloved liquor was being watered down. In order to test this hypothesis, they mixed a sample of their gin with gunpowder and set it alight. If the gin fired up, then it got the sailor seal of approval. However if it did not catch on fire, those sailors were not happy chaps! Hence, gunpowder gin offers us “proof” that it is a big deal, highly boozy, super tasty gin!

Four Pillars Gunpowder

Four Pillars have emulated their classic, timeless label design and incorporated a “navy” feel by replacing the copper and black for royal blue and crisp white. We already love the Rare Dry Gin as well as the Barrel Aged Gin, so it is no surprise that we are falling for the dapper design and smooth flavours of the navy strength Gunpowder Proof Gin that continues to rock native Australian flavours, this time in the shape of finger limes.

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Dapper Design in all its glory! (L) Rare Dry Gin (R) Gunpowder Proof Gin

Clearly, it was a given that we were going to have to add this one to our liquor cabinet! After receiving our very own bottle in the mail, we decided to put it in a glass and have ourselves a good time. We opted for a variation on a classic gin and tonic, which we must say was refreshingly tasty. We’ve decided to call it the Gunpowder G&T.

 

In the Gunpowder G&T, we used :

45ml Four Pillars Gunpowder Proof Gin

Juice of half a grapefruit

3 sprigs of fresh coriander

2 wedges of lime. Squeeze in juice of one and one for garnish

Ice

Schweppes Indian Tonic Water

 

In a cocktail shaker, mix the gin, leaves from two sprigs of coriander and grapefruit juice with ice. Strain into a tall glass. Top with tonic water and the lime juice. Add a few coriander leaves on the top to decorate.

Gunpowder G&T

The resulting drink was very delicious and the perfect accompaniment for a warm evening. The gin and tonic was very herbal with the coriander providing a very different flavour for a G&T. We think that all the extra ingredients pair well with the big flavour of the Gunpowder Proof Gin, which does a nice job of standing up to the coriander and grapefruit and making its presence felt. The new gin uses turmeric for an added earthy character and we think the coriander played nicely with those notes in the gin. Also speaking of grapefruit, it gives a really nice bitterness and a touch of sweetness that the lime picks up on as well so you’re treated to a whole host of wonderful flavours. Additionally, our Gunpowder G&T had a gorgeous colour and fragrant scent.

Gunpowder G&T

Similar to the Barrel Aged Gin, this one has a limited release due to the seasonal ingredients (mainly finger limes!) that are used. So, we recommend snapping up a bottle quickly if you want one in your life. Because let’s be honest, who doesn’t need quality Australian made navy strength liquor in their life?

Gunpowder G&T

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Now Serving – Blood Orange Collins

By The Gentleman

Four Pillars

A little while ago The Lady and I were lucky enough to secure a bottle of Four Pillars limited run Barrel Aged Gin. We were so pleased with the original Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin that staying up till midnight on World Gin Day to ensure we got a bottle was a small price to pay. We’ve had the bottle for sometime now but never got around to properly trying it out. Rightly we’ve now rectified that, making a variation of the classic Tom Collins.

Four Pillars

We chose to make a Tom Collins style drink based on the exceptionally stylish little recipe book that came with our bottle of Four Pillars Barrel Aged Gin. It contains a few classic recipes you can make with the Barrel Aged Gin. It’s just a really nice touch that shows the dedication and care taken to deliver an awesome product by Four Pillars. The design of the bottle continues that dedication to style, as the bottle has the same aesthetic as the original Rare Dry Gin. The lighter tones echo the colour of the aged gin quite nicely and the two bottles look quite dashing on the shelf.

Four Pillars

Blood Orange Collins
60ml Four Pillars Barrel Aged Gin
45 ml Blood Orange Juice
15 ml Simple Syrup
Fever Tree Soda Water
Ice

Build the drink in a high ball glass filled with ice. Top with soda water. Add a fancy straw. I opted to grill my blood oranges a little bit with some sugar, but it’s not really an essential step. Simple syrup is also extremely easy to make, just combine 1 cup of sugar, I used caster sugar, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. When it has dissolved remove from the heat to cool, then refrigerate. It’ll last a little while, but if you up the ratio to 2 cups sugar to 1 cup water you’re syrup will last even longer.

Blood Orange Collins

Pouring in the soda water generates this delicious looking foam on the top of the drink, a lovely bright orange colour. Overall the blood orange juice gives the drink a gorgeous colour. It’s fun watching it change from the deep red to this light orange as the soda water does its thing. I know that classically a Tom Collins is made with lemon juice, but the blood orange is a fine substitute. It not only makes it look amazing but it has a really lovely flavour. The blood orange isn’t overly sweet, but it’s also not too sour or tart. As Goldilocks would say, it’s just right. It also pairs really well with the Barrel Aged Gin. Really any citrus would as the Barrel Aged Gin has a strong citrus flavour. The blood orange also works quite well with the sweetness of the gin to give you a very fresh, refreshing and light drink that has just enough zesty bite to remind why the Tom Collins is a classic cocktail.

Blood Orange Collins

As the Four Pillars Barrel Aged Gin is a limited production there’s little chance of getting another bottle. That means we can’t waste any on subpar drinks. Luckily the Blood Orange Collins is anything but a sub-par drink. Gorgeous in colour, delightful in flavour, not a drop of Four Pillars Barrel Aged Gin was wasted in its creation. If you were lucky enough to pick up a bottle, or have any other good gin hanging around, then brighten up your Winter with this delicious drink.

Blood Orange Collins

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On The Shelf – Liberty Brewing Company Yakima Monster APA

By The Gentleman

Yakima

My fondness for interesting looking labels is well known and for my birthday I was lucky enough to receive a wide variety of beers with interesting labels from The Lady. One of those beers was another New Zealand number, the Yakima Monster, this time from Liberty Brewing Company. I’m starting to think these New Zealanders are on to something when it comes to pairing good beer with cool labels.

Yakima

Liberty Brewing, like most good craft brewers, started from a passion for beer. There was also the added caveat of not having ready access to good beer in some of New Zealand’s more out of the way locations. Home brewing was the first course of action before the unexpected opportunity to take over a home brewing supply company, Liberty Brewing. In a move to show how much Liberty trusted the gear they were selling, and to stand out from the crowd, they started brewing beer made with the supplies they sell to showcase how good it was. The Liberty stuff was so good that it was soon in demand all across New Zealand, and made it’s way across the Tasman to Australia.

Yakima

The Yakima Monster is an American Pale Ale made with hops from Yakima, Washington. Yes I know, I was also conjuring up the very images of Japan and all sorts of Godzilla-esque monsters the label specifically warns you against. It’s not an overly bitter beer, with a 45 IBU, but it’s listed as their ‘Strong APA’ at 6.0% ABV. I’d actually been eying up another beer in the Liberty range, the Sauvignon Bomb, based purely on the label. Most of the labels we have featured on here are stylish, elegant pieces of design, but the Yakima Monster is just downright cool. It brings back all sorts of memories of zombies, monsters and ghouls from old TV shows and video games that I used to watch and play as a kid. It also gets bonus points for the dripping blood font. Everyone knows the best monster films, shows etc use the dripping blood font. It’s the calling card for awesome monster horror. The Yakima Monster is just a cool, fun label.

Yakima

The Yakima Monster was also a bit of a special tasting as I finally got around to buying some proper beer glasses. I feel like less of a failure as a drinks blogger now that I have more glassware. Pouring it out it had a relatively small head and a rather hazy orange, gold colour. The aroma was not as strong as I was expecting but you still got a good hint of fruity flavours, quite a tropical scent really. The taste was very fruity with a bit of pine herbal flavour as well. It provided a slight numbing sensation although not as strong as I’ve had before. Liberty certainly weren’t lying when they said they’ve created a beer that anyone can go ‘Wow that tastes fruity’, but there are some other more complex and intriguing flavours. The overall herbal flavour was really interesting after the really bitter beers I’ve been drinking and provided a nice contrast to the sweet fruits. The aftertaste was slightly bitter but not overwhelming. It quickly went away to give a sweet finish. It also didn’t feel like a heavy or overly strong beer. That finish and the lack of an overly bitter taste made the Yakima Monster a really drinkable beer.

Yakima

On The Shelf has had a decidedly New Zealand flavour recently, and will hopefully continue in the future with the Sauvignon Bomb, but as an Australian this experience is concerning. We can never let New Zealand do anything well, ever. So, this means I’m going to have to try extra hard to find some awesome looking and tasting Australian craft beer to set things straight. In the meantime, I’m more than happy to sit back and enjoy Liberty Brewing’s Yakima Monster.Cheers!

 

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Alaskan Rock Week – On The Shelf – Alaskan Rock Vodka

By The Gentleman

 

The Lady and I are very excited to return with another week long engagement with a local Australian craft distiller. This time we are getting to know Sydney based vodka maker Alaskan Rock Vodka. Today we’re going to tell you a little more about Alaskan Rock before shaking up a few cocktails later in the week. We have to admit, we are starting to like this whole blogger thing right about now.

Alaskan Rock Vodka

Alaskan Rock Vodka is made with the help of another local distiller, the award winning Lark Distillery from Tasmania. The vodka is made with malted barley and is distilled twice in copper pot stills. I can’t say I’d ever had vodka made with malted barley before so this alone was reason enough to want to give what Alaskan Rock are making a try. They believe that using malted barley gives their vodka the expected crisp neutral spirit flavour while also imparting a hint of malt to the flavour. The double distillation process is utilised to ensure the purest, cleanest flavour possible which is definitely what you want in a good quality vodka.

Alaskan Rock Vodka

Alaskan Rock’s vodka comes in a super stylish package. The liquor comes packaged in a box which they like to call “the Ned Kelly” due to the slot revealing the bottle’s raised lettering. I love the way the slot reveals the name of the vodka and just teases what is inside. More spirits need embrace the box as it can be a really useful extension of their branding, like Alaskan Rock have done here. The bottle itself is rather stunning. It was designed by industrial design team Vert and the bottles are made by glass-makers in Mexico. At first you notice the deep black of the bottle. I like the fact that you can’t see the vodka and instead the whole bottle is this black glass. It again adds to this image of Alaskan Rock as being something different and a little bit mysterious. Obviously, the use of white lettering is just classic, it really pops on the black. Having the lettering wrap around the bottle is an interesting touch. It makes you want to have the bottle constantly on an angle so you can see all the lettering at once. The second thing you notice is the weight of the bottle. Good god it’s heavy. If someone ever breaks into Cocktail Challenge HQ I know what I’m reaching for! Alternatively, you could get two bottles and you could do weights! Picking the bottle up was also the first time I noticed the extra detail on the bottle, what Alaskan Rock call the pronounced punt, where the bottom of the bottle has a mountain range cut into it. A mountain range cut into it. Wow. Touches like this are just so cool and show Alaskan Rock Vodka’s attention to detail and design. It is certainly a package that stands out from the crowd and makes sure Alaskan Rock can’t be described as just another vodka.

Alaskan Rock Vodka Alaskan Rock Vodka
To sample the Alaskan Rock Vodka I took a few sips on its own (still developing the hang of sipping vodka neat but I’ll get there) and then mixed up a Vodka Tonic with some Fentiman’s Tonic Water and a wedge of lemon. Yes it’s supposed to be a lime but hey, rules were made to be broken. On its own there was definitely something different about the flavour. You can pick up a slight caramel flavour mingling with the expected vodka taste. You can also pick it up on the nose as well, which is relatively clean without the overly pungent smell of alcohol that would normally put you off sipping some vodka. It gives Alaskan Rock something extra. The Vodka Tonic was very refreshing. I’m really starting to enjoy Fentiman’s Tonic Water as a mixer and combined with the Alaskan Rock it was a very flavourful drink. The Alaskan Rock becomes the base to elevate all the potent herbal elements of the Fentimans Tonic yet the alcohol and the malt of the vodka cut through that bitterness of the tonic. It doesn’t make it sweet, oh no, but it just makes it even more drinkable.

Alaskan Rock VodkaAlaskan Rock Vodka

Alaskan Rock is a stylish entry to the growing range of locally made vodkas. How can it not be with that super impressive bottle? But the bottle isn’t everything and luckily the contents provide that smooth, crisp, pure flavour that a high quality vodka should have. We’re really looking forward to seeing how we can use this premium vodka to elevate some cocktails throughout the week. So sit back, relax and welcome to Alaskan Rock Vodka Week.

 

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Disclaimer: The Cocktail Challenge was provided a free sample bottle of Alaskan Rock Vodka for this article. Although this post is sponsored all opinions are our own.

Small Mouth Week – On The Shelf – Small Mouth Vodka

By The Gentleman

 

So, this is the first post of a special week here at The Cocktail Challenge, it is our first sponsored week of posts! We are pretty excited, it makes us feel like real live bloggers. Soon, we’ll be jet-setting and getting fast-tracked entry into all the clubs. Wait, no, we’re meant to say how we do this because we love it and its fun and any opportunity like this that comes along is just a bonus because that is totally true. We really do do this because we love it and its fun and discovering and promoting brands like Small Mouth is what this is all about. So sit back, relax and enjoy Small Mouth Week – our look at Small Mouth Vodka.

Smallmouth Vodka

Based in New South Wales, Small Mouth Vodka is an organic Australian craft vodka founded by Chris Payton and Rohan Rivett. The vodka is copper pot distilled 9 times and charcoal filtered 3 times to give the vodka a fresher, pure taste. It is made without any preservatives, artificial additives, colours and flavours. Small Mouth joins a growing market of craft spirits in Australia, as producers put their beverage know how towards not only craft beer but premium spirits and people like us get to drink the excellent results. Small Mouth aims to be a more drinkable, sippable vodka that also goes great in cocktails.

Smallmouth Vodka

The folks at Small Mouth sent us a rather stylish little sample bottle. The blue and white gingham pattern on the back of the bottle in addition to the bright yellow wax seal reminds us of a summer picnic complete with a cute gingham picnic rug. The wax seal is also a classy little touch that gives the bottle some added style. The colours are gorgeous and vibrant, with the yellow popping out like citrus in a cocktail. It’s ultra eye catching and just so gosh darn adorable. Jon Hamm would probably say it has a simple classic design to highlight the fabulousity of the vodka.

Smallmouth Vodka

To taste the vodka, I whipped up The Lady and I an Extra Dry Vodka Martini. We’re still developing our martini pallet but thought to give the vodka a proper try it was really the perfect choice. The drink calls for drops of dry vermouth and 1ml of lemon juice but ain’t nobody got time to measure like that so it’s a little adjusted.

Extra Dry Martini

Extra Dry Small Mouth Martini

10ml Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth

60ml Small Mouth Vodka

5-10ml lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Extra Dry Martini

Okay so firstly I really need to practice on my lemon twists. The internet keeps lying to me about how easy they are meant to be. So excuse the poor excuse for a lemon twist in the photos. I am quite ashamed. What is important is how the vodka tasted and on that front it was all positives. I have to admit that previously my experiences with vodka have been pretty typical and rather uninspiring. The occasional horrible shot at parties, vodka and insert mixer here where all you really taste is the mixer and buried under layers of other spirits and mixers in a cocktail where you wouldn’t even know you were having vodka. I had a friend who was rather well to do, she may or may not have technically been a Princess we still aren’t sure, and when we would go out she would always drink vodka on the rocks. We would look at her with a mix of disgust and astonishment as she downed these drinks. She always tried to tell us that if you have good quality vodka then it was really quite enjoyable. We just thought she was crazy and continued to drink our mixers and beers and such. I’d also bought into the whole idea that vodka is meant to be odorless and relatively tasteless. Small Mouth is definitely changing my idea about vodka. It’s not an infused vodka yet when you read on Small Mouth’s website that it contains hints of vanilla and citrus you actually believe them. I didn’t pick up on the vanilla very much, but that might have just been adding to the smell of the vodka which was very clean. The Lady thought the vodka had a very pleasant botanical scent that was so pleasant it reminded her of that very aromatic smell when you take a fresh cake out of the oven (I think she may be having a bit too much boozefood). We both thought the citrus was quite prominent and the Extra Dry Martini just amplified the citrus flavours. The citrus definitely makes it a far more drinkable vodka and you aren’t left with that awful gagging alcohol sensation or a desire to make it end as soon as possible. Don’t get me wrong this is still vodka and packs a powerful punch BUT with Small Mouth I can finally understand the idea of sipping vodka on the rocks. It was a much smoother experience that was altogether far more enjoyable than any other vodka I have had.

Smallmouth Vodka

So that’s our first post in Small Mouth Week. Think of it as the first date. We exchanged back stories, sussed each other out, shared a few awkward glances, took things slow and realised hey there’s actually a bit of a connection here. As you know things start to heat up on the second and third date and we can’t wait to get further acquainted with Small Mouth Vodka over the course of the week.

 

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Disclaimer: The Cocktail Challenge was provided a free sample bottle of Small Mouth Vodka for this article. Although this post is sponsored all opinions are our own.