Now Serving – Bitter Fire

By The Gentleman

Bitter Fire

Gosh darn, it’s been heating up here at Cocktail Challenge HQ in 2015, with so many delicious new cocktails to try. So what are we to do when things start getting a  little hot? We decided to follow the advice of our friend Tom Jones when he suggested to “Fight Fire With Fire“. The only logical cause of action would be to add some of our new fave Fire Drum Vodka into the mix! This time, we pair Fire Drum with some Campari and tonic water to create a bitter, but oh so delicious little number. Introducing the Bitter Fire.

Bitter Fire

Bitter Fire

30mL Fire Drum Vodka
45mL Campari
30mL lime juice
4 or 5 large mint leaves + 1 mint leaf for garnish
1/2 tsp sugar
Lime wedge
Tonic Water

In your cocktail shaker muddle mint leaves with vodka, Campari, sugar and lime juice for a few minutes until the mint is fragrant. Add lots of ice and shake. Grab a tall glass and half fill with ice. Squeeze lime wedge over ice and drop in. Pour liquor into glass then top with tonic water. Garnish with another mint leaf.

Bitter Fire

The Campari makes this a very pretty drink with a lovely light red colour. It looks even more attractive as the Campari mix is light enough that you can see the lime wedge, ice, and mint leaf floating in the drink. It just looks very fresh and eye-catching. While the drink has a definite edge from bitterness of the Campari and tonic water, this is very easy to drink. The lime and mint leaves balance out some of the really strong bitter flavours, leaving you with this really interesting bitter mint flavour. The bitterness and the mint are both refreshing but in very different ways. I also quite like the smell of Campari and this drink maintains that delicious bitter orange Campari aroma with just a hint of sweet mint. The Fire Drum Vodka provides the perfect canvas for all the other flavours to come together. It provides some intensity and oomph as well as a slight hint of those malty flavours.

Bitter Fire

After playing around with Fire Drum Vodka we are very happy with the results. It paired equally well with all of the different flavours we threw at it. Additionally, Fire Drum and helped us to make three damn fine drinks so really, in the end, that’s all you can ask for…Well that and another glass!

Bitter Fire

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Now Serving – Roger That!

By The Gentleman and The Lady

Roger That!

You know what’s great, when someone says “I have leftover homemade orange marmalade! Do you want any?” At least, that’s the sort of thing we think is great. So when a friend of ours offered us some of their homemade orange marmalade on the proviso that we make a cocktail with it, we snapped it up without second guessing. So in recognition to the provider of some delicious marmalade, we present to you … Roger That!

Marmalade

Roger That!

30 mL Ouzo

15 mL Campari

2 teaspoons of Orange Marmalade

Drizzle of Humbugz Honey

30 mL Bundaberg Blood Orange Soda

Sugar

 

In a cocktail shaker add Ouzo, Campari, and one teaspoon of Marmalade with a lot of ice and shake. Melt your honey a little so it’s easier to work with and it to the cocktail shaker.

*N.B. We have found that if you just add honey at room temperature into a cocktail shaker with ice, it often slightly solidifies, so putting it in the microwave to heat a little makes it a lot more workable for cocktails.

Shake again. Using a coupe glass, create a sugar rim with the other teaspoon of marmalade and sugar. We suggest holding the spoon of marmalade in one hand and your cocktail glass in the other hand. Dip the rim of the glass into the spoon of marmalade and twist around the whole circumference of the glass so that you get an even coating. You won’t use the whole teaspoon, but it is good to have a little extra so you have an even spread across the whole glass. Once you have your marmalade coating on the rim of the glass, place the sugar into a small pile on a plate. Again, roll the edge of your glass through the sugar, turning as you go so that you have an even coating. This is a lot easier that it sounds, but it does add a little extra preparation time. This step isn’t necessary, but we think it adds a nice sweetness to any drink, plus it looks pretty!

Pour in your booze then top with the soda. You won’t need to use much of the soda, but this depends on the size of your cocktail glass. Garnish with a dehydrated orange slice.

Roger That!

Making this drink we learned a few things. Mostly we learned that we can use Ouzo in a cocktail and get good results! It’s not something either of us have really had much of before, outside of a few ill advised party shots, so it was a bit risky. We ended up with another pretty drink (we’ve been on a roll lately) that had a really interesting and different bitter orange licorice flavour. If you like licorice then you’re going to love this. We can safely say we have never had anything quite like it. The other flavours tone down the dominance of Ouzo and give the drink a bit more depth and subtlety. The marmalade sugar rim gives it an extra sweetness and Campari and marmalade go together like peas in a pod. The other thing we learned is never let The Gentleman be in charge of decorations. It was bad. Sugar and marmalade everywhere. The Lady promptly took charge of cocktail decorating duties!

Roger That!

Homemade marmalade is great on toast, but when you want to step things up a little the Roger That! is a perfect choice. We tip our hat to our friend for providing us with such a great ingredient and for making us come up with something so delicious.

Roger That!

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Out & About – Four Pillars Gin Launch at Mother Vine Bar

By The Gentleman and The Lady

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The other day we mentioned that things were changing here at The Cocktail Challenge with big things happening that we were very excited about. Aside from getting our act together and getting some better branding, what we were really excited about was the opportunity to go to a local launch of Cocktail Challenge favourite Four Pillars. We were excited to not only try the new Gunpowder Proof Gin that Four Pillars were launching, but to checkout new East End joint Mother Vine for the first time since it opened recently. Gin and a cool new venue, count us in!

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For those of you who don’t remember Four Pillars are one of the new breed of Australian craft distillers. They are located in Victoria’s Yarra Valley and the inside word from the event revealed they will soon be able to move to their own location after occupying a limited space in the back of  a winery. We will definitely be heading over to checkout the new location when it is ready. They launched with their Rare Dry Gin and won a double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, beating out industry titan Hendrick’s, a surprising but deserved award. It was quite interesting to listen to the guys from Four Pillars talk about winning the double gold, as they revealed that they only entered the event to gain some valuable feedback and criticism on the blend they had developed for the Rare Dry-Gin. The gin uses some native Australian flavours, including lemon myrtle and Tasmanian pepperberry leaf, which are obviously quite new to gin distilling and they wanted to know how the flavours were mixing. Apparently they worked rather well!

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The event really showed off the Four Pillars range quite well. We started the afternoon with a Gin & Tonic made with Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin and Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water. The Mediterranean Tonic Water isn’t the standard Fever-Tree you’ll find around town, that’s the Indian, and Stuart from Four Pillars reckons it’s the best tonic water going around. (Given that the lads from Four Pillars initially wanted to develop a tonic water worthy of Australian drinkers, this is really saying something!) The Gin and Tonic was refreshing and very tasty, a perfect way to kickoff the afternoon.

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The Gin and Tonic was followed by a damn good martini. This particular martini was again made with the Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin and it also used another locally distilled product, Maidenii Dry Vermouth. The combination of the Four Pillars and the Maidenii gave the martini a really nice spiciness and the two spirits really complemented each other well as they both feature native Australian flavours. It was just a really well made martini that was so easy to drink.

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The afternoon finished with a go around with the star of the show, the new Gunpowder Proof Gin. The Gunpowder Proof Gin is marketed as a barman’s gin, meaning it’s the perfect gin to mix cocktails with as it has big flavours and can take a lot of mixers and still give you that great gin taste. As Cam and Stu say, this gin is able to “stand up by itself in a drink”. The Gunpowder Proof Gin features a few new botanicals including tumeric, finger limes and ginger that give a flavour and aroma distinct from the original Rare Dry Gin. For the event the Gunpowder Proof Gin was mixed in a classic Negroni. This was the perfect drink for the final cocktail of the event as not only was it made using the brand-spanking-new Gunpowder Proof Gin, the drink itself looked absolutely gorgeous. It almost looked like a giant sparkling ruby had been placed in each glass. Being 58.8% alcohol, we certainly could tell that this was, indeed, a gin that could hold its own in a drink. Surprisingly, given the high alcohol percentage, this cocktail was by no means overpowering or too much (can gin ever really be ‘too much’?). Instead, the Four Pillars Gunpowder Negroni is a confident cocktail that packs a punch and isn’t afraid to speak its mind. A beautiful mix of big gin flavours with a pleasant bitterness to finish from the Campari.

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We were also lucky enough to have a long chat with both Stuart and Cameron, who told us of the history behind the brand (including a jealousy inducing road trip through America to sample and soak in the massive craft distilling scene), their future plans for Four Pillars (including a possible companion for their gorgeous copper still Wilma) as well as a discussion about our long and blossoming Twitter friendship. It was really great to meet the people behind Four Pillars and see how passionate they are about their product.

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Mothervine was a gorgeous venue for this event, and it was a real treat to see how they had transformed the space from the previous tenant (now across the road) East End Cellars. We are looking forward to going back again to experience their true colours as a wine bar and to experience what they do best.

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We feel very privileged to have been invited to the Adelaide launch of Four Pillars. While it has not officially been released, we can’t wait to get our hands on a bottle of the oh-so-confident Gunpowder Proof Gin. Not only is this gin mighty marvellous, we also may or may not be in withdrawal from this gorgeous liquor. We would never want to be called quitters, so there is really no point in fighting our feelings for FP. Could this be love? We think so!

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Disclaimer: The Cocktail Challenge was invited by Four Pillars to this launch and provided with free cocktails  for this article. Although this post is sponsored all opinions are our own.

On The Shelf – My Grandma Moved House And I Scored Some Booze

By The Lady

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A couple of months ago, my grandmother moved house and she kindly donated a lot of alcohol to me. She was in the tossing out mood when she threatened to pour all her booze down the sink. When she sensed that I was about to cry, she asked me “Oh, would you like to keep some darling?” to which I replied “You know it, G-Ma!”

 

To be honest, I grabbed as many bottles as I could. These are some of the ones that are remaining from the haul. I was able to score some bottles of wine but, naturally, they are all gone! Some of the reasons I decided upon choosing these particular liquors is because a) I hadn’t tried some of these liquors b) I loved the old school labels (I think some of these would be rather old!) and c) because I love to drink!

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These are the following bottles that still remain in my collection …

 

Buton Liquore Sambca

Helas Kalamata Ouzo

Campari

Smirnoff Vodka

Daringa Spiced Mead

Southern Comfort

Winston’s London Dry Gin

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Some of my favourite designs are the Campari, Smirnoff Vodka and the Southern Comfort because of their old fashioned labels. Particularly, I really like the pattern which is embossed onto the glass on the Smirnoff label. It is such a lovely extra touch that gives this bottle an extra charming edge. I have also noticed that on older bottles of booze, it is common to see a phrase saying something along the lines of “Bottled in Bond Under Commonwealth Control” which I think is a rather interesting flash back into the alcohol past here in Australia. I love that I was able to take these with their gorgeously designed labels. I almost wish the labels still had that vintage charm, but alas, all good things come to an end.

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Some of them I have used a lot and some I am yet to try but I am always pleased with free booze! Thanks Grandma! If anybody has any suggestions of how to drink these or which cocktails to make, hit us up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest!

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Out & About – La Moka

By The Lady

La Moka 2

A while ago, I was walking through Peel Street in my beloved hometown Adelaide as a flash of yellow caught my attention. It turns out that this was the beginning stages of what is now the new West End cafe/bar/all-round cool venue La Moka. After this sighting, The Gentleman and I put this fine, marigold establishment on our to-do list. After much anticipation, we were able to visit recently and we are delighted to share our thoughts (and sneaky photos) with y’all.

La Moka 1

First of all, this place is super cute and a delightful place to sit down and enjoy yourself. The interiors are gorgeous with fun splashes of yellow and warm tones everywhere you look. The decor and finishings bring me back to my 2012 summer holiday in Italy where I ate pasta and sipped on cocktails. Any place that helps me feel like I am on an overseas holiday gets a gold star in my books. While I didn’t get to take a peek at the upstairs area, I am sure it is also just as beautiful. Also, there are patterns everywhere you look here, and totally in a fabulous way that I 100% endorse. I am a lover of interesting patterns and complimentary patterns. For example, I pretty much want to steal this apartment. La Moka’s mix of colours and fusion of delightful patterns is spot on and makes me feel oh so happy!

La Moka 3

Pattern galore! Floor tiles, green wall tiles, gorgeous yellow chairs, wooden bar etc. I am in love.

This time, we opted just to buy some drinks but we would love to try out some of their tasty treats on offer. They have a great looking range of breakfast and lunch options as well as lots of sweet treats for any time of day. Next time, I have my heart set on a cannoli. They also do coffee all day and into the night to satisfy your craving for good coffee whenever it hits you. I ordered the Milano-Torino and The Gentleman went for the Aperol Spritz. Both these drinks were vibrant in colour and flavour as well as refreshingly delicious. The Spritz had this heavenly orange citrus aroma that just assaulted your senses in the best possible way. Despite the cool weather it went down a dream, but I have a feeling the mix of Aperol, prosecco, soda and orange will taste even better on a hot summer’s day. The deep red colour of the Milano-Torino enticed you to a very bitter, but oh so enjoyable drink. The drink was made with Campari and Carpano Antica Formula. We weren’t sure what Carpano Antica Formula was, but a quick Google search revealed it is a sweet red vermouth from, you guessed it, Italy. It’s noted for its balance of bitter-sweet flavours and that definitely shined through when paired with the Campari in the Milano-Torino. It was the type of drink you want to sit and slowly sip, while letting the day pass by, surrounded by stylish decor and plenty of food. Just what La Moka happens to offer.

La Moka 5

(L) Milano-Torino, (R) Spritz

It may be new to the city but already La Moka has already made an impression on The Gentleman and myself. Next time we’ll have to properly partake in the aperitivo culture La Moka aims to bring to Adelaide, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t already be taking yourselves down here for some post-work Campari and nibbles!

 

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Alaskan Rock Week – Now Serving – Bittersweet Alaskan Tea

By The Lady

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Usually, we like to post every second day during the week, but for some unknown and peculiar reason we actually had a social life this week. So we apologise for the late delivery of our last instalment of Alaskan Rock Week. We decided that we wanted to get a little fancy this week and perhaps try a few little new cocktail tricks. Firstly, this cocktail (as the name suggests) includes tea as one of it’s main ingredients. We also wanted to try our hand at using dehydrated fruit because, well, why not? I had lots of lonely looking mandarins in my fruit bowl that were longing to be be put to good use. They did just the trick for dehydrating! Combine these experiments along with our flavour of the week Alaskan Rock Vodka and you’ll have one rocking (ha!) cocktail. We present to you : Bittersweet Alaskan Tea!

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We used :

60mL Alaskan Rock Vodka

60mL Campari

30mL Mandarin Syrup (see recipe below)

1 cup (250mL)  T2 Turkish Cherry Tea  (left to cool down)

1 dehydrated mandarin slice

1/2 teaspoon mandarin powder (ground up dehydrated mandarin segments)

Lots of ice

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Mix the vodka, Campari, mandarin syrup and room temperature tea in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice. Shake it guuuurl! Strain into a large glass. Dust the top of your drink with the mandarin powder and place one slice of dehydrated mandarin to garnish.

 

With a little preparation, this beauty is a super easy cocktail! Don’t be scared by the mandarin syrup and dehydrated mandarins. This is all REALLY easy, it just takes a little forward thinking. Apparently, you can buy dehydrators for your dehydrating purposes, however I just set my oven to the lowest temperature possible (90°C on my oven) and placed my slices and segments on separate trays and left them in the oven for approximately six hours. The segments possibly could have come out earlier, as they were smaller pieces than the whole slice but they do have a lovely caramelised flavour that is quite appealing. Also, for the purpose of this drink where I actually ground up some of the segments, I don’t think it really matters whether they are a little extra dehydrated.

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We also decided to make a mandarin syrup while we were on the mandarin bandwagon. Again, this was super easy and I would say you could use any fruit you fancy.

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Mandarin Syrup

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 mandarins, split into their segments

2 drops of vanilla essence

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Combine water and sugar in pan over medium high heat. Add mandarin segments and vanilla essence. Bring to boil then simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat for at least 20 minutes. Press on mandarins to release all the flavours. Strain syrup liquid into a jar/bottle/container.

 

The Bittersweet Alaskan Tea was a very tasty cocktail and far too easy to drink. We can definitely see ourselves offering up big pitchers of this to friends and family on a regular basis! The drink was a perfect balance of the sweet flavours from the tea and fruit as well as the bitter tones from the Campari. It was a very pretty colour, with the tea being a very similar colour to Campari which gave the drink a lovely vibrant colour. Additionally, after the mandarin slices had been dehydrated it brought out some deeper orange/red tones, which complimented the colour of the drink well. Be careful though as it is deceptively strong, that beautiful mix of a lot of alcohol without that overwhelming booze flavour. Pace yourself friends.

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Well the Bittersweet Alaskan Tea brings us to the end of Alaskan Rock Week. We hope you have enjoyed our week long engagement with this great vodka, we know we have!

 

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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.

Now Serving – Campari and Corona

By The Gentleman

 

Right now it’s that time of year at Cocktail Challenge HQ, end of uni semester. That dreaded time of essay writing and exam prep that is a living hell before weeks of blissful holidays. The Lady has been madly finishing essays and I’ve been madly trying to stay out of her way, but still trying to keep her fed and liquored up (because we all know there’s nothing better for study than a few drinks right? Right??) The other night she was madly trying to finish one of her last essays so I decided to whip up this quick summery drink I saw on The Kitchn (one of our favourite sites) to help her beat the Winter and essay blues.

Campari and Corona

Campari and Corona

1 1/2 oz Campari

1/2 bottle Corona

Lemon zest

Ice

Fill glass with ice, add Campari. Pour in beer. Squeeze zest over glass then rim edge and drop lemon in the glass.

Campari and Corona

So the original recipe uses an IPA but all we had on hand were Corona’s, which are a pale lager. As you all know Corona’s are a pretty easy to drink beer with not a lot of bitterness and I think this actually worked out quite well with the Campari. Campari is soooo bitter. It’s crazy. Campari and tonic drinkers I salute you because that is dedication to your drinking right there. Here it gets toned down a lot and combining the Campari and Corona gives you this really nice smelling, bitter beer. The drink has a really fruity bitterness from the Campari but it is really easy to drink. It is that sort of bitterness which is still very refreshing. Over time the flavour of the grapefruit also becomes more prominent, opening your taste buds up to a next level experience. This is definitely a summer drink but it also brings a nice burst of colour and flavour to a miserable Winter night of stress and study.

Campari and Corona

So this was a quick little mix up that is super easy and super tasty. Lemon, Campari and beer is definitely a winning combination. It’s something you can mix up when you’re feeling fancy, but also feeling quite lazy (or stressed in this case). Plus there are lots of opportunities to explore different fruits and beers to see how the flavour changes. So go on and treat yourself to something a little fancy, you deserve it.

 

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Out & About – Lickerish Kitchen & Bar

By The Gentleman

 

It’s been a while since we’ve done an Out & About article here on The Cocktail Challenge. Luckily that is no longer the case as The Lady and I had the opportunity to finally visit Lickerish Kitchen & Bar, a Semaphore, South Australia based eatery. Lickerish is owned by John and Justine Hall. The couple were contestants on the popular Channel 7 TV show My Restaurant Rules and actually won the first series with their restaurant The Greedy Goose. Despite winning the show the restaurant was forced to close years later when they branched out to a burger place in Glenelg before Adelaide was well and truly hit by the burger craze.

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Located upstairs on the beach-end of Semaphore Road the restaurant has a great location. We sat on the balcony and had nice views of the lit up street and the beach. The restaurant was well decorated, making good use of the upstairs space. We were greeted by Justine and easily got a table despite not making a booking, although booking is always preferable. We went there for dinner and ordered bread, which was an actual miniature loaf fresh from the oven instead of the usual few slices, while The Lady had the Kipfler Potato Pizza and I had the steak of the day. The pizza was deliciously salty and the steak cooked perfectly with crisply cooked chips while both dishes were well portioned and well priced. Justine our host and the other staff were friendly and attentive throughout the evening providing a very enjoyable dinning experience. Obviously we ordered drinks because that’s what we’re all about!

 

I had the Mojito, which from memory was made with Malibu rum, House Sugar, lime, mint and topped with soda water. The drink was okay but not the best Mojito I’ve had. It took us a while to work it out and eventually we decided that there was too much mint and not enough lime and sugar. You really only really tasted the lime in the last few mouthfuls, which tasted a lot fresher, and there was no real sweetness from the sugar. The mint was also chopped or shredded into small pieces and that may have done something to the flavour as I’ve usually had Mojito’s with the mint leaves left whole.

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The Lady had the Lickerish Negroni, which was made with gin, Campari, sweet vermouth and blood orange. It was the first Negroni either of us had tasted before. I know I know it’s a classic but this is what The Cocktail Challenge is all about, getting us to try a broader range of libations. The Negroni was quite nice. It tasted sweet at first but then finished with a deliciousness bitterness. The bitterness wasn’t too overpowering though, it just left a very fresh taste on your tongue. It seemed to be quite a well balanced drink and both of us are now ready to try more Negronis at the bars around town to see who does it best. Both of the drinks were presented in wine glasses, which is a trend I’ve started to notice around town.

 

Dinner and drinks at Lickerish provided The Lady and I with a fun and very filling night out. Great food, an excellent first Negroni and some pleasant scenery mean we will most definitely be coming back. We both have our eye on that Saffron Gnocchi.

 

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