The Cocktail Challenge 2014 Christmas Gift Guide

By The Lady and The Gentleman


Christmas is fast approaching. Seriously it’s less than two weeks away. This always happens, you say you’re going to be extra prepared this year but it never happens. Don’t worry because the Cocktail Challenge is here to help you ace your gift buying by showing you some great items for the people in your life who don’t mind a drop or two of boozy goodness. Seeing as this is our first holiday gift guide we thought we’d give it a local flavour and show you the wine, beer, spirits, and gear you should choose this year.


Four Pillars Barrel Aged Gin

Just in time for Christmas Cocktail Challenge favourite Four Pillars have released their second batch of Barrel Aged Gin. This is a damn fine gin that’s just as good as their award-winning Rare Dry Gin, but it’s got something a little different going on from aging process. It’s a touch sweeter and hits a few different spice notes from the wine barrels. It is equally as good in a glass on it’s own with some ice or in a delicious twist on the classic Tom Collins.

Four Pillars Gift

Four Pillars Mixing Glass and Bar Spoon Set

Sticking with Four Pillars we are just in love with this simple yet elegant mixing glass and bar spoon set. Essential tools for any home bar the set continue to show Four Pillar’s dedication to good design and quality products. The Japanese-made glass looks gorgeous but is still practical with enough capacity to make two drinks and a spout for easy pouring. We love the touch of giving the bar spoon a copper finish in tribute to Wilmer. If one of these ended up under the tree we would be damn happy.


Jam Factory Wine Glass/Tumblers


Keeping it super local, the Jam Factory is an Adelaide design institution that has been instrumental in supporting designers and artists for over 40 years. The Jam Factory is always finding and nurturing great talent, like Emma Klau the designer of the Kinetic Tumbler. We just love the look of these hand blown glasses, which double as a decanter to aerate your wine. When you put it down the glass revolves around its axis to achieve aeration. We appreciate and are slightly scared by this design black magic.


Mister Bitters


We are not afraid to experiment when it comes to adding syrups, bitters, tinctures, and shrubs to our cocktails to give them that something extra or different. It appears we are not the only ones and there has been a boom in the small-batch bitters scene. As these things usually do, it has only recently caught on in Australia but luckily one of the first bitters out the gate is a beauty. Melbourne-based Mr Bitters brings together a bartender and the founder of bitters mecca to craft some damn tasty bitters. We have tried the Pink Grapefruit & Agave and love it’s bitter, but fresh grapefruit flavour. It smells heavenly and has a fun, fruity label that is all class. We can’t wait to get our hands on the rest of the range.


Mollydooker Wines Velvet Glove Shiraz and Hither & Yon Shiraz Cabernet

Being Australian, particularly South Australian, meant we couldn’t do a gift guide without talking about wine. We opted for two very different reds for very different people. Mollydooker Wines Velvet Glove Shiraz is the top of the line drop offered by the McLaren Vale-based winery. We just love this bottle. You look at it and you know what’s inside is going to be so good (but so expensive!). The Velvet Glove is for that special someone in your life who is going to appreciate a superior quality wine. We can’t quite afford such a bottle on a student’s living, but we can gaze longingly at the gorgeous bottle and salivate at the description of full bodied, complex, rich and thick flavours that coat your mouth. We are very jealous of whoever has one of these under their tree this year.


The best thing about South Australia is we are so inundated with good quality wine at a variety of prices to make present buying that bit easier. Hither & Yon, another McLaren Vale-based winery, are someone we can’t recommend enough. The Shiraz Cabernet is in the middle-price range at $35 a bottle, but it is well worth it. The tattoo inspired artwork is amazing and eye-catching and the taste, well the taste was so good we had to express ourselves by mimicking a YouTube video. Yeah, it was that good. Seriously this hits all the right notes. Great taste, reasonably priced and sweet design. Pick up a bottle for a gift and one for yourself.


Sample Brew


Melbourne is so accessible that it sometimes feels like a second city to us…other times it feels like it could be on the other side of the planet, like when we came across Melbourne-based brewer Sample Brew. We love the look of the bottles with their clean, simple yet beautiful design. We also like the sound of the beers. Sample currently brew an American style Pale Ale and a Gold Ale according to the Reinheitsgebote, a purity law which stipulates only barley, hops, water and yeast can be used in the brewing process. They promise fruity yet crips flavours as part of the brewers desire to blend classic styles with an experimental nature. The sad part is Sample aren’t easily accessible in Adelaide, making Melbourne feel like a very far away place. To all our Melbourne readers though, do your beer loving friend a favour and give the gift of Sample Brew.


A subscription service – The Cocktail Kit/White Possum Craft Spirits

Still too hard even with all these awesome recommendations? Then maybe you need to check out the latest kid on the Australian liqour scene, subscription services. Simply sign up, choose your plan and let them take over the hassle of finding and sourcing a range of great drinking products. Need to buy for some who is an amateur mixologist? Checkout The Cocktail Kit, a monthly curated cocktail experience that provides you with all you need to make select cocktails plus access to online instructional videos. We can attest to the quality of the end result. You can choose a sample pack, with small bottles, or go the whole hog and get the party pack so they can mix up cocktails for everyone.


Or maybe you need to buy for the discerning spirit drinker, someone who is always on the lookout for the next big or different thing or is sick of the usual spirits on offer. Then checkout White Possum Craft Spirits, a subscription service that specialises in finding and delivering Australian craft whisky, gin, vodka, and liqueurs. Each bottle comes in a nice box complete with distillery profile and drink recipes to help you craft the perfect drink to highlight each spirit. There’s a great selection of Australian distillers on offer and we like the range of subscription options including monthly, quarterly and on-demand. Plus you can tailor the subscription to a particular type of spirit or be a bit daring and choose the random box. Either way you’re helping some great Australian distillers and are probably going to get something pretty tasty.


And The One That Got Away – Denver and Liely Whisky Glass


We were a little bit in love with the new whisky glass from Melbourne-based Denver and Liely when we saw them. They combine the tumbler and the snifter into one glass to provide a better whisky experience. You get the wide base to allow air contact, but also the tapered barrel to focus and direct the whisky. It’s a sleek and stylish glass that looks amazing. Sadly, by the time we were alerted to these gorgeous new whisky glasses everyone else had realised Denver and Liely were onto something special. They glasses were all snapped up quick smart but you can pre-order for the next batch which will be available in mid-January. We highly recommend this as a present to yourself for surviving the hectic nature of the holidays.


We hope this guide helps you shop small and give local this year. Australian makes some great gear and we’re sure anyone would be happy with one of these gifts, we sure know we would be (hint hint, nudge nudge).


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Now Serving – Swindler’s Sangria

By The Gentleman

Swindler's Sangria

It took me a while to convince The Lady to let me make this drink for her but I got there in the end. The Lady has enjoyed good wine for longer than I have and this basically goes against all her sensibilities as a wine drinker.


This drink is based off the Kalimotxo, which is a Spanish cocktail that is essentially red wine, typically a cheaper bottle or cask, mixed with Coca Cola. It’s a cheap drink that you can make a lot of, and it helps to make some rather moderate wine taste a bit better. The story goes that the original Kalimotxo was created when some wine had started to go off and developed a sour taste so cola was added to mask the flavour. I came across it in Paris after I met one of my brother’s friends who was from Argentina. She said the drink was also popular there, particularly in the Summer, but bartenders always gave her funny looks in Paris when she would order red wine and a cola and then pour in the cola while she was standing at the bar. I was still on my wine L plates at this stage, basically being force fed red wine because it’s Paris and that’s what you do in Paris, so I didn’t mind mixing things up while I still got accustomed to being a wine guy. We hear at the Cocktail Challenge like to jazz things up a bit, so we thought we’d make this drink a little more fancy with our favourite new wine. We decided to call it a Swindler’s Sangria because it is like a Sangria that a con man would try to sell you, a sneaky cheat version of the famous classic that’s just a bit different.

Swindler's Sangria


2 dashes Mister Bitters Pink Grapefruit Bitters

Red Wine (we used Hither & Yon Shiraz Cabernet)

Cola (we used Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola)

Lemon slice

Orange slice


In a high ball glass add a lot of ice and your dashes of bitters. Half fill the glass with red wine and then top with cola. Add your slices of fruit to the glass and you can squeeze some extra juice in there if you want it to be extra fruity (and why wouldn’t you darling?).

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The people at fine wineries may cringe at our use of an excellent wine in the Swindler’s Sangria, but we decided to take the stance that you shouldn’t make a drink with something you wouldn’t drink on its own and Hither & Yon is something we’d damn well drink on its own. Plus the Fentiman’s Cola has quite a strong and pronounced flavour so we needed a wine that was equal to the task.

Swindler's Sangria

I think the best thing to say about the Swindler’s Sangria is that I got The Lady to drink it and she didn’t hate it! In fact she quite enjoyed it, much to her surprise. Success! The drink has a real Sangria sort of quality to it, hence the Swindler’s Sangria. You get this really lovely boozy fruit aroma that is just damn enticing. The Lady’s biggest concern was the cola and it just taking over everything but luckily it doesn’t. You can definitely adjust the ratio of red wine to cola but at 50/50 you get slightly toned down flavours of both the red wine and cola that allows them to blend together quite nicely. The flavours are definitely reminiscent of Sangria but it’s not as tart or as strong as the flavours haven’t had time to soak in. Basically if you’ve got a hankering for some Sangria right now (!) then this is the drink for you. In just a few ticks you can be sipping a delightful blend of fruits, red wine and subtle sweetness from the cola while imagining you’re in Spain soaking up the sun.

Swindler's Sangria

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Disclaimer: The Cocktail Challenge was provided a free sample bottle of Hither & Yon 2013 Shiraz Cabernet for a previous article. Although that post was sponsored all opinions are our own.

On The Shelf – Hither & Yon 2013 Shiraz Cabernet

By The Gentleman and The Lady

Hither & Yon

Let’s do this! Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live in South Australia. Searching for good booze and great design sees us looking far and wide to find something new and different, but sometimes we just need to remember to look in our own backyard. It’s easy to forget that South Australia is a world renowned wine producer filled with many excellent wineries, you just sort of become accustomed to the fact and take it for granted. So we were both pleasantly surprised when we discovered Hither & Yon, a winery located in McLaren Vale, South Australia.

Hither & Yon

Hither & Yon, run by the Leask brothers Malcolm and Richard, focuses on sustainable grape growing and allowing the grapes to naturally express themselves in their wines. Their goal is to be able to leave their McLaren Vale vineyard to the next generation of Leask’s in an even better condition than it already is, which is an admirable goal that all winemakers should aspire to. We were lucky enough to able to get our hands on the newly released 2013 Shiraz Cabernet, and Hither & Yon provide a tremendous amount of information about where the grapes were grown, the conditions under which they grew and the process they went through to get on our table. It is rather fascinating and enlightening to be provided with this amount of information and detail, such as the fact that this vintage was ready earlier than expected and also experienced less disease resulting in cleaner fruit. If you consider yourself a wine aficionado or just want to educate yourself more about where your wine is coming from then its a delightful extra that shows how much Hither & Yon care about their wine.

Hither & Yon

What really attracted The Lady and I to Hither & Yon is their design philosophy. Each Hither & Yon wine is based on the same classic design, a white label with Hither and Yon written in an almost label maker style. Separating the two is a giant ampersand which is where Hither & Yon gets a bit funky. Each ampersand is big and bold, becoming a canvas for the team at Voice Design to give each bottle it’s own unique style.  The whole line showcases a bunch of great different styles but we have no problems saying the 2013 Shiraz Cabernet is our favourite. The label utilises a really cool nautical tattoo style that reminds us of one of our favourite tattoo shops, Salon Serpent Tattoo and the super talented Angelique Houtkamp. The shape of the bottle is subtle and pleasing to the eye, and compliments the classic look of the wine’s label. The colours of pale pinks and blues used in the tattoo-styled ampersand are warm and inviting. The illustration used on this wine’s design depicts clouds and the ocean and this view is almost a secret peeping hole into a gorgeous, colourful sea-side world. Personally, we would love to be watching this view as we drink Hither & Yon. Can we make this happen people?!

Hither & Yon

Hither & Yon’s 2013 Shiraz Cabernet tastes so very fresh and new, despite its deep dark purple colour which shows just little flashes of red. The wine has not had any time to mellow out, instead it just envelops you in big dark fruit flavours and quite prominent tannins. It leaves a rather pleasant dryness, particularly on the roof of your mouth, and there are hints of bitterness in the aftertaste. The Gentleman has been brushing up on his wine tasting lingo and the tannins are rather chewy. As you sip the wine (and it’s definitely more of a sipping wine, which is fine because that way you can savour and enjoy the flavours), you want to run your tongue around your mouth to clean out the tannins. It sounds weird but it’s actually a really nice sensation that makes the wine linger on your palate. In the words of Daym, the difference between a weak red wine and a red wine that has strength is a weak red wine you can gulp down and still talk while a red wine that has strength just absorbs all the moisture in your mouth so even if you wanted to gulp it down all you could do is sip it and nothing but hmm, hmm, hmmm is coming out followed by some mad lip-smacking. Okay that was probably one of the weirdest ways you’ll hear a wine described, but deal with it.

Hither & Yon

Oh my Hither, oh my Yon this is a damn fine Shiraz Cabernet. We did this! Okay we’ll stop quoting Daym now, but seriously if you can get a few bottles then do it and enjoy one now and put one away. We really enjoyed the fresh flavours of this Shiraz Cabernet, but would be really excited to see what it’s like in a few years time.

Hither & Yon

As always remember to like, share, and follow The Cocktail Challenge on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.


Disclaimer: The Cocktail Challenge was provided a free sample bottle of Hither & Yon 2013 Shiraz Cabernet for this article. Although this post is sponsored all opinions are our own.