Now Serving – Tangy Friday

By The Lady

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Just putting it out there … pomegranate is somewhat of a magical fruit. We were lucky enough to be given a large bag full of pomegranates from a friend who has a tree in her back yard. Because we’re all about dem flavours at Cocktail Challenge HQ, we simply couldn’t resist a bag ‘o’ tasty, magical fruit! As we had so so many pomegranates, we decided to make a handful of cocktails to inspire, delight, and amaze y’all. Or maybe it had something to do with us craving some cocktails …

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For Christmas, The Gentleman was kind enough to gift me some Settler’s Gin. This beautiful newcomer is a South Australian made gin (yeah boy!), so naturally we had to bust this bad boy open for a cocktail worthy of its gorgeous liquor. Also, we’re all about supporting local, especially if it means we get to drink gin. Here here!

Tangy Friday:

45mL Settler’s Gin

15mL Simple Syrup

30mL Pomegranate juice

30mL Lemon juice

Add all of your ingredients into a cocktail shaker with lots of ice ice baby. Shake it all up then strain it all out into a fancy pants chilled glass. Drink. Repeat. If you like, you can also place a few extra whole pomegranate seeds into the glass. This adds and extra tangy bite at the end of the drink!

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To make our pomegranate juice, we placed the pomegranate seeds into a blender and pulsed away. Then, we strained the juice to remove the pulp and voila! Pomegranate juice. Easy as pie!

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If you’re feeling the need for a cocktail to perk you up and keep you vibrant, the Tangy Friday is certainly the one. The drink was pretty gosh darn tasty with a bitey, tangy kick. Saaaaah tangy! As you can see, the colour of the pomegranate juice in this drink added a gorgeous, inviting appearance to the drink and was clearly destined to be added to a cocktail. We’re loving the hit of the pomegranate flavour in combination with the SA great Settler’s Gin too. Keeping it local, keeping it real at The Cocktail Challenge. Please note though that it is super easy to drink, so if you’re needing to operate heavy machinery, limit yourself (if you have the willpower).

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So, if you get your hands on some damn fine Settler’s Gin and some pomegranates at the same time, we highly recommend busting out your shaker and getting some Tangy Friday action!

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Now Serving – Paddington’s Gin

By The Gentleman

Do you know who loves marmalade? Paddington freaking Bear that’s who. No honey for this sophisticated little duffle coat wearing chap. Only marmalade sandwiches will do. We’re no Peruvian bears, but we certainly think Paddington is on to something with his marmalade obsession so we decided to mix Paddington’s obsession with our own, cocktails!

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Paddington’s Gin

60ml Melbourne Gin Co Gin

15ml Honey Syrup

15ml Lemon Juice

3 tsp Four Pillars Orange Marmalade

Orange peel to garnish

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Prepare your honey syrup by combining equal parts honey and hot water. Stir to combine the two and leave to cool down. Put some ice in a martini or coupe glass to chill it. Grab your cocktail shaker and add the gin and marmalade. Stir the two together so the marmalade will get nicely incorporated into the drink instead of freezing to the ice (trust me it happens). Add the other ingredients and lots of ice. Shake hard. Remove the ice from your glass and pour in (you can strain it to get any bits of marmalade out). Twist your orange peel over the drink to release the oils then drop in.

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While we don’t condone giving alcohol to bears, particularly those targeted at a children’s audience, we certainly think Paddington would approve of the healthy orange marmalade aroma the drink maintains. It smells like a jar of orange marmalade and the flavour has a big orange punch. It’s a nice and tart citrus hit with a hint of bitterness, which pairs very well with the orange in the Melbourne Gin Co gin. It should also be noted that this was probably the perfect cocktail marmalade because it’s made with the oranges Four Pillars use in their gin. So they’ve been steamed and distilled in the botanicals of the gin to give them some extra spice flavour. This isn’t Paddington’s ordinary marmalade, but something a little special. We were concerned the drink may have been too sweet, more something that rapscallion Winnie The Pooh would like, but the honey provides a subtle sweetness that helps to balance out some of the tart bitterness of the marmalade. We couldn’t be bothered straining the drink so there were a few bits of orange skin, but they just provided a bit of character and texture to the drink (at lest that’s how we are justifying our laziness).

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Pack up your suitcase, put on your red hat, grab your duffle coat, and crack open the marmalade, it’s time to treat yourself to some children’s character inspired cocktails. You know you deserve it.

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

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

The Cocktail Challenge 2014 Christmas Gift Guide

By The Lady and The Gentleman

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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

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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

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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 OnlyBitters.com 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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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).

 

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

On The Shelf – Matso’s Mango and Desert Lime Cider

By The Lady

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As the weather here is getting hotter and hotter (it happens when you are in the driest state in the driest country!) we here at Cocktail Challenge HQ are feeling more in the mood for drinks that keep us cool. Well, cooler than we already are if that is possible! So, we find ourselves being drawn to cider these days when we are looking to a evening beverage to accompany the balmy nights. Hence, after trying out Matso’s products in our Mango Beer Bellini, we were intrigued by their Mango and Desert Lime Cider. Honestly, we felt out lives would not be complete if we had not tried it out.

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Matso’s Broome Brewery is a microbrewery based in the Kimberly Region in Western Australia. They produce an impressive range of award winning beers and ciders that all have something new to add to the world of Australian liquor. Some of their unique flavours include a Chilli Beer, a Lychee Beer as well as the Desert Lime & Wild Ginger Cider to name a few. The Mango and Desert Lime Cider that we sampled is extremely refreshing and surprisingly not overly sweet. We were expecting that with the mango and desert lime flavour that the cider would be ultra sugary, however this drink had a lovely subtly to its fruity flavour. The cider also had some very enthusiastic bubbles which gave the drink a very fresh and energising character. While we sampled this one on its own, we feel it would go quite well with a variety of dishes and would not clash with savoury meals.

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Also, I feel we must mention the packaging and design of this liquor. Really, what’s not to love about an old school diver man surrounded by flying mangoes? Honestly! We feel like the Matso diver is in some sort of boozy, fruity heaven where one can drink as much cider as you want. If this is what heaven is, we want to go to there. We also respect a company who spin a good yarn about their product and the Mango Cider With Desert Lime has a fun little story about pearl divers off the Kimberley Coast helping save a shipwrecked crew and their cargo, including lots of fresh produce that soon ended up in some unique brews. We love how it captures the rascal spirit of Australia and provides some context to Matso’s diver man.  They also get bonus points for having a fun website!

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We can really see ourselves sipping down many more of Matso’s Mango and Desert Lime Cider in the coming months, in part because we love the flying mangoes and diver man on the label, but mainly because it is just so gosh darn refreshingly delicious!

 

 

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Now Serving – Luscious Orange Martini

By The Gentleman

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We were pretty happy with our first impression of the Cocktail Kit subscription service. The recipe and spirits provided allowed us to make a damn fine Espresso Martini . Naturally though we wanted to do our own thang because what really excites us about the Cocktail Kit is it’s ability to open us up to some new techniques and spirits we might not have thought to try before. So we put on our creative hats (okay there is no hat, we just kind of went on a tangent while enjoying our Espresso Martini) and came up with something rather decadent, delicious and a little bit naughty, the Luscious Orange Martini.

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Luscious Orange Martini

30ml 666 Vodka

30ml Tia Maria

30ml dark chocolate orange syrup (we used Willie’s Cacao Luscious Orange)

10-15ml fresh orange juice (I kind of just gave half an orange a good squeeze, you don’t want too much juice)

Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters

Ice

Grated chocolate for garnish

Orange twist for garnish

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To make the chocolate orange syrup break up your chocolate, in this case the 50g block of Willie’s chocolate, and melt it over a double boiler, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn. When it starts to melt add a few drops of chocolate bitters and a teaspoon of water at a time until you get a pourable, syrupy consistency.

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Grab a fancy coupe glass and chill it down with some ice. In your oh so grown up Boston Shaker pour in the vodka, Tia Maria, chocolate orange syrup, orange juice, and two dashes of bitters. Half fill with ice and then shake like the wind. When your hand starts to feel like it might be getting frostbite then you’re down. Ditch the ice from your glass, and add a dash of bitters to the glass. Now double strain the drink using the Hawthorn strainer and the tea strainer. Grate some more chocolate over the top (get some height so it looks you’re one of those fancy TV chefs) and cut a length of orange peel to twist and hook over the side of the glass.

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We’re going to make a big call here and say that this is up there as one of the Top 5 cocktails we’ve made here at The Cocktail Challenge. “What?! How could you make that statement?” I hear you say, well let me explain why this cocktail will rock your socks. We’re partial to a bite or two of chocolate…okay a block or two, but this isn’t about our mild chocolate addiction. It doesn’t matter if it’s the cheapest block in the store or something you feel you need to mortgage your house for we just need all the chocolate all the time. Willie’s is a nice chocolate that’s just starting to catch on in Australia and this drink tastes EXACTLY like the chocolate we used. It’s amazing and almost a little like black magic that we were scared…of it’s awesomeness. You get bitter dark chocolate, but the vodka and Tia Maria actually soften some of that really bitter chocolate and make it really smooth to drink. You then get this lovely orange after taste that’s not too overpowering and provides a nice fresh contrast to the chocolate. This is pretty much exactly how the chocolate tastes. The bitters also give it a bit of an aromatic kick that is always welcome. It’s a decadent drink yet it’s not sickly or too sweet. It’s rich and quite velvety with a gorgeous chocolate colour and we could easily spend an evening enjoying a few of these. Also the last mouthful is something to be savoured as the grated chocolate has melted and there’s some syrup that settles at the bottom, which makes for a thicker, even more intense final flourish to the drink.

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The Espresso Martini shook up our coffee routine and the Luscious Orange Martini can definitely shake up your dessert because sometimes it’s just as good to drink your dessert as it is to eat it.

 

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Disclaimer: The Cocktail Challenge was provided a free “The Sampler” Cocktail Kit as well as a Bar Kit for this article. Although this post is sponsored all opinions are our own.