Out & About – Espresso Martini at Melt Pizzeria

By The Lady and The Gentleman

After sampling the latest Coffee Experiment from Loft Wine Bar we were reminded of an experience that we meant to write up but never got round to…until now. It was during the height of the crazy February-March Adelaide event season when we managed to nab the last counter spot at one of our favourite city locations, Melt Pizzeria. It had been a long and hectic day and aside from wanting some damn fine pizza The Lady had one other craving on her mind, the perfect Espresso Martini. Let us tell you dear readers that we came pretty close to finding it that day.

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Our bartender buzzed around like a mad thing and we only caught glimpses of what was going into this glorious creation. Vodka, a large shot of freshly made espresso, and magic. The first thing we noticed and admired was the heavenly, strong coffee aroma with something a little extra going on and the thick, inviting foam. Try as we might we can never quite get enough of that delicious foam that elevates an okay to cocktail to the spectacular. We had to bow down in appreciation of the epic foam on the Melt Espresso Martini, which made you just want to eat it up. We almost didn’t want to take a sip, it looked so damn good. Of course, we did, we’re only human after all.

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Taking that first amazing sip the hidden scent in the aroma was revealed, a delicious note of orange. It was almost like drinking the best damn alcoholic, coffee infused Jaffa cake dreamt up in an Adriano Zumbo fever dream. The bitterness of the coffee was balanced out by the light creaminess of the foam and the slight sweetness and acidity of the orange yet it still tasted strong enough to keep you perked up all night long. We’ve done our own experiments with coffee and orange and this just confirmed that these two flavours deserve to be up there with other great partnerships throughout history like Ben & Jerry, Hewlett & Packard, Mawson and all the other guys who went to Antarctica but no one ever remembers. We’d like to say more but our urge to devour this amazing glass of coffee goodness took over. What we’ll leave you with is a throwing down of the gauntlet and a promise. This is probably the best Espresso Martini we’ve ever had. Period. Therefore, the rest of the Adelaide bar scene has been put on notice because we’re coming and the bar has been set.

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Now Serving – Luscious Orange Martini

By The Gentleman

Dark Chocolate

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.

Out & About – Bank Street Social Take Two

By The Gentleman

Bank Street Social

After visiting new local bar Bank Street Social on International Rum Day we were invited back to sample some more of the bars delicious Australian gin. We also ventured back there as a bit of a collaboration with fellow blogger Lee from Adelaide Food Central, for a night of food and drinking blogging. Sometimes it’s good to be a blogger.

 

We revisited Bread & Bone for dinner and you can read Lee’s review of our experience at his website. The Lady enjoyed another of their fine Negronis and I tried the Feral Hop Hog IPA. The Hop Hog was very fruity and refreshing with little bitterness, a thoroughly drinkable and enjoyable beer.

 

You already know our feelings about Bank Street Social’s decor. We just love the old school, speakeasy style. Hot tip, if you want to really soak in the design of the bar and enjoy your drink while quietly relaxing in a booth then head their on Wednesday night. The bar was relatively quite and had a far more subdued atmosphere compared to the crazy, high-energy of a Saturday night. The relaxed atmosphere allowed us to really notice all the little details that help make the bar come alive, like the old photos near the entrance and the cabinet filled with various old bottles, clocks and books. Coming on a slower night also allowed us to talk to the bar staff who really know their stuff. We spoke to Cameron who was knowledgeable and passionate about the experience Bank Street Social is trying to offer. We had a good chat about the bar’s focus on Australian spirits and the difficult, but rewarding experience of introducing bar goers to the wonderful world of Australian spirits.

Botanic Australis Gin

The Lady and I didn’t need any encouragement to drink Australian and we had a hard time choosing a different Australian gin to try. We eventually settled on the Botanic Australis Gin from Queensland’s Mt Uncle Distillery. The gin is made with 14 native Australian botanicals including Lemon Scented Gum, River Mint, Wattle Seed, Lilly Pilly, Lemon Myrtle, native ginger and Finger Limes. The gin has a lot of flavours going on but it works so well. Smelling the gin in the bottle it had a really pleasant cinnamon aroma. Cameron prepared a simple gin and tonic with Schweppes Tonic Water and an orange twist. The orange added a pleasant citrus scent and a hint of sweetness to the drink. Paired with the tonic water the Botanic Australis is so lovely to drink. You get a whole bunch of different herbal flavours before a really pleasant mint and pepper finish that leaves your mouth feeling so fresh. We could definitely drink these all night.

Bank Street Social

We finished the evening with what is fast becoming a favourite drink of ours, an Australian Martini. There is such a growth in good quality Australian gin and vermouth that you would be foolish not to pair them together. This time our barman mixed the drink with West Winds Sabre Gin and Maidenii Dry Vermouth. To make it just that extra bit special, and to enhance the flavours present in the martini our bartender also roasted some rosemary over the top of the drink to release the flavours and aromas from the rosemary before dropping it in the glass. The martini was so smooth and easy to drink. It had warmth and intensity from the spirits but it wasn’t so strong that it was unpleasant. The combination of the rosemary with the gin and vermouth was very nice. It really enhanced the flavours and the aroma of the martini and took it to that next level. It’s becoming very hard for us to go past an Australian Martini when they keep being this good.

West Winds Gin

Bank Street Social certainly didn’t disappoint on our second visit. The relaxed atmosphere, knowledgeable staff and quality drinks made it the perfect way to power through hump day and celebrate the fact that the week was half over.

Australian Martini

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Australian Martini

Disclaimer: The Cocktail Challenge was invited back to Bank Street Social and provided with complimentary gin and tonics for this article, but paid for the martinis. Although this post is sponsored all opinions are our own.

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.

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.

Now Serving – Yarratini

By The Lady

 

While it is true that James Bond gets many things right, I always wonder why he opts for the “vodka martini – shaken, not stirred”.

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(L) Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin (R) Causes & Cures Semi Dry White Vermouth

 

After recently adding to our On The Shelf collection some lovely Yarra Valley goods, I thought The Gentleman and I should give this old classic a go. Having been very delighted after trying both Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin and Causes & Cures Semi Dry White Vermouth, as well as the fact that they are neighbours, it seemed only natural to create a modern Australian twist on an old fashioned favourite. We named it : The Yarratini – shaken, not stirred.

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We used :

40mL Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin

10mL Causes & Cures Semi Dry White Vermouth

Lemon twist

Ice (for the shaker)

 

Add all the ingredients to your cocktail shaker. Shake like crazy. Pour into your fancy martini glasses. Use a strainer to ensure only the liquor (not ice cubes) end up in your glass. Garnish with a lemon twist (I need to work on my garnish cutting skills … )

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The first time I ever had a martini was about a week after I turned eighteen. Thinking I would attempt being all suave and sophisticated, I ordered said drink. All I remember of that night was that it was a very strong and boozy drink.  Luckily for us, our Yarratini was a much more smooth and refined version of the cheap impostor I sampled back in the day. Yes, it certainly was a strong drink (it does have 50mL of alcohol after all!) but it was the sophisticated drink I had hoped and dreamed for many years ago. Given that the Four Pillars Gin is made using whole oranges and the Causes & Cures Vermouth suggests the pairing with oranges,  I was definitely able to taste the orange flavour coming through. This delightful orange tone was a pleasant and unexpected surprise, which made me want to try it in the future with some sort of orange addition to further enhance the flavour. It may be the liquor talking, but I also thought I could taste a rose flavour coming through. I personally LOVE anything rose flavoured, so again, this has inspired me to partake in some rose-flavoured cocktail making!

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The Yarratini was a very tasty and grown-up cocktail although I wouldn’t drink too many in one sitting for fear of my oh so dignified self becoming not so dignified! Moderation is the key! Yay for the power of our Yarra Valley friends at Four Pillars and Causes & Cures to get you smashed in a stylish and quasi modern Australian James Bond style!

 

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