When appreciation of an alcohol type rises in an area, the logical next step is for local producers to go into business. It’s the pioneers of production that are more interesting however, that rather than jumping on a trend, are responsible for being one step ahead of the game. We spoke to two Melbourne makers that have carved out a section of the Australian (and now international) market.
Melbourne Moonshine and Starward Whisky have different stories – and products – but they are both proudly Melbourne-based, and constantly rising in popularity. After sharing their stories, we asked them to pour us a few drinks, and have maintained enough sobriety to share the recipes with you.
Cameron Bray, Bartender in Residence at Starward, tells us that the whisky brand embarked on a journey to establish themselves as a ‘uniquely Australian’ whisky producer. The state-of-the-art ‘New World’ distillery located in Port Melbourne is the new home to the 10-year-old brand, which initially launched when the Australian spirit scene was really burgeoning, according to Bray.
While making a dint in defining Aussie whisky, Starward is also breaking the misconception that a quality product is only derived from a small-batch process.
Bray tells us; ’There’s been a huge shift in the last decade towards these marketing buzzwords, like handmade, bespoke, boutique,’ which he says is great in supporting small, local producers. There is, however, a flip side: “This misconception has developed that you can’t make a lot of something really good, and that scaling up and expanding your production capacity as a rule affects your quality, which is not necessarily the case,” says Bray, stating that he believes a big part of quality is choosing great raw materials, and utilising delicious barrels—such as ones that used to house Barossa Shiraz (Starward Wine Cask) or Apera (Australian sherry, used for the Starward Solera).
As well as producing their successful single malt whisky, Starward also offer a pre-made cocktail called Boulevardier. This mix of whisky, Campari and sweet vermouth is labeled the Negroni of the whisky world, and literally takes the hassle out of cocktail making. If, however, you wanted to make it from scratch, you can these steps.
90ml Starward New World Projects – Cask Strength Boulevardier
Method Stir liquid(s) with quality ice to chill. Strain into glass over ice (recommended singular large block). Rub orange peel around the rim. Best drunk by itself to really savour it.
Before it began operation, the Port Melbourne distillery experienced a pigeon problem, which inspired the name of this cocktail (although that’s about as close as the association goes). A spin on the Cuban Airmail cocktail, this fluffy, creamy and zingy treat is a little bit fancy and very easy to throw back. Shaking it forms a certain emulsion with the carbonation of the ginger beer and creates a light, bubbly effect. It’s essential you shake with a big block of ice to get this result.
Ingredients 30ml Starward Wine Cask Single Malt Whisky
20ml fresh lime juice
15ml honey water (equal parts honey and water)
Method Shake Starward Wine Cask, lime juice, honey water and ginger beer with ice, then strain into cold glass. Perfect with fatty food due to its acidity.
From moonshine-making back in his youth in South Carolina, Ben Bowles decided to go into business with then-colleague (now partner-in-shine), Andrew Fitzgerald. Generally unimpressed with the market saturation of mass-produced whisky, Fitzgerald and Bowles started craft-distillery Melbourne Moonshine.
Moonshine is essentially white whisky which was originally made in secret during the prohibition era, but it continued on as a clandestine and somewhat bathtub-in-the-backwoods American tradition. From the original Sour Mash Shine to the steeped in black tea Sweet Tea Shine, all the way to an Apple Pie Shine that’s reminiscent of Christmas, the craft drops by the boys at Melbourne Moonshine are unique and increasingly receiving public approval Australia wide.
While some of our favourite bars such as Henry Sugar, Nieuw Amsterdam and Black Pearl serve up the smashing shine, here are a few recipes you can make for yourself at home. To see where you can buy Melbourne Moonshine by the bottle, check their website for stockists.
MELBOURNE MOONSHINE COCKTAILS
Originally Section 8 created a version of this drink, featuring yuzu juice and a lemon syrup, resulting in a much sweeter overall flavour. “One of the things we get asked all the time is; ‘How do you drink moonshine?’” Fitzgerald tells us, which prompted them to update this recipe as a cocktail that any bar (or someone at home) could make. The Bootlegger Lemonade is refreshing, tart, and it’s definitely got a kick.
Ingredients 1 highball glass
3-4 dashes of Melbourne Mister Bitters Grapefruit and Agave (or you can use the peach or orange bitters)
30ml lemon juice
30ml Sour Mash Shine
Lemonade (recommend a dryer, less-sweet brand such as Capi)
Orange wedge to serve
Method Add Sour Mash Shine, lemon juice and bitters to the glass. Top with ice, then fill with lemonade. Garnish with orange wedge.
Variation: JOHN DALY
Technically based on an ‘Arnold Palmer’ mocktail – named after the non-drinking golfer who would consume an iced-tea lemonade – the alcoholic version is respectively named after golfer John Daly. This slightly sweeter version of the Bootlegger Lemonade evokes warm southern flavours. Using the same recipe as the Bootlegger Lemonade, substitute the Sour Mash Shine with the Sweet Tea Shine, and the grapefruit and agave bitters with orange bitters.
Fitzgerald recommends fatty foods with either drink to contrast the sweet acidity, such as pizza or even Belle’s Hot Chicken (where they serve a version of the lemonade with Sour Mash Shine). Both cocktails are perfect for making in bulk, Sangria-style, with chunks of fresh orange. A great idea for barbecues.
HOT BUTTERED MOONSHINE
Developed by a bartender and friend of the boys at Melbourne Moonshine, a fellow named Wizey at bar Hats and Tatts created this winter warmer. It may be small, but it’s sweet, rich and all the right sorts of wicked.
Ingredients 60ml Apple Pie Shine
2 dashes orange bitters
7-10ml sugar syrup
Heaped bar spoon of salted butter
Method Heat all ingredients until warm and the butter is melted.
Flame orange twist and discard.
Fitzgerald recommends something creamy and also crisp to cut through the richness. Ideal for sipping whilst nibbling on blue cheese and pear.