First published on 7 Mar 2012. Updated on 15 Mar 2012.
Any bartender who aspires to make the spirits that make their drinks should chat to the dudes behind West Winds Gin. Two years ago, Jason Chan the once-owner of Seamstress and current partner in Greenhouse, paired up with kindred spirit-nerd Jeremy Spencer (Appleton Estate Rum), to form a gin house. And the pair have been drunk on success (and gin) ever since.
“We wanted to make a classic English style gin with an Australian sensibility” says Spencer. “Something unique that used native botanicals like cinnamon myrtle, lemon myrtle and wattle seed. Nothing naff that involved faking it, using sugars and calling ourselves the ‘two dancing galahs’”.
Instructions for drinking the Sabre – named for a gentleman's sword and apparently their “missionary-position” gin – are to cram a tall glass with lots of ice, tonic and lemon. Not lime. “Lemon cuts the tonic, lime changes the flavour” according to Spencer. There’s citrus without bitterness, and a story about locally sourcing Australian juniper berries and coriander root that checks out. Which is rare in an industry rife with semantics. But these guys are genuine enthusiasts for their drinks – and seriously capable drinkers.
Enter The Cutlass. Their premium gin clocks in at a gird-thy-loins 50 percent alcohol by volume. That’s strong. “We wanted something savoury, and irrespective of price point” says Chan. “The other business partners thought they’d been ambushed when we suggested it, but Jeremy said: ‘let the Asian run with it and see what happens.’ And they did.”
Thankfully so, because the bush tomato infused spirit is God's gift to all those born without the desire to drink candy. It’s, dry with a savoury draw and makes pals with vegetables like you wouldn’t believe. For a G and T, add capsicum. For any tomato based drink, send in the Cutlass.
Just a month into its life, Sabre took out gold and double gold in the 2011 San Francisco International Spirit Awards and ten months later, has found it’s way behind every bar worth sitting at from 1806, to Cutler and Co, and Porteno in Sydney. Not bad for a gin fresh out of its booties. Better still for a couple of so-called washed-up bartenders.
West Winds Gin Old Fashioned
60ml The West Winds Gin- The Sabre
2 dashes lemon bitters
2 t castor sugar
Muddle (loosely bash with a muddling stick/mortar/ any kind of stick) bitters, peel, sugar and 10ml gin in an old fashioned glass – aka a stout little tumbler. Over the next six minutes, add layers of ice and the remaining gin, slowly stirring the whole time. Drink, in your own sweet old fashioned time.
The Not So Red Snapper
45ml The West Winds Gin - The Cutlass
15ml lemon juice
Pinch of celery salt
Two dashes of green tobacco sauce
Clear tomato and basil water
This is a pared back version of the Red Snapper: a drink so vibrantly packed with beetroot, spice and fresh tomato juice, we think it may be the cure for cancer. Blitz 1kg of fresh tomatoes with a handful of basil leaves, pour into some muslin cloth (or a clean sock), and collect the clear liquor underneath. In a highball stacked with ice, combine all of the other ingredients, top with tomato water, spear with a celery stick and show your immune system who’s boss.