As spirits become more and more popular I’m seeing more interest in pairing spirits with food. Cocktails are fighting their way free of cocktail hour and working their way into dinner. Though it’s not entirely new, apparently Julia Child used to say that nothing paired better with fish than a reverse martini (more vermouth than gin).
Bombay Sapphire have done a few Project Botanicals pop-ups in Melbourne and this month they’re bringing the concept to Sydney. They have partnered with Biota Dining and some of Sydney’s leading bars to create two five course degustations with each course created to showcase a Bombay Sapphire botanical ingredient, matched with a cocktail. There are two menus, one based on berry and bark botanicals, and plants and roots, which is the menu sampled at the media launch.
THE CORIANDRUM COCKTAIL
This is the trickiest course for me as I violently dislike coriander. However the cocktail is light and tangy and doesn’t really taste of coriander.The gin is smoked with apple cedar wood. The coriander is in a syrup with celery, and it’s shaken into a sour with egg white and lemon juice. This one is designed by The Barber Shop.
The dish is quite curious with charcoal and smoked roe whipped into a creamy mousse. I managed to eat around the coriander and rather enjoyed the sharp creaminess of this dish. Though I also avoided the charcoal, a bit edgy for me!
ANGELICA CELERY SOUR
This is my favourite of the cocktails. The celery bitters and sweet pineapple syrup is light and refreshing and perfectly balanced with gin and lemon juice. The elaborate celery garnish is also very impressive. The dish of raw peas and soured crème is so green and fresh, it’s delightful. I’d probably move it to the first dish if it were up to me. Would make a gorgeous start to five course meal.
GRAINS OF PARADISE FIZZ
This is a strange one. Made with whey and pineapple vinegar it’s strangely watery and gritty and the coconut and egg white don’t really blend well either. I think whey powder is maybe not a great cocktail ingredient. The pineapple garnish looks lovely though. The dish is beef cooked over coals. I don’t eat red meat so I ate the onions baked in elder vinegar which were lovely. You can pre-order a vegetarian version of either menu when you book.
THE LIQUORICE GOLDEN COFFEE COCKTAIL
This is the course I was most looking forward to. I absolutely love liquorice. The liquorice soft serve was a revelation. Rich, but not too sweet, the lovely toasted rye grains and lavender. It makes for a delightful palate cleanser at the end of the savory courses. The cocktail is rich and creamy with egg yolk and cream. I’m not a huge fan of creamy cocktails, always makes me think of Mum’s Brandy Alexanders. However this is a well-balanced cocktail and paired with light dessert courses it’s a welcome richness.
ORRIS ROOT CLOVER CLUB
The final course is a beetroot sorbet with fresh curds, cocoa nibs, orris root and raspberry juices. It arrives smoking with dry ice and so fresh and tart. I like not-too-sweet desserts, but this is almost too not-too-sweet, until you include the cocktail. The Orris Root Clover Club is sweet and tangy and pairs beautifully with the sorbet. While the other courses works well with their cocktail, this was the only course where I felt the cocktail and the dish actually completed each other.
Project Botanicals runs from 18 November to 5 December at the new Kensington St development in Chippendale. The cost $105 for the 5 courses and cocktails. You can book your tickets here.
Disclaimer: I attended a media preview of Project Botanticals as a guest of Bombay Sapphire and H + K Strategies. While I appreciate this opportunity, my appreciation has not affected my review of the experience.