Masterclass with Sam Curtis, Harvest
Written by Harriet Messenger
The tiny town of Newrybar is a short 15 minute drive from Byron Bay and is home to one of our favourite restaurants in the Northern Rivers – Harvest. With a kitchen garden, a deli, a bakery, a focus on local produce and an incredibly well stocked bar, Harvest Restaurant is an award winner that focuses on ‘casual elegance’.
We spent an afternoon with bar manager Sam Curtis for some cocktail tips, delighted to find the signature Harvest 75, featuring Ink Gin as the hero, on the mouth watering cocktail list.
Extending the restaurant ethos of ‘local, seasonal, sustainable & fresh’ into beverages from the bar, Sam found the majority of ingredients for the Harvest 75 around the North Coast of NSW.
The Harvest 75 is a play on the French 75. Behold the recipe;
This cocktail is an excellent appetiser, well balanced and an instant favourite. ‘It took about 20 goes to get the quantities of the Harvest 75 right,’ Sam said. ‘It started off too bitter because of the tonic syrup, so balancing that with the limoncello took a bit of experimenting.’
The base of the cocktail is gin, lemon and tonic syrup, which work together to bring out a botanical tartness in the drink. The limoncello is added for sweetness, and the bubbles are added for texture, ‘to give the idea of tonic bubbles and to make the drink pop’. The lemon juice also ensures that the pH of the drink is low enough to change the butterfly pea flower infusion in Ink Gin to a soft pink.
Sam shakes the Ink, lemon juice, tonic syrup and limoncello over ice and pours it into a tall champagne glass, before topping with Prosecco. Then comes the garnish.
For me a drink is naked without garnish, and Sam also lives by this philosophy. ‘A garnish should not just be an embellishment – it should be an integral part of the drink,’ he tells me.
Pepperberry Glazed Lemon
Sam mixes together the sugar syrup with a healthy pink of pepper berry and immerses thin slices of lemon into the mixture. He leaves them to soak for about 15 minutes until the lemons are slightly pink. Then he puts the lemons on a tray with baking paper and glazes the slices with the left over syrup. The lemons go into a dehydrator for 24 hours. Alternatively you can use a conventional oven on very low for 5-6 hours.
This garnish is genius for several reasons. Pepperberry is a key botanical in Ink Gin, giving a long peppery finish. The peppery berry powder is also pH sensitive, like the floral infusion in Ink, and turns pink on contact with the lemon. The garnish brings the whole drink together, and Sam encourages everyone to munch into it as they sip rather than leave it on the side of their glass. It’s deliciously sour, bitter and tart, just like the cocktail.
Also on the menu at Harvest is an Ink Gin Sour. Sam uses home made rose geranium bitters in the Ink Gin Sour. At Harvest, Sam makes all his own bitters. ‘For a bartender, bitters are like salt and pepper. They complete the drink and make a huge difference.’
The hugely popular Harvest Restaurant is open every day for lunch and dinner, as well as weekend breakfasts.
Ink Gin attended the Byron Bay Wedding Fair and connected with some amazing couples and wedding vendors. The two day wedding fair was a big ‘open house’ of some of the best wedding venues in and around Byron Bay and the Byron Hinterland. We partnered with Dot & Herbie, a local mobile bar service, to bring complimentary Ink & Tonics to the people!
Over the weekend we launched the Ink Gin Wedding Offering – catered cocktail kits (45 cocktails/kit) and Ink Gin packages, as well as our miniature 50ml wedding favours. Download our wedding packages here.
Check out our video of the weekend below.
World Gin Day is happening on the 11th June! To celebrate all things gin we’ve teamed up with local bars to create an Ink Gin Cocktail Trail around Byron Bay and the Tweed Valley. The venues have worked hard to showcase the versatility of gin, putting together some fantastically innovative cocktails using the local drop.
If you’re on the North Coast this weekend, hit the trail and join the fun.
Must Visit: The Captain’s Balcony, Sydney
One of the first bars to start stocking Ink Gin when we launched in Sydney last November was The Captain’s Balcony. We spent an afternoon with owner Akashdeep and head bartender Alex to talk shop.
‘The concept for the Captain’s Balcony is a Captain’s Ball,’ Akash told us. Far from a hokesy themed bar, the Captain’s Balcony exudes style, with a hint of the nautical.
After taking in the copper bar tools, the custom wall art, the Juliette balconies and the black wooden finishes your attention is quickly grabbed by the beautiful back bar, stocked with some seriously lovely craft spirits.
‘We thought about what they drink and how they drink it and decided that Captains only drink the best.’
Rum is a definite theme on the back bar and on the menu, but the captains of yore would have been very forward thinking if they drank their rum like this. Consider, for example, the Rose Voyage – Dark Spiced Rum mixed with fresh strawberries, lemon juice and rose water, shaken with egg white and bitters.
The food is also fit for a Captain – try the lobster confit burger or the chargrilled prawn won tons.
The Captain’s Balcony is one of only three bars in Sydney that has a bottle of the limited release Husk Virgin Cane Rum barrel001. They also serve up Ink Gin in a cocktail named The Island of Sussex or in a signature dry martini.
Located in the heart of the city on Erskine St, The Captain’s Balcony is perfect for an afternoon pick me up or a knock off cocktail.
A dog friendly suburban cocktail bar with a rooftop? The description of Fitz & Potts is my definition of a perfect Brisbane bar. DOG FRIENDLY! Converted from an old Queenslander house, Cassie Potts and Brett Fitzpatrick decided to open a bar where they would want to hang out.
While the inside is dominated by velvet and macramé, adorned with kitsch trinkets and unique retro furniture, the wrap around balcony feels like a cross between a garden party and a tiki bar. Cassie and Brett’s two dogs lounge on the deck, in amongst locals enjoying Australian craft beer beer and cocktails.
‘We built this bar for the locals,’ Brett explained. The old adage says build it and they will come – and they have. While it’s only been open since November, Fitz & Potts is already a favourite haunt.
Between screening movies on the balcony, Cassie and Brett are running Meet the Maker events to give locals a chance to really connect with the stories behind the micro-brewed beer, organic wines and Australian craft spirits they enjoy. Stay tuned for more news on those events in coming months.
So if you ever find yourself on that side of town, pay them a visit and enjoy an Ink & Tonic or a cold craft beer curled up in a soft overstuffed armchair – good times.
Visit www.fitzandpotts.com.au for more information.
Having been featured in Time Out Sydney’s 2016 Craft Spirit Guide, it made sense to visit the bartender who mixed up our featured drink – Time Out Sydney 2015 Bartender of the Year Pasan Wijesena.
Pasan owns and runs Earl’s Juke Joint in Newtown, a cocktail bar tucked behind the doors of an old Eastern European butcher. Easy to walk past by day, it comes alive at night, when it mixes up some of Sydney’s best cocktails in a relaxed and unpretentious way.
For the 2016 Craft Spirit Guide, Pasan mixed up an Ink Gin Tom Collins – very refreshing it showcases the the citrus flavours of Ink Gin. The next time we visited Earl’s Pasan wanted to show us something new.
First on the bill was a London Calling with Ink Gin. This cocktail was originally invented at Milk & Honey, one of the best cocktail bars in London. It is one of the only cocktails to have stayed on their ever-changing cocktail list.
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice and shake well. Strain into a 150ml wine glass and garnish with grapefruit zest and a twist.
‘Ink Gin definitely catches people’s eye – if one person orders it, others invariably ask about it or want to try it as well. Our guests like that the floral infusion is 100% natural as well – it’s an easy sell,’ Pasan told me as he mixed up the London Calling.
‘A growing number of our guests like supporting well made local spirits and being educated about bespoke brands. I think it’s a natural progression for a country thats known for its quality produce as well as wine and beer making. A cocktail bar is a good place to try premium, hard-to-find craft spirits. I see the growth of the craft spirits industry directly as a result of the increase in quality small, cocktail focused venues too, run by owners who care about what they are pouring.’
The London Calling was deliciously nutty and dry, and a touch sour as well – perfect for those who don’t fancy too-sweet cocktails.
Next up was The Second Last Word – a twist on the prohibition-era classic, The Last Word.
The Second Last Word
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a cherry.
The Second Last Word was delicious – really well balanced with a lovely bite to it from the absinthe.
There it is – some classic drink ideas with an fresh new twist. Head down to Earl’s Juke Joint for a couple of late night tipples – and ask for an Ink Gin, of course!
Celebrating Local: Fins Pop Up Gin Bar
Fins Restaurant at Kingscliff, not 15 minutes down the road from Husk Distillery, is a fantastic promoter of local and sustainable produce. In 2015 Fins was named the most sustainable seafood restaurant in NSW, and head chef Steven Snow (Snowy) not only lives and breathes fresh produce, he has an impressive garden atop his house to prove it.
He is also quite the gin fan, and Fins has been home to a pop up gin bar this summer. ‘Gin is the perfect match to seafood, and great in summer. Picture cerviche with lime and Ink Gin and you’re well on your way!’ Snowy told us.
Fin’s pop up gin bar features a good mix of Australian and international gins, each paired with a garnish that complements the botanicals used and served with either Capi or Fever-Tree tonic.
Head bartender Jack recommends Ink Gin with Fever-Tree tonic, lemon myrtle and organic lemon peel. It makes for a unique, light and refreshing taste of the Green Coast.
Jack also mixed us up an Ink Gin Limoncello Martini, with a ring of Australian bush honey and pink finger lime pearls. The colour was an unusual and beautiful sky blue, reflecting the sweetness rather than the acidity in the limoncello. The result was a scrummy sweet and sour cocktail that showed off Ink Gin in a very different way.
‘The emerging Australian gin subculture mixes unusual Australian species and native plants and distils them into top shelf gins,’ James told us. ‘We’ve found a lot of people are switching from wine or champagne to G&T as their first drink of the night. It makes sense in our climate – nothing can beat a G&T.’
‘Ink is slightly sweeter and has a much fuller flavour than most gins. It’s also really smooth, so when people say they don’t like gin, I put them onto Ink.’
Cheers Jack, Snowy and Morgan!
Visit www.fins.com.au to book a table – after a drink at the bar, we highly recommend Snowy’s Fish (first item on the menu).
The Northern Rivers region is all about eating and drinking sustainable, local produce. The ultimate dream is to go ‘off-grid’, living off your patch of land and sharing and trading your produce with the neighbours. Inspired by this idea, we’ve started the process, mixing up our own compost and planting a veggie garden at our farm – now with bottomless herbs and lettuce!
Our friend Terase from Taste Byron Bay is another source of foodie inspiration. She has worked in many fantastic kitchens around the Northern Rivers, including Paper Daisy and Fig Tree Restaurant, and runs local food tours and cooking classes. She is running a series of canapé cooking classes featuring Ink Gin, oysters and fresh flavours, so we thought we’d have a chat to her about what ‘Taste Byron Bay’ means.
How do you describe your cooking style?
I am pretty much all about the flavour and am inspired by ingredients and their endless possibilities. So rather than starting from a point of cuisine type, I choose to look at the ingredients and then decide how best to showcase the ingredients, so that could mean for example taking a flavour trip to Italy, France, Turkey or Vietnam. I love building and layering flavours. It is super important to me to build flavours so that each mouthful makes you smile and gives you a little more wow each time.
What sort of produce do you love using day to day?
Oh my gosh, that is a hard one … because there is so much awesome produce here in Byron Bay!
When cooking for myself I like to keep it simple and fresh. My favourite quick meal at home would have to be a beautiful rib eye steak from our local Butcher in Byron, Trevor Mead on Lawson Street. They do the most amazing 28 day aged ribeye (pasture fed of course). I cook the steak with a splash of Lime and Chilli infused Brookfarm Macadamia Oil, and serve with a light fresh salad from the garden with a homemade dressing and seeded mustard on the side. Simple, but when the ingredients are all fresh and local it really is something quite lovely!
What does it mean to ‘Taste Byron Bay’? It is a flavour, an idea, a concept, a dream?
Taste Byron Bay is many of those things and so much more. I’ve always been thoroughly fascinated by food and its ability to bring people together. For me great produce should be celebrated and shared. Taste Byron Bay is all about showcasing the local produce and the talented men and women who make our food bowl so amazing. We head up into the hinterland on our food tours exploring the region in our Kombi, discovering many hidden gems and treasures along the way.
Taste Byron Bay is also about sharing the lifestyle and the abundance of beauty in the Northern Rivers, so we also offer a food tour that takes in boutique shopping and indulges in an afternoon of vintage shops + oysters + bubbles and beer, offering a rather fabulous way to Taste Byron Bay. Our cooking classes offer a different menu each month that uses local produce, and offers guests a chance to learn how to build and balance flavours, learn to season like a pro and enjoy a beautiful lunch at the end of each class.
Local Oysters with Ink Gin & Tonic Jelly
The oysters are from a local oyster farmer Noel on the Brunswick River, they are delicously plump, offering just the right amount of saltiness and creaminess that you’d expect from premium Sydney Rock Oysters grown in our local pristine waters. I developed this super easy canapé recipe because I had a feeling the lovely botanics in Ink Gin would be the perfect flavour buddy for the oysters. My hunch paid off, the flavour party worked better than I could have imagined! Because I can be a little girly sometimes, I wanted to hid the oysters muscle for the photo shoot, so decided to garnish the oysters with a pretty Pansy Flower, that I’d picked fresh from the Fig Tree Restaurant garden that morning.
They’re easier than you think! Get the full recipe from the Taste Byron Bay website.
Our Distiller Paul Messenger was interviewed in last month’s edition of Australian Bartender about the art of gin-making.
Can you describe the kind of still you use to produce your gin?
Gin is hugely popular in Spain so it made sense to contact our friend Armindo in Pontevedra, who has been making copper stills for 45 years. We needed a versatile still that could be set up for either rum or gin production so we chose a 1,000 litre hand-beaten pot still with a column and an expansion chamber above the pot, which we designed with Armindo. Since installing the still we’ve made a number of other modifications including designing and fabricating a dephlegamator for the top of the column, which allows us to control the amount of reflux.
Could you briefly describe the distillation process you employ?
We start by filling the still with neutral wheat grain spirit and add water harvested from the hills of the Gondwana rainforest in the Northern Rivers, which we run through a reverse osmosis membrane. The distillation takes 11 hours and the temperature and steam pressure must be carefully controlled throughout the process.
The most critical time is around the head and tail cuts and this is one of the areas where craft distilling departs significantly from commercial distilleries. Large commercial stills typically use a padlocked glass spirit safe and the distiller is unable to directly smell or taste the spirit flowing from the still. We closely monitor the temperatures and spirit strength but our final cuts are based on our most powerful instrument, the distillers taste and olfactory senses. We’ve got an old school copper tube and spout, known as the “parrot beak” fitted to the base of the condenser. The cuts are made based on the smell and taste the spirit flowing over the parrot beak.
What are the core botanicals used in your gin?
Organic Hungarian Juniper berries are the largest botanicial component and form the basis of Ink Gin but Ink’s defining character comes from the second tier group of botanicals led by locally grown lemon myrtle leaf, coriander seed, Tasmanian pepperberry and freshly peeled sundried sweet orange peel. Together the major ingredients give Ink Gin its fresh piney, citrus and spicy aroma and flavour. The next group of minor botanicals include elderflower, cinnamon, cardamom, angelica, oris, licorice root, lemon peel and bois bande. Like a pinch of salt, these minor ingredients are critical to the end result adding perfume, body and balance.
The final ingredient is infused after the distillation. The trimmed and carefully prepared flower petals of the butterfly pea give Ink Gin its distinctive colour, a modest obscuration that smooths the taste and a slight astringency that leaves the palate crisp and clean allowing the flavours of the major botanicals a long fresh finish.
How do you extract the flavour from these botanicals, and why do you use this method?
Each botanical needs to be prepared separately oven dried or sun dried, peeled, shredded, crushed, ground or broken. We then combine them into three large muslin bags and steep them in the charged still over night.
Although the expansion chamber can be used as a carter head we find our best results come from leaving muslin bags suspended inside the pot during distillation. The pot is fitted with a steam coil and we run an Australian made steam boiler delivering low-pressure steam at 150 kPa to give a very gentle low temperature heat.
What’s your favourite way to mix your gin in a drink?
Ink Gin in a wine glass on a large ice cube, but mixed I would have to say the Martinez is my favourite.