Story by Pete Ehemann, GM at The Cumberland in Manly
Photography by Christopher Pearce
Living through a global pandemic has been undeniably tough. However, some positive things have defintely come out of the mess. One of these small wins is seeing local communities that have banded together. We have definitely seen a shift and rise in supporting local. And this movement now seems to be more at the forefront of Australian minds.
With little to no international travellers entering the country, this has been most evident in many of the country’s tourist hot spots including Bondi, Byron Bay and Manly. Supporting local bars, restaurants, cafés, pubs, retail, and further afield have been a small, tough, but realistic COVID win.
Has COVID turned more Aussies towards a tipple? I’d probably say yes. Social media, (as well as liquor store sales) would most definitively say yes.
This isn’t surprising considering the tumultuous history of this nation. Drinking has been a go-to since well before there was anyone that called himself or herself “Aussie”.
There is evidence of alcohol being used to a small degree by indigenous Australian peoples. There is evidence that local trees would be tapped to make a lightly fermented beverage at about 3% ABV and often referred to as Way-a-linah.
These varied from region to region and depended on the local flora as to what was being fermented. In Sydney, Bottlebrush and pollen from Grevillea were being fermented whereas Tasmanian indigenous nations were mainly using sap. Australian bush tucker has been used for even longer; native flora in the form of fruits, leaves and flowers, seeds, herbs and barks all have historical significance for indigenous Australians, and now are being used more and more in the modern bar and kitchen.
Just prior to Australia being invaded, settled, colonised (whichever term you prefer), it’s believed that the first spirit to reach Australian shores may have accidently arrived with the Dutch ship the Batavia around 1629, and in the form of a raw version of Geneva. This is closely followed by Rum rations brought by the British.
Shortly after this, the first consumption of a distilled spirit arrived with William Dampier (most likely being a Jamaican rum). We then see the rise of rum becoming a commodity and used as a currency in Australia – where watered down rations become known as “grog”.
In 1792 – with the arrival of the HMS Sirius we see the Webb brothers, Thomas and Robert; distil the first grain spirit of wheat out near Parramatta.
Between the years of 1813-1816 we have the Lieutenant Governor Thomas Davey, commonly known as “Mad Tom”, whom at the time was the Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, (now Tasmania). He is credited with creating Australia’s first “cocktail” which appeared in “The Australian Cookery Book 1864” by Edward Abbott. Mad Tom’s featured recipe was aptly named the “Blow my skull” cocktail. With ingredients varying slightly, but including: (Please don’t try this at home) 1 pint rum, 1 pint porter, ½ pint brandy, 2 pints boiling water, sugar/lime/lemon to taste.
With an increase in consumption of alcohol, the 19th century also saw the rise of the Temperance movement in Australia, taking rise from the mid 1830’s and continuing well into the 20th century. Mainly championed by Christian churches, aiming to reduce and eventually try to ban the production and consumption of alcohol. It’s evident that this traction was somewhat short-lived with the Aussie tipple tipping the scale.
Come mid-1800’s we see the rise of the sugar industry, and soon to follow suit we have Beenleigh Rum Distillery take shape in Queensland in 1884, followed closely by Bundaberg rum in 1888. In 1901 we have The Distillation Act. Which allows for mass scale production of spirit in Australia.
Fast-forward nearly 100 years and in 1992 everything changes. Where we have Bill Lark in Tasmania being granted the first licence to distil in Tasmania since 1839. This ability to have a smaller still and to create smaller batches of craft spirit – everything changes in Australia from then on. We then see craft distillers creating smaller boutique whisky, gin, vodka and rum throughout the country.
Menus throughout the country now showcase an array of Australian distilled spirits, local botanicals, native tinctures, honeys, seeds and beyond. Walk into bars such as Black Pearl, Charlie Parkers, The Cumberland, Bulletin Place and you are greeted with an array of Aussie ingredients spilt throughout the menu, and a backbar that is loaded with spirits that are made right here.
We now have some of the best bars in the world populated by some of the best bartenders in the world. It only makes sense that our ingredients are the best in the world, to make our drinks follow suit.
The Cumberland in Manly showcases three distinct cocktail menus highlighting Australia’s history of local produce use, historical regions of European invasion/colonisation and settlement, and a new use of the Aussie spirit. This also highlights the indigenous use of native botanicals in two of the venue’s menus.
The ‘Foraged & Found’ menu incorporates ingredients that have been used by indigenous communities for thousands of years. This list includes a rotating selection of native Riberry or Lilly Pilly, Lemon Myrtle, Davidson and Illawarra Plum, Lemon Aspen, Wattleseed and Ringwood (as showcased in the cocktail recipes on these pages)
These are mainly combined with Australian sprits to showcase a blend of old and new worlds, to champion not only a native botanical but a backbone of Australian made whiskies, gins, rums, vodkas, and liquors. You only need to look on our doorstep to see the great spirits of the Never Never Distillery, Archie Rose, Belgrove, Lark, and Sullivan’s Cove.
We know that the spirit and native ingredients have always been in us. Let’s treat them with respect, nurture this history, and guide our drinks to greater heights.
Lilly Pilly Sour 45ml Lilly Pilly gin 15ml elderflower liqueur 30ml lemon myrtle tea 20ml fresh lemon juice 10ml lilly pilly syrup dash aqua faba Garnish with a lemon myrtle leaf
Native Plum Sidecar 1 heaped barspoon Davidson plum jam (Illarwarra Plum is suitable also) 45ml Brandy 15ml dry curacao 20ml fresh lemon juice 5ml sugar syrup Garnish with powdered Davidson Plum sugar
Wattleseed Espresso 20ml steeped toasted wattleseed 45ml vodka 15ml Tempus Fugit Creme de Cacao 15ml fresh espresso 5ml Woodbridge Village honey water Garnish with a native violet
Bathurst 40ml Rambling Dock infused Harthorn Sheeps Whey Vodka 10ml Apple liqueur 5ml Frambois eau de vie 20ml fresh apple juice 15ml fresh lemon juice 10ml burnt orange and vanilla bean syrup dash aqua faba Garnish with edible gold dust
Ingredients from Australian Native Food & Botanicals
Davidsonia jerseyana, Davidsonia pruriens
Davidson plums are known as one of the best of the native plums. The deep dark purple fruits contain a soft juicy pulp with a sharp acidity. The aroma is earthy, like fresh beetroot with slight pickled notes. Taste is sour with some astringency and slight bitterness.
The use of Wattle seeds (of the commercially traded species) has a Traditional use of at least 4000 years as an Aboriginal staple food ingredient. The Coastal Wattle is rich and nutty and has almost a fatty flavour where the Elegant Wattle is darker and has a deeper nut flavour.
The leaves are typically dried and milled used as a tea or flavour ingredient or steam distilled to obtain lemon myrtle essential oil.
Riberry (small-leaved lilly pilly):
The fruits were regularly eaten by Aboriginal people in Australia. The fruit has been reported to be one of the first fruits consumed as jam or cordials by early colonists of Australia. The fruit has a refreshingly tart, spicy flavor that has a hint of cloves and cinnamon.