Here’s a wee story about creativity, how the Hendrick’s Flora Adora “Snail & The Whale” cocktail from the newly crowned Timeout’s Top 50 Best, No.23 best bar in the world Caretaker’s Cottage October ‘Sun Goes Down, Music Goes Up’ menu came into being, and how the guys create their fantastic originals.
It’s not every day that Hendrick’s Gin master distiller Lesley Gracie releases a Gin passion project in the form of one of her limited-edition Cabinets of Curiosities releases. It’s also not every day that I get the awesome privilege of working with the legends of Melbourne’s award-winning Caretaker’s Cottage to create some sensational bangers for their October and November menus with said liquid.
Our story starts of course, with a brand new limited edition variant of Hendrick’s Gin that has made its way to Australian shores this spring. For those who were able to attend House Of William Grant during Sydney Bar Week, you may have seen me dressed up as a butterfly making a bit of a fool of myself, though feeling fabulous, either in the flesh or via photos, with a brand new expression of Hendrick’s Gin.
This expression is Hendrick’s Flora Adora, and has been inspired by and aims to give back to, of all things, pollinators. Now, before I go on, it might seem that we’ve had one too many Hendrick’s martinis at the distillery with this one, but this liquid has been a project Lesley has been working passionately on for some time. We’re always conscious that when we’re harvesting botanicals each year for Hendrick’s Gin, we are sometimes taking homes as well as foodstuffs from pollinators. Lesley is a member of several insect societies and has looked for the most manageable way to create a liquid that can help boost pollinator numbers for some years, as they are sadly largely in decline around the world.
Lesley with study and the aid of these societies identified a list of “super flowers” that as well as creating delicious flavours, are extremely popular with insect life of all shapes and sizes around the globe. She has then requested that more of these flower species be planted in order to make our gin and only harvested after the pollination season, giving these insects as much flora as possible to help numbers grow regionally, as well as make a tasty liquid.
“Lesley [Gracie] is a member of several insect societies and has looked for the most manageable way to create a liquid that can help boost pollinator numbers for some years, as they are sadly largely in decline around the world.”
Now as you can see, inspiration for creating delicious things can come from many different places or objects, no matter their size.
One of the small library’s worth of things I love about the fantastic team at Caretaker’s Cottage is their stories and inspiration behind each menu and cocktail. Every serve for me has a gleeful joy and anticipation about it, whether that serve is an original or a classic. Naturally, with this in mind, you can imagine the chuckles I got when first discussing our pollinator bug and beasty inspiration behind Flora Adora with the guys, however this didn’t phase them.
Rob Uldis Libecans, co-owner of Caretaker’s, explains a wee bit about this with the October menu and creating a cocktail with Flora Adora: “With us, there’s always a subliminal theme that runs through each month. And this one (October’s) was travel.
“Kitty Gardner (the phenomenal veteran of star-studded bars such as The Black Pearl, and Bramble in Edinburgh) and I wrote the October menu together,” Rob says.
Rob & Kitty’s Flora Adora cocktail for October is inspired by and named after the much-loved Children’s book ‘The Snail & The Whale’.
“The Snail & The Whale is a children’s book about a snail that sees the world riding on a whale’s tail,” Rob says. “I adore this book and have read it to my kids for years. I wanted to create a drink with a simple grandeur much like the book.”
Although I’d never come across this masterpiece, ABC IPlayer provided a good 20 minutes of joy with its dramatised version, when writing this story on a rainy Monday afternoon – I would highly recommend.
“The Snail & The Whale is a children’s book about a snail that sees the world riding on a whale’s tail. I adore this book and have read it to my kids for years. I wanted to create a drink with a simple grandeur much like the book.” – Rob Uldis Libecans, co-owner of Caretaker’s Cottage
Now when it comes to using your inspiration to jump to the next creative step, flavour is everything, and a good vessel and garnish can work wonders.
Rob explains: “After that (the inspiration, followed by trying the new liquid, and tying that together with similar complementary flavours) finding a porcelain cup that looks like a Whale’s stretched throat and sourcing the snail shells (part of this marvelous tipple’s garnish linking back to both the story and our Hendrick’s pollinator friends) it all fell into place.”
The cocktail itself is a delicious shaken combination of Flora Adora, blueberry wine, Amaro Montenegro, and blood orange, playing off those flora notes with hints of delicate citrus. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, make sure you don’t miss out before this will be replaced with another Flora Adora banger on the November menu.
Inspiration can come as mentioned from many different directions. The stories behind the liquids we use and the cocktails we make and get to enjoy, add so many experiences and pleasures atop of the drink itself. Part of our roles within hospitality is storytellers. It comes as no surprise that the team at Caretaker’s have excelled themselves both with creating a phenomenal cocktail as well as story mixing Lesley’s inspiration as well as their own.
Big love too to Caretaker’s own Ryan Noreiks for the fantastic images, all of which are his.
P.S. I should add, no snails were harmed in the making of this cocktail.
This article featured on the cover & in the November edition of Australian Bartender Magazine which is landing in bars now.