If you ever get the chance to go to Adelaide, the one thing that will strike you is the city’s connection to the land. Everyone in the Australian drinks industry may talk about the use of native ingredients and botanicals in cocktails or in spirits, but this is a place where you can’t help but feel they are really living it.
So it did not surprise us when we went to Adelaide CBD bar 2KW to talk with the assistant manager, Aidan Shaw and the cocktail he showed us was all about native ingredients and the flavours that they impart.
“We wanted to bring a more local flavour to the cocktail list, so we got a large number of native ingredients and just started playing around.”
While the soft pink hue of the Nullarbor Cocktail may imply that the drink is really sweet, Shaw points out that the acidity of the native Sunrise Lime and the Davidson Plum, give it a taste that is extremely fruity but with a really dry finish.
“The drink was created by Luke Fleming, who is our bar manager here. He really wanted to create a variation of the Clover Club that encompassed native ingredients and could have them shine through the drink.”
Shaw tells a story about how the name was derived from a drive that Fleming did across the Nullarbor Plan. The Nullarbor, which at it’s widest point, stretches about 1,100 kilometres, is a flat and semi-arid area with a name that derives from the Latin to literally mean no trees.
“After the rains, you get this expansive of little flowers that shoot up,” Shaw explains. “When we were trying to come up with a name for the drink, it was the dryness of the drink but also the colour, reminding us of those fields of pink flowers that can happen, that made us think Nullarbor was the perfect name.”
Shaw believes that the only issue in trying to make this cocktail at home will be the ability to get your hand on these native ingredients.
If you are living in Australia, finding native plums and Limes is not that hard. There are purveyors of native ingredients like Something Wild who, while specialising in game meat, do also stock a range of native seasonal fruits, mushrooms, herbs, spices and condiments.
If you are living outside Australia, Shaw recommends some workarounds, which although not exact, will still get you pretty close to the taste these natives can impart.
“Considering the acidity of the Sunrise Lime, I would almost get the peel of the Lime and muddle that instead. Really, you’ve got juice coming through with the Lemon Juice anyway, so if you just want that really gutsy acidity, I would almost just muddle some Lime Peel.
The Davidson Plum he points out is going to be a bit harder to replace, due to the native fruits unique flavour.
“If you used something like a Cherry maybe or a common Plum, then I would probably dumb down the amount of Sugar Syrup you use. Those fruits are going to give you enough sweetness, so you can easily take the syrup down to 10mls or even 5mls”.
“Using Green Ant Gin was important to the overall cocktail,” said Shaw. “It’s not just that Green ants are an Australian native ant, but it was also the pepper, coriander & lime flavour that the Gin imparts, adds so much to this drink.”
Although at a pinch any gin can be used, it is the vibrant flavours of the green ants that are hand harvested in the Northern Territory by the Motlop family of the Larrakia people, that gives it such an unusual flavour edge.
Being a variation of a sour with egg white included, Shaw recommends that you do a dry shake, then a wet shake, to bring up the foam. But as Shaw prepares to dry shake the drink, you will realise that the shake is not completely dry, as he uses an old bartenders trick of dropping in a single ice cube before closing up the tins.
“I have been caught many times dry shaking without an ice cube and the pressure that builds up from the egg emulsifying can quite often pop the cocktail shaker and I’ve stained many a white shirt. If you put one single ice cube in there it still emulsifies but it chills the stainless steel and so the two halves stay sealed.
“I don’t think it changes much in terms of what it does to the cocktail, its more just to save my shirts, to be honest.”
The drink has two items for the garnish. The first is the green leaves of the Lemon Myrtle, a small native tree with leaves that release a strong lemon scent when crushed. The second is a dried slice of Blood Lime, a hybrid of Australian finger lime and a mandarin that was developed by the CSIRO.
“I like to give a bit of a slap to the Lenon Mirtle, just to release the oils, so when you are drinking the cocktail you get that wonderful aromatic of the Lemon Myrtle which adds to the drink. So really, you’re not only tasting the native Australian ingredients, but you are also smelling them.”
The Nullarbor Cocktail
60mls Green Ant Gin
Heaped bar spoon of Davidson Plum puree
30mls Lemon Juice
15mls Sugar Syrup
Muddle the Sunrise Lime in a cocktail tin, then add the Gin, puree, Lemon Juice, Sugar Syrup & Egg White. Dry shake, then add ice to wet shake, before fine straining into a coupe glass.