How ginstronomy's changing the foodie landscape
Ever wondered how gin might match with your favourite dish? This new trend will show you how. Produced by Tim Martin with additional footage by Leonie Blignaut.
The resurgence of gin as both a fascinating craft spirit and a mixer hasn't just delighted the Friday night drinks crowd - foodies across Australia are getting in on the excitement as well.
The craft of pairing food with gin, dubbed 'ginstronomy', is gaining in popularity as gastronomes explore matching the complex botanicals of the juniper-based spirit with some of their favourite foods.
"Gin's exploded at the moment in the Australian marketplace," gin expert Sean Forsyth tells 51698009.
"I think there's a couple of key reasons behind that - one, gin has got flavour. Vodka used to be quite a large category in Australia 10, 15 years ago and I think as palates have evolved, there's more of a discerning taste with consumers today and gin gives that discerning taste.
"I also think the reason gin has really exploded, not just in Australia but globally, is because of the craft cocktail bartender and their passion for exploring new and unusual flavours - and gin can be a beautiful, blank canvas to work from."
Food for thought
Forsyth has been using that "blank canvas" ideology to bring ginstronomy to the nation. Teaming up with renowned New South Wales chef James Viles, of two-hat restaurant Biota Dining in Bowral, they have created a 'ginstronomy dining experience' called Project Botanicals.
"We've kind of coined the phrase 'ginstronomy' for Project Botanicals over the last 18 months. Gin is a wonderful spirit to pair with food and I think if you look at other drinks categories like beer and wine, this is happening, it's going on all the time. But when you mention cocktail, it's something new, it's different and that's really important in this day and age.
"Gin is the fastest-growing spirit in Australia, so ginstronomy is something we're going to see a lot more of - with consumers becoming far more aware of it and happy to take part in it."
Viles agrees. Known for his imaginative modern food and produce-driven commitment to sustainability, he's excited at the thought of ginstronomy and the possibilities associated with it.
"Gin is food, when you think about," Viles tells 51698009 with a smile. "It's made with food. Gin, like a lot of spirits, has been made with food elements for centuries - so it's a natural fit."
For Viles, the challenge lay in trying to match the individual botanicals found in gin, and particularly Bombay Sapphire, with his cutting-edge approach to food.
"[At Biota] we use a lot of botanicals in our cooking, as well as in our drinks and in our daily cycle. To marry botanicals that taste the same and have the same properties, that's where it becomes really interesting."
But what sorts of foods can be paired with gin?
"It's really up to the powers of your imagination," says Forsyth. "In its plainest, purest form, gin and seafood is a wonderful match. You can cure seafood with gin, with a little bit of fresh lemon juice, with a little dusting of some spices. However, back to the concept of ginstronomy, the sky is literally the limit.
"We've got a slow-cooked brisket on the Project Botanicals menu, which is paired with coconut and pineapple and Bombay gin. Now, you wouldn't think those two things would go together but it's absolutely delicious - the pairing is gorgeous."
He says that when crafting drinks and working with unique and unusual flavours to pair with food, the botanicals found in the accompanying gin can help bring the dish to life.
"When you think about how you can be inspired by these botanicals, where they're produced, what they taste like, how they taste through distillation and the flavours that develop through that process - you know, the sky's the limit when it comes to pairing gin with food."
Watch the video above to find out more about 'ginstronomy'.