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25/01/2016

Unico Zelo vignerons branch out into spirits

HOW do we celebrate Australia Day?

A barbecue. A swim in the surf. A bush picnic. Cracking a few cold cans.

Ahh — the serenity.

It’s mostly about eating and drinking, that’s for sure — and you can now do it all with homegrown pride.

Australian produce is easy if you stick to plenty of the fresh stuff. Cheeses, breads, sausages, lamb and lamingtons, salads, pavlovas — it doesn’t get any better than that.

If you want to do an Italian pasta, then you can use SA-grown and made spaghetti. If you want Chinese, Vietnamese or Middle Eastern style kebabs, we’ve also got everything you need right here.

And the drinks list?

The beer — no probs. The wine: we couldn’t be better served.

And now we can chuck out the cheap imported vodka and gin for your cocktails. We can do the lot now with all-Aussie ingredients.

While retail buying trends shows Aussies are turning to all things Italian during the summer of 2016, we can stay loyal and DIY with plenty of local flavour.

Prosecco and mixers like Aperol are the big trendsetters, says First Choice Liquor’s business category manager Paul Sonneveld.

And Australian Prosecco is all the rage, sales tripling in the past two years, near 10 times the growth of Champagne. It’s not slowing either, and First Choice expects the trend to go gang busters for the rest of the season.

One of the reasons is the rising popularity of celebrated Italian mixer Aperol, which has a mild bitter-sweet flavour and is the core ingredient with Prosecco in what’s known as an Aperol Spritz cocktail.

According to Mr Sonneveld, it’s been one of the big hits of summer and is expected to continue while the hot weather remains.

But we don’t have to buy the imported Aperol, no matter how trendy it is.

Adelaide Hills couple Brendan and Laura Carter have just released a couple of bitter orange liqueurs in the style of Aperol and the more bitter imported Campari, developed and distilled right here in Gumeracha under the name Applewood Distillery, the drinks called Okar and Red Okar for the stronger version.

“We wanted to showcase Australian food and cultural tastes, and we realised we are well positioned here to create a unique beverage,” Brendan says.

“Aperol and Campari were in every bar, and while there are many Australian gins no one locally was making the bitters.

“We embrace bitterness here — we drink hop-laden lager beers, we’re brought up on Vegemite, it’s part of our food and drinks culture.”

Their Okar range includes Australian grown ingredients like riberries, native currants, Illawarra plums, blood and dessert limes, as well as imported gentian root.

A gin also uses local florals such as lavender to give them a unique edge in a growing market.

The Carters are among a growing community of Australian liqueur and spirit artisans crafting new whiskies and especially gins using indigenous botanicals on top of traditional European ingredients.

Gin is the spirit of the moment with dozens of down-under versions now available, from central Victoria, WA and here also out of Kangaroo Island, McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills.

Rum is more established with Bundaberg and Beenleigh the local heroes.

Even celebrated Clare Valley riesling king Jeffrey Grosset has got into the action with a surprising release last year of Grosset45, a distilled spirit from organically grown riesling grapes and perfect for cocktails that would otherwise use vodka.

And for those keen on a chest-beating negroni, we can now do the lot with Australian made vermouths such as Maidenii and Regal Rogue — just mix in equal proportions with an Aussie gin, Applewood’s Red Okar.

You can also turn the classic Americano cocktail into an Australiano: Red Okar, sweet red vermouth and soda in a 1:1:2 ratio.

We can spread the domestic bliss even further by using Australian made mixers such as tonic water for the great summer refresher G+T, and ginger beers and ales for the classic Dark and Stormy made with dark or spiced rum — look out for brands like Bundaberg, Schweppes, Capi, and SA’s own Bickfords, which has just released a new set of Bickford & Sons mixers than are a tad less sweet than the more popular Schweppes.

Bickfords of course also makes its famed Lime Juice Cordial, heritage listed in its home state and brilliant in that delicious summer thirst quencher Mojito — made of course with Aussie white rum and freshly squeezed limes.

It doesn’t get any more ridgy-didge than that.

This article was originally posted on The Advertiser by Tony Love.

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