The First Ever Gin Journey Melbourne

Ever since I launched Gin Journey in Sydney in 2021 people have been pecking my head with the same old question, ‘what about Melbourne?’. In fact the day I arrived in Australia on a holiday around 15 years ago I remember someone at the airport telling me that ‘Melbourne is way better than Sydney’. Now frankly, I get very tired of comparisons and what and where is better. It’s like the Messi and Ronaldo debate, can’t we just have both? (It’s Messi by the way)

Well Melbs has been on my radar since day dot, I just needed a why.

Step in Melbourne Cocktail Festival, about a month before the event I popped a Gin Journey birthday post on LinkedIn. In came a DM from one of the superstar MCF organisers, Jane Ryan, asking whether I’d be keen to run a Gin Journey during MCF. A few logistics were posed but once they were cleared up the answer was a definitive ‘yes’.

Like most people, I love Melbourne, a trip to Wurundjeri is always full of food and drink, there’s usually a stroll down Brunswick St through Fitzroy while my partner, Soobi, and I search out a bar we’ve been tipped off on (last time was Waxflower, and it banged), I often make a visit to the Yarra Valley to pop into Four Pillars and generally indulge in the good life.

This time it was my turn to offer a bit of the good life to the people of Melbourne. With the huge help of both Jane and Tam Maynard from Worksmith who were pulling this whole incredible festival together we curated a brilliant route for a lukewarm Wednesday night in September, to be honest it was pretty much all Tam, I just got the booze in the right places.

The Journey sold out a day out from the event, always something that gives this event organiser an extra buzz and massive credit to the MCF team for getting the word out through Urban List and Concrete Playground etc. The gin lovers came runnin’.

Where else would we kick the evening off but the eponymous Gin Palace? A place that’s been serving good gin to Melburnians since 1997, they’re older than Hendricks Gin. Mental! First drink up was my very own, Bondi Gin Co Australian Dry and Fever-Tree Med Tonic, garnished with preserved lemon in the bottom of a big Spanish style copa glass, sea purslane (an edible ocean succulent) and some Leon Dalloway hand foraged lemon myrtle. Plucked in Bondi and muled all the way to Melbs by my fair hands.

A short stroll down Bourke St and we rocked up to New Gold Mountain, an Australian gold rush inspired strictly Aussie spirits bar, here we sipped on Poor Tom’s Piña Colada gin, distilled with pineapple husks and dehydrated coconut, which was then turned into a Saturn cocktail, a tiki classic with falernum and house made lychee bitters created out of the heads and tails from Little Lon (more on Little Lon later).

A wander round the corner into the French inspired hideaway,  Bar Margaux, and the evening was in full flow. I’d knocked out the history of gin in the previous venue so my guests were now well on the way to aficionado territory. Over came the concoction of all concoctions, Never Never Oyster Shell Gin paired with Fever-Tree Yuzu and Lime soda, it’s a match made in heaven. The subtle saline of the gin sets of the citrus just right. What a discovery of a drink…

Stop 4, we popped over the road and went up to the 13th floor of 168 Lonsdale St aka Fable. There was dry ice, delicious drinks and Melbourne Gin Co Single Shot Gin. The single shot is a classic Aussie big hitter, so much flavour and tonnes of craft, well done Andrew and the team. The cocktails were the Bees Knees, literally and metaphorically. Gin, lemon, honey. Yes please.

To finish the evening correctly we needed a distillery to visit, and what a jewel in the crown it was. A magical, secretive, so good it almost feels illegal distillery of tiny proportions. Situated in the Little Lon area of Melbourne, a historical former red light district, this distillery is housed in the only single story building remaining in Melbourne CBD, the building which is made up of two rooms, one bar and one distillery dates back to 1877 and I reckon still looks pretty much the same as it did back then. We drank on their exceptional Miss Yoko gin distilled with lychee (remember the bitters mentioned earlier) and quaffed a gin version of a Paloma.

The night was a roaring success, the feedback was unreal and the venues were all lovely.