True it was a PR dinner (don't condemn me yet), but this time it was quite educational, and I'm not one to turn down a lesson in gin from the people who know their stuff.
In the interests of being totally transparent: The event was a dinner and cocktail degustation with Merlin Griffiths, ambassador for Bombay Sapphire Gin (you know, the pretty blue bottle with a dour looking pic of Queen Vic), at Lamaros in South Melbourne.
The purpose of the dinner, of course, was to showcase all the different botanicals and accents that set Bombay apart from other run of the mill gins. So not forgetting that this was an exercise in brand awareness, I was still left drooling by the four courses of cocktails and matched plates.
It's not often that the drink on offer and the dish served with it are built from the ground up to complement one another so well. And as more than one dinner guest noted, when it comes to wine matched with food;
'The wine is already in the bottle, you can match the food to it, but you can't change the wine.'
What I came away with was this: the beauty of the cocktail degustation is that the cocktails and dishes are developed side by side, both tweaked and tested to bring out the best in the complimentary pair- an idea that in this instance paid off, and one that is still more than a little novel.
From Bombay cured salmon with a lavender infused Sapphire Norfolk Aviation: lemon, maraschino and Bombay combination, to the roast saddle of venison paired with a syrupy Sapphire Clover Leaf: raspberry, balsamic vinegar and Bombay mix, the effects were heightened awareness of the falvours in both the food and the drink and a sense of creativity in the dishes served.
It's true that by the end of the evening more than one of the guests had probably lost all sense of decorum, but with a cocktail for each course, surely that's to be expected, and part of the fun?
In the meantime, I vowed that I would keep my head and take advantage of the tasting notes supplied, rather than give in to unexamined pleasure. I think I pulled it off, just.
Suffice to say that I could still detect the play of flavours when dessert rolled out a coconut panna cotta showered in rhubarb and almond, served with licorice ice-cream to draw on the licorice botanical in a Bombay Red Currant Reviver; redcurrants, absynth and Bombay.
Rumor has it that traditionally this is a 'morning after' cocktail... and anyone greeting the day with that will certainly have a good morning. And noon. And evening.
At the risk of sounding like a PR go-to, I was genuinely impressed and I can only hope that the cocktail/dinner degustation takes off- god knows I've been scouting around town to see what others are on offer.
So far I have only turned up cocktail tastings with limited canapes, or devoid of food entirely.
Tonight a gin degustation, tomorrow a vodka breakfast!
By way of a disclaimer; I'm not a sell-out, I just happen to like gin. And as for Bombay Sapphire, that was one hell of a marketing move...
NB: I have since received a number of cocktail degustation suggestions, but I am always looking for more- if you hear of any, keep them coming? Cheers.