If you're headed to the Rocks or Circular Quay during the Vivid Festival, Hickson Road Distilling Co. is holding special dinners every Thursday night in June to celebrate the launch of their Seven Spices gin. Made with native Australian ingredients the culinary gin is designed for pairing with food and there's a four course menu with matching gin cocktails held in their on site distillery. So what is it like?
While I'm not a huge drinker I also happen to be married to a massive gin lover. It's Mr NQN's choice for every cocktail so when I tell him that Hickson House has a new gin called Seven Spice he perks up. Seven Spice Gin is a culinary gin designed for pairing with food. "We describe Hickson Rd. Seven Spice Gin as both culinary and savoury, as it’s created specifically to enhance meals; hopefully giving our patrons an alternative to more traditional beers and wines," explains one of Hickson House Distilling Co's owners Mikey Enright.
Hickson House Distilling Co. opened in The Rocks in December 2021 with the build being completed during COVID. Tim Stones the head distiller describes how he spent a year in his garage coming up with gin recipes, "I remember parts of it," he quips dryly. Every Thursday he would drop off packages of gin to taste to the houses of Hickson House owners Mikey and Julian Train and they would follow this with a virtual tasting on Zoom. That time spent creating the recipes meant that once the building was ready the recipes were ready to go for the on-site distillery and bar.
For the Seven Spices Gin he was playing with native spices for a spice rub and realised "Once you add juniper you have a great gin recipe". The Seven Spices Gin features wattleseed, lemon myrtle, aniseed myrtle, pepper leaf, finger lime, bush tomato and of course juniper. To celebrate the launch of the Seven Spices Gin during June they're holding gin matching dinners with a menu designed by Mikey's friend Chef Sean Connolly. It is the first time the two friends have worked together but Sean explains that he has had many years matching food to wine at Astral.
The dinners are held every Thursday in the actual distillery itself and are $195 per person. To hold these dinners they stop production early (it usually finishes around 10pm) and set up tables in the distillery. This was formerly the car parking space for ad agency Saatchi and Saatchi. "There was nothing in here apart from flash cars," says Mikey.
When you walk in, head to the corner bar cart where the bartender is making cocktails. The Pearl 2.0 Martini has oyster pearl infused Hickson Rd, Seven Spice Gin, Vermouth, Acqua Bianca and is garnished with a sprig of samphire. There are also canapes with Sydney rock oysters with finger lime as well as kangaroo fillet skewers with Seven Spice salt and a warrigal salsa verde. My favourite canape is the Boston Bay mussel with fennel escabeche and bush tomato that are moreish with a surprising sweetness.
We then head into the distillery where long tables have been set up for guests. They bring us our second cocktail, the Myrtle Mayhem which is my favourite of the night. It's made with Hickson Rd Seven Spiced Gin, fino sherry, lemon myrtle with a Seven Spice salt rim.
This is paired with three Abrolhos Island scallops on the shell. On top is a gorgeous native citrus butter and a splash of Seven Spice gin. The scallops are cooked perfectly and the native butter is so drinkable I pick up a shell and drink it along with some of the scallop. The butter has a few native ingredients stitched together perfectly including lemon myrtle, finger lime and native lemongrass.
They also bring out a sample glass of the Seven Spice Gin by itself. Having learnt how to appreciate spirits in the Napa Valley I tilt the glass to the side and take a sniff from the top of the glass.
The next cocktail arrives and it's a Carrotini made with Hickson Rd Seven Spice Gin, Aquavit, roasted carrot Lillet Blanc and orange bitters all with a pickled carrot on top. We also dip the carrot in the cocktail for a minute before crunching on it.
This cocktail is paired with a dry aged Wollemi duck with star anise and anise myrtle spiced carrot puree, a quenelle of bitter orange pesto and wattleseed salt. On the side are crisp edged and moreish duck fat potatoes. The duck has a lovely crisp skin and is tender underneath and pairs perfectly with the carrot while the bitter orange pesto balances the rich duck.
The last cocktail appears and it's the Magnificent Seven which I also really like made with the Hickson Rd Seven Spice Gin, Pommeau de Normandie, ginger, lemon curd, tonka bean and wattleseed. It has a terrific balance of flavours straddling sweet and tart well.
Sean explains that cheese goes well with gin so a cheesecake was the natural choice for dessert. These mini Basque cheesecakes are flavoured with wattleseed and dusted with charcoal powder to help along the charring process as mini cheesecakes don't brown as easily as larger ones. The cheesecakes are light and the wattleseed adds a cookie-like flavour to the cheesecake in the absence of the cookie base. I particularly enjoy this with the sweet quince puree and cocktail.
Guests are encouraged to linger whether it be in the distillery or wander up to the High & Dry bar upstairs. During Vivid the High & Dry bar is decked out in shades of blue and serves up special cocktails but the real action as it were is really in the distillery. And if you come early from 4pm to 6pm you can get a two Seven Spice cocktails (Pearl 2.0 Martini, the Carrotini and the Hickson Rd. Red Snapper) for the price of one.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like gin? Do you have a favourite gin cocktail?
NQN and Mr NQN were guests of Hickson House Distilling Co. but all opinions remain her own.
Hickson House Distilling Co.
6 Hickson Rd, The Rocks NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 8999 3852
Tuesday to Thursday 4 pm–12 am
Friday & Saturday 12 pm–12 am
Sunday 12–10 pm