What Inspired Archie Rose x Sydney Opera House Gins and How to Drink Them
Making two gins to pay homage to the Sydney Opera House was no easy feat. Some people have commented, "how do you make a gin inspired by a building?", which seems like a fair enough question until you pose the alternative: "how do you find inspiration in anything?" You can be inspired by a song, or a feeling, or a moment. You could, in fact, be inspired by any damn thing. But when that thing in question is the world's most beautiful building, my question is always; “How are you NOT inspired by it?” I vividly remember my first trip to the Opera House, I was four and I climbed its leviathan granite slopes, angled at such a rate it was a wonder children stayed affixed without velcro shoes. When I look at these meagre metre-high inclines now I marvel at the rate of growth I've achieved in the years since. When we are all long gone, committed as dust to the ground, this building will still be standing. Sadly now standing without children climbing its granite inclines, but standing nonetheless.
While we were conceptualising these gins, we talked about what inspired us, on this sacred site of congregation and celebration. A site originally known to the Gadigal people as Tubowgule - where the knowledge waters meet. It has always been a meeting point, a place to share ideas, stories, and feast. And in an ever-changing world, it's a miracle that this one true constant remains. It's a building built on a place of meaning, in a revolutionary manner, at a time when white Australia was anything but.
And that's where we began. In an argument over what the building means to us. We were torn, between the impact it has on the viewer when seen from afar, to the all-encompassing demolition the acts that perform within it perpetrate on your soul. It's not just a building designed so Sydney could feel superior to Melbourne, it's not a building designed so Australia could put itself on the global architecture map (though both Sydneysiders and Australians think it does both those jobs). It's a building designed by a visionary to showcase art, that despite its grandeur and pomp, is here for all Australians, and those visiting its shores from abroad. It belongs to us all, globally.
To finesse our inspiration we argued further about what it means. We talked about the incredible shows or lectures we've attended, and we talked about our favourite viewpoint - for many of us, it was the view from the water, maybe on the Sydney to Manly ferry, as you leave Circular Quay. You turn gently past its crisp white sails, stunned in awe. It doesn't matter how many times you pass it, it is breathtaking. Or similarly sitting in one of its many wonderful bars, enjoying gin and tonics while watching the sunset behind the bridge. We rushed back to argue about the shows we'd seen between us. We were torn between the many, many inspirations you can take from a building.
We finally settled on the duality of the outside and inside. The building and the stimulation. Outside is the place in the land and harbour, the building and its shells. And inside is the inside. It could be any band, it could be the ballet or the opera, it could be Bell Shakespeare, it could be All About Women. Whatever you're doing inside the Opera House, we bet you're enjoying it.
Outside started first. It was more obvious. The feeling you have on the back of that ferry. The feeling you have when you watch the sunset behind the bridge. You are in either case, living a very good and luxurious life. You can smell the salinity in the air. And you're looking at just about the most beautiful view humankind has ever created, albeit with the generous help of mother nature.
We lept to seaweed, reuniting with our old friend kombu we haven't seen since Horisumi Winter. We also incorporated sea blight and sea lettuce. We layered the brine. But this was also Australia's house, we brought into play three kinds of finger lime, lemon-scented gum, strawberry gum, waxflower. And all these salty, eucalyptus notes required some citrus bolster so we loaded in some Valencia orange, white grapefruit, and yuzu, never forgetting our place in Asia.
This gin is surprising, the strawberry gum leaps forward when mixed with tonic, soda or water. The seaweed is there, ever balancing its cheery cries. It's longing to be acknowledged and so this gin will shyly open itself up to you when you enhance that. Try it in a Martini. You won't regret it.
Which leaves Inside. A little known fact about the Opera House is there were two architects. Jorn Utzon (outside) and Peter Hall (inside). While their backgrounds, budgets and basis were different, their visions find harmony on Tubowgule. While creating Inside we thought to the lurid purple carpets, the bright lights, and the explosion of art inside. We went full pop. We pulled in fruity players like raspberry and apricot. They needed a stern, guiding hand, so we applied some more herbal high notes from native thyme, garden variety thyme; along with waxflower, and some poor man's orange. What's left in the glass is a fruity good time. This gin will sing in citrus-forward cocktails, but it also makes a very mean G&T. Don't take my word for it, pour yourself a splash. You have two choices: the savoury and the sweet. But if I were you, I'd try both.