There was a joke going around here about going through the COVID-19 journey: you’d emerge on the other side either, chunky, hunky or drunky.
Personally I’ve managed to get plenty of two out three…. my Martini consumption was way up, but I hit the gym (don’t do the gin crime without the gym time friends) plenty too to balance that out.
Just like you, 2020 didn’t turn out as expected, I had finally gotten the business side of Martini Whisperer at full speed ahead with lots of great events, festivals, judging appearances all locked in, but then, you know what happened, and all that evaporated in a few days.
This time last year, here in Canberra we were impacted by the devastating bushfires (we had the worst air in the world at some point and couldn’t go outside without a protective mask due to the fires) – grieving for our friends and places around the city that we loved and were connected too.
Then soon after that national tragedy, a dire hailstorm that lasted just 15 minutes roared through the capital and destroyed tens of thousands of cars, roofs, businesses, homes.
So we thought, ok then, that’s it for the year, but no, a few weeks later, this thing called COVID-10, lockdown and the rest is history.
At the time, I was down the south coast of New South Wales to mark my birthday for a week, when they started closing State borders and businesses were told to shut down. I was in a charming small town and we were the last customers at the bar, the pub, the cafe, the takeaway, the distillery, all those dreams and hard work, going dark before our eyes, it was terrible. Replicated again and again around the world.
But as our world got much smaller, it got much bigger as we connected with our tribe in other innovative ways.
So here’s my top five Martini experiences for the year, that captures the year that was for me, a little different from the 2019 list!
Melbourne Lockdown Masterclass
Melbourne had the strictest lockdown regime for several months this year to successfully eradicate the virus. But one good husband got in touch with me to arrange a surprise birthday gift for his wife who follows me on Instagram. We arranged terms and a time/place and he had all the necessary ingredients and mise en place hidden around the house. At the agreed time I called her up on FaceTime and wished her Happy Birthday! She nearly dropped the phone in surprise, and we then had a wonderful hour and a half making Martinis, and doing my first virtual masterclass. An absolutely lovely couple and I’m sure to visit them when I’m there next. Definitely a highlight of the Martini year for me.
HerCanberra Quarantini and more fun
The talented team at Canberra’s premier lifestyle and fashion magazine, HerCanberra, and I have collaborated several times over the years and I’ve been fortunate to have my home featured in their magazine and worked with them on several events. So when things started going South at the start of the pandemic they had the brilliant idea of approaching me to create an official Quarantini. This we did live on their Instagram feed to great effect, and so in November we thought we’d put 2020 to bed with some more cocktail creations. So Associate Editor Emma Macdonald came back to Martini Whisperer HQ for another live broadcast, and I created three new drinks: The Pivot, The Twenty-tini, and the Iso-Comfort. You can find the recipes here, and watch the full episode on my YouTube channel here. It’s a hoot, complete with COVID puppy-ness and a live audience.
The Martini Zoom with the masters
As chance would have it, I had done a chat live on one of my social channels talking about various good Martini books, and the next week I saw an ad for a Zoom chat with three of the leading authors on my favourite subject including the ones I had in my collection. I bought my ticket and set my alarm. US based writers, Robert Simonson, Barnaby Conrad III and Lowell Edmund staged a very erudite conversation on the Martini. I had to get up at 3am to tune in ( the things I do) and the audience could write in questions, and they were a bit of a cocktail/ bar who’s who from around the world. Great fun and a real pleasure to hear from gents who had inspired me over the years.
US Modernist Live
A few years ago I had the privilege of being interviewed on the very popular podcast, US Modernist whilst in Palm Springs California. Host George Smart is a charming gent from North Carolina and came up with the idea of a series of variety show events for his large audience via Zoom. So I had the pleasure of being featured a couple of times chatting about the Martini, it’s origins, Mid-Century cocktail culture, origin of the glass and much more. We had a ball, and it was, like, 9am my time to match cocktail hour in the USA, so never too early for a cocktail right? If you’re interested in design, architecture and modernism in general, check out their fun and informative podcast series.
Canberra Centre and Other Gigs
Thanks to the diligence of our public servants and a bit of luck, Canberra didn’t get much in the way of COVID cases (**touches wood**) so whilst we got locked down for a bit, it was nothing compared to the rest of the world. Still, it took several months for things to get back to ‘normal’ and so to be invited to host an event at our premier fashion / shopping precinct, the Canberra Centre was a thrill after not doing a whole lot for quite a while. I was even a bit nervous to be on stage in front of a very socially distanced audience, and created a special Martini for the occasion featuring saffron. But it felt so good to be back doing my thing, and this was followed with private tasting events and showcasing things like Australian whisky at the award winning FoodIAm in Wagga Wagga. It sure felt weird driving down a deserted freeway to the city a few hours from Canberra, but good, and naturally I brought my travel pack to celebrate after the masterclass afterwards in my hotel.
It would be amiss of me to also mention the live chats I did with contributors to this site, Jens in Denmark and Simon in Japan talking about Scandi gins and Japanese bars respectively and also the team at Gin Society who asked me to create several Martini recipes using craft gins from around the world they offer to their members. You can see the clips and more here.
If the point of a cocktail, or the Martini, is to inspire and make your world a brighter place, if only for a short time, then I think I can safely say that it was mission accomplished for me and everyone who was part of the journey this year.
We found ways to stay connected, positive and bring some light to each other in an uncertain time.
So I’m wishing you and yours a Vintage ’21, may it be full of hope, fulfilment and prosperity.
On behalf of the team, thank you for tuning in and your support this year.
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