Australian chef Shannon Bennett is joining forces with Japanese whisky label Nikka to curate a food and cocktail evening at Melbourne's Lui Bar this weekend.
It's just one of several events taking place around Melbourne and Sydney to celebrate World Whisky Day on May 15 (and spilling over to May 16 as well).
Three dishes have been matched with Nikka Whisky's Miyagikyo Single Malt with the food and cocktail pairings designed to explore the complex flavours of whisky.
"The best way to appreciate whisky is to keep the food simple so the whisky does the talking," says Shannon Bennett, who lives in Byron Bay but continues to mentor staff at Vue de Monde and Lui Bar.
Danish-inspired doughnuts are on the menu (think ham and cheese toastie) because melted cheese cuts through the heaviness of whisky, while poached mussels and caviar also match well with the single malt.
"The smokiness of fish works really well with whisky," Bennett says. "We lightly poach the mussel for 30 seconds, place it back into its shell and top it with caviar and broth to enhance its connection to whisky."
But it's the Sydney Rock oyster, served with an emulsion of tarragon, parsley and apple cider vinegar blended with grapeseed oil that really stands out.
"The oyster is served with smoked eel and a poached quail egg," Bennett says. "You can eat these components together or separately as you sip your cocktail."
Jared Plummer, co-owner of The Whisky Mill, says World Whisky Day is a perfect excuse to learn about its place in cocktail culture. The growing popularity of whisky and highballs is no accident either – with more people keen to embrace it as a premium cocktail.
"The whisky highball is bringing vibrancy into whisky and moving away from feeling as though it is only enjoyed after dinner or in heavier cocktails," he says.
For the best best whisky cocktails in Sydney, check out The Baxter Inn, PS40 and Maybe Sammy (also doing Nikka Whisky cocktails for the weekend), while in Melbourne, Bar Liberty and The Attic at Black Pearl are stirring things up.
At Melbourne's Loop Rooftop this Saturday, join in a whisky and canapes hour-long session with Campari and whisky brand ambassador Luca Baio. Luca will be showcasing Grant's Whisky – with a focus on bottles aged between 10 and 18 years.
Bar 133 at the QT Melbourne is celebrating by pouring whiskies of the world – with a focus on five highballs from five countries starting from 5pm on Friday and Saturday nights.
In Sydney, Johnnie Walker X Spice Alley offers a private tuk-tuk experience for groups of four to six at $50 per head. Included is two whisky highballs, bespoke food pairing and a scoot around Kensington Street.
In Hobart, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is gathering whisky lovers together, too. Run by 7K whisky distillery's Tom Rofe, the Scotland to Hobart event at the New Sydney Hotel embraces festival cask whisky tasting. The event will make its way to Melbourne and Sydney later this month.
"Whisky is still perceived as an old man's drink, but it's so much more than that," says Rofe. "World Whisky Day is a chance to get like-minded people together to enjoy it neat, as a cocktail and raise awareness about its many qualities."