The national Drink Easy award-winners were announced last week after a week-long exploration of style and flavour. The top gong (Australia's overall best drink) went to the Crittenden Estate Cri De Coeur Savagnin, a textural, nutty, Jura-esque wine that epitomises the innovation coming out of Victoria at the moment. Bravo. It turned heads across all categories (I was among the judges and the excitement was tangible). Particularly interesting was the rise of classic beverages created for a modern audience. These were a few of the highlights.
Ziggy's Wild Foods, Native Lilly Pilly, Lemon Myrtle and Wild Lavender Shrub
NSW (Gadigal Land), $20
Harking back to the 17th century, a shrub is a concentrated beverage that combines fresh fruit, sugar and vinegar. It can be used in cocktails or as a non-alcoholic mixer (a bit like cordial with texture and intrigue). This one is a whiz-bang explosion of native flavours. Add some soda to the syrup and you're good to go. This is arguably the best-value non-alc beverage on the market right now, which means it sells out fast but is worth the hunt. Zero per cent alcohol.
Find it at ziggyswildfoods.com.au
Lyre's Italian Orange
This Italian stallion ranked number four overall in the Drink Easy Awards. Impressive stuff. This non-alcoholic drop holds its own against the hard stuff. The sensory onslaught is so intense, it's difficult to tell the difference. The vibrant orange liquid pulsates with energy and has all the citrus punch of a classic bitter orange aperitif (such as Campari), with a distinctly modern edge. Pithy blood orange flavours explode when added to soda or tonic water. A great sundowner or brunch accompaniment – minus the hangover. Zero per cent alcohol.
Find it at lyres.com.au
Wildbrumby Baked Apple Liqueur Schnapps
Crackenback, NSW, $48.99
We've got high-altitude distillery Wildbrumby (located between Jindabyne and Thredbo) to thank for this sublime schnapps. The liqueur is a dessert you can drink. Close your eyes and savour the cinnamon, clove and star anise aromas. It's like devouring a Nanna's fresh-baked apple pie; comforting as a bedtime story, and best served in a little glass – for long, slow, thoughtful consumption. It also works well in cocktails and is lower in alcohol than the traditional German humdingers. 18 per cent alcohol.
Find it at Dan Murphy and wildbrumby.com