Drops of Juniper: Simply Juniper, Fun and Magic.
When we first stumbled across Drop of Juniper's first born GIN. we discovered it was a super versatile gin that is the perfect gin for a martini, for a GnT or simply over ice. Claimed to be the 'swiss army knife' of gin we immediately wanted to know more. We reached out to the makers representative of the flux of new wave artisan distillers starting out with nothing but juniper in one hand, and a dream in the other.
Drops of Juniper is Tommy, Heath and Besty. Three founders worked together at Commonfolk Coffee in Mornington, Victoria where it was soon realised they all shared something in common: gin.
Photo: "The Boys" Drops of Juniper
Creative Director, Tommy tells us it all began one afternoon at Commonfolk when Heath, Tommy and Besty suddenly discovered they all liked that magical juniper beverage we all know and love. Plans were made, gin was bought, and Gin Monday was born. Tommy explains that Gin Monday became a tradition with banter filled knockoffs and a different gin each week. They took their banter to social media and were very content, talking it up and trying all the gins until they were approached by James from Four Pours. James wanted to make all their juniper dreams come true, to join forces and create their own gin.
So what happened next?
"We jumped at the chance, grabbed some guy who owns a gym, some idiot who likes whiskey and all of a sudden, ta dah! Gin."
So tell us more about who is Drops of Juniper, and how it came to be?
So it kind of happened like many small craft focused businesses. We were fanboys who thought we could do better than the masters. As the saying goes, ‘how hard can it be?’ It turns out it is harder than it looks. Three of the founders (Tommy, Heath & Besty) worked together at Commonfolk Coffee in Mornington where it was soon realised we all liked gin. Soon the Monday knockoffs started and we would take it in turns to bring a new bottle to share with the group. Each week we had to work harder to find something new and interesting, it became pretty competitive between us as to who could get the best and most exclusive gin.
As our catalogue of gin grew, so did our numbers soon we had extras most weeks who followed the rules and each bought a new bottle to share with the group. An enthusiastic gym owner, Lachie from Virtus Performance in Mornington, became obsessed with gin basically overnight. Sam the owner of Commonfolk Coffee, he was our boss so we figured getting him along was key to keeping these ever expanding knockoffs alive. Lastly a friend and one of Commonfolk’s suppliers, James from Four Pours.
It was one of these afternoons when James started talking about how we should do this ourselves. The original three had always talked of grand plans about how we could do this so much better, how one day we would have our own gin and live our distillery dreams. It never really seemed attainable though, just mates talking over G&Ts. James painted the picture of us producing a gin and him distributing him though his wine and spirits company. Duh, a distribution network before we had a product, that's a no brainer. We added Sam for his business acumen, and Lachie for….. we added Lachie because he likes gin.
Within months we were talking to some distillers who could contract distill for us, we ended up after many months of ups and downs with the legends at Alchemy Distillers is Healesville. We settled on a recipe and dove straight into a 1000 litre batch. That was February 2019 and here we are now, currently selling our second batch and planning on our third very soon.
What was the vision for Drops of Juniper when it was launched?
So our vision remains the same as when we began in 2019. To create a gin for everyone, something simple but delicious that anyone can enjoy. To remove some of the elitist language around gin which often confuses and excludes people, we aim to include everyone and create a product and a community where we just love all things gin.
Photo: Lachie & Heath
We love how you define gin – the intersection of juniper, fun and magic.
At the heart of all gin, the only constant is juniper. That aroma, bitterness and uncanny flavour we all love. It has to be fun, gin might trace its origins back to dirty trenches and the bathtubs of London, but the modern gin is all about fun. It is our belief that gin can replace vodka in every situation, that gin based cocktails are bright and happy. Gin is for celebrating, sharing and laughing. It is the funnest spirit. Magic refers to the distilling process, the magical collection of botanicals, and the countless ways you can use gin to make something delicious. I still smile like a child when the first drops fall from the still. It is a magical spirit and it always keeps us smiling and excited.
What are your influences when creating a new flavour profile?
In the early days we tasted hundreds of gins, we are the annoying guys who walk into a bottle shop or bar and have tried everything. The upside though is we have a massive knowledge base of gins, what we like and what we don't. We only have the one gin at the moment and it was obvious what that first gin should be. An easy drinker for everyone. Gin nerds will love its balance of flavour, spice and mouthfeel, the new gin drinker will love how sweet and smooth it is. A gin for everyone.
What is at the heart of what you do at Drops of Juniper?
We are literally flying by the seat of our pants, we just like drinking gin and having fun. I suppose the heart of that would be to grow our Drops community and share the fun with as many as we can. We all have hospitality backgrounds and understand that having a great product is crucial, but having a satisfied and engaged customer is just as important.
Photo: Distiller Heath
Tell us about how you achieve a smooth finish and balance out the alcohol. Does that have something to do with your base spirit?
A smooth finish was crucial for us, we knew that was a big turn off for new gin drinkers. We always knew we wanted a grain spirit base, as our favourite gins all had this in common. We also knew focusing on citrus and a limited selection of botanicals would keep the complexity low leading to a more balanced gin.
How many bottles do you produce each year?
We have produced 2000 bottles to date, and are rapidly running out. Batch 3 is on the cards very soon.
Photo: Heath, Bestie & James
What makes your gin different or unique?
We think its unique because it strives for simplicity and balance. Seems odd but lots of the gin market is trying new and wonderful things, exotic botanicals and fruit infusions. Our zig to their zag was back to basics and we made an honest simple gin that can be enjoyed in every situation.
Please tell us how you developed GIN. What did you imagine for your first release?
We wanted a gin to please the people. We had talked at length about how an incredible gin often relies on a great tonic to taste good, that said sometimes a gin can be ruined with a bad tonic. We decided the true test of a gin now would be the warm supermarket bought Schweppes tonic, if our gin shone through the fog of the dense sugary tonic, we knew we had a bulletproof product that couldn't be tainted no matter what the customer chose to mix it with.
Photo: Drops of Juniper GIN. served with CAPI Dry Tonic with lemon wedge
Which botanicals did you use?
We keep it simple with a handful of carefully selected botanicals, for us less it more. Juniper and fresh orange as the foundation with coriander seed, cardamom, cinnamon, angelica root & orris root.
Please share your best loved recipes for GIN.
This is where we feel most at home. We are hospitality people at heart and like to experiment and adapt traditional cocktails. A big favourite of ours is the Southside D-O-Double-G. The south side is a gin variation on the mojito. We like to use some grapefruit juice to balance out the lime. We imagine it is what Snoop was sippin’ in Gin and Juice.
Distiller Recipe: Southside D-O-Double-G
60ml Lime Juice
60ml Grapefruit Juice
15ml Simple Syrup
5 Mint leaves
Throw it all in a shaker with ice, double strain and garnish with a sprig of mint.
You are an independent craft distiller. What is life like for you? What are the highs and challenges?
Tough one for us to answer at the moment, we are gypsies without a home at the moment. We use the skills and equipment of the legends at Alchemy Distillers for the time being (apparently shed distilling is frowned upon). We can speak a little to the issues we face specifically as a gin company without a distillery. Our biggest hurdles have been local council and the permits we would need to operate, finding a building for our distillery has been a mission and we still haven't found something that works. The other tough part about any alcohol business is the taxes, it's just a huge chunk of money. We are so thankful to many in the Australian gin community, Cam and James from Four Pillars have been great guys answering any questions, same goes for Tim from Never Never.
What makes Australian Gin so special? How do you see gin evolving in Australia and where do you want to take it with Drops of Juniper?
It is hard to nail down, but for us I would say it's a cultural excellence we have come to expect. Coming from a coffee background Melbourne is a world leader in coffee, but step back and we really have no business being a leader here, however our culture demands excellence. I can see the parallels in craft spirits too, we are so late to the game in comparison to the rest of the world, however we have some of the best distilleries in the world.
What's next for Drops of Juniper? Any teasers for what's in store?
FIND A HOME! Sorry for the caps, but we are so ready to find a space and dive in deeper. A space would unlock so much for us on the distilling front, but really it would give us a space to host people. We are hospitality people at the core and we would love to make some delicious beverages and tell our story.
Finally, how do you take your gin?
Oh tough one, straight with a cube of ice is always so nice and easy. My favourite cocktail of the moment is an Aviation.
Distiller Recipe: Aviation
30ml Lemon Juice
30ml Luxardo (maraschino cherry liqueur)
15ml Creme de Violet
15ml Simple Syrup
Shake over ice, double strain into a chilled glass. It is about as good as it gets.
Tasting Notes: GIN.
This gin is for drinking, for enjoying and sharing with the ones you love, not for sitting on a shelf collecting dust. The secret ingredient to the perfect G&T, that crisp dry martini and what has been missing from your favorite cocktail.
A modern gin. Juniper and citrus heavy, with an accompaniment of subtle spice. Distilled with Fresh Navel Oranges and a tidy collection of botanicals including Juniper, Coriander Seed, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Angelica and Oris Roots. GIN. is destined to become the “Swiss Army” gin of your bar.
Written by Suzan Temizer and Thomas Terlaak. Photos courtesy of Drops of Juniper.