Mjolner, the fifth venue by the Speakeasy Group has opened in Sydney to rave reviews. But how do you create a cocktail list that complements a Viking-themed restaurant and bar? We speak with Andy Griffiths, Group Bar Manager and Creative Machine on how he devised the cocktail menu, a tempting tome of unique libations with Viking illustrations.
The inspiration behind the cocktail list was taking the Viking Luxe theme and portraying in an elegant way that didn’t feel too themed.
The list opens with a small section, Skäl, small amuse bouche style palate stimulators based on Stone, Sea, Wood and Bone. Next are Thor’s Favourites, cocktails that encapsulate Mjolner’s essence followed by bright, fresh aperitif style drinks appropriately named Sharpening the Axe! Frejya’s Fixes offer floral and aromatic options that start to combine lighter spirits with hints of herb and fruit then it’s Aboard The Longship with heavier ingredients and ocean seasonings described as Viking Tiki. The Fruits of Yggdrasil, the tree of life whose branches reach across all nine worlds in Norse mythology brings heavy, fruity and vegetal flavours and bigger spirits. Lastly, the Berserkers offer stronger, bolder potions with digestive qualities and stronger stirred down or blazed tipples.
Adopting a culinary approach, Andy Griffiths researched Nordic food, the history of Scandinavian cuisine, its culture and customs which led to a harvest of ideas with novel ingredients. “I spent plenty of time playing around with them and most of the drinks fell into the categories quite naturally. I also tried to keep the kitchen in mind and come up with options that will suit the food if required.”
So how does one do Viking Tiki? “I’d love to say with a horn of mead in one hand,” Griffiths says. “Fruit and salt are an epic combo which is finally becoming more common. Sea-faring cocktails and Nordic ingredients just clicked. Think samphire orgeat or salted cucumber foam with wakame. Having an amazing rotisserie also means we can take classic Tiki ingredients like pineapple juice and make slow-roasted versions.”
While the bar has a solid whisky focus, the choice of spirits for cocktails was based on quality products that are relatively easy to procure which left him the freedom to use ingredients that are a little more obscure. “We are using things like dulse (which is a purple North Atlantic Sea vegetable) to give umami and saltiness to our beetroot-laced house Bloody Mary, Eric the Red. We infuse No.3 Gin with pine sap for a delightfully fresh gin and rocket julep. Sorrel, bilberries, elderberries, chicory, black walnut leaf and beeswax are all sourced from different Australian suppliers. We’re making carrot orgeat, also using meaty rotisserie drippings, scorching mead with hot lumps of granite and making our own duck egg, bee pollen, tequila and chestnut Advocaat.”
If there is one representative cocktail that embodies Mjolner, it’s The Northern Lights with lashings of gin, sorrel infused elderflower, late harvest Riesling and malic acid. “It’s bright, fresh and served with sorrel and a pickled grape.”
Theatrics and presentation complete the cocktail experience at Mjolner. A Martini style drink is served on frozen river stones, Eric the Red comes with a crown of fried root vegetable crisps, and a twisted fog-cutter (Fog of War) comes as a sorbet with popping candy and frozen spirit to pour over. Naturally, there is a cocktail served in a Viking horn (Feeling Meady).
Creating a cocktail list of this calibre and for a venue that wasn’t been built at the time was not without challenges. When he designed the menu from Melbourne then prepped in Sydney during the first week, a considerable amount of items tasted different which meant a few recipes had to be tweaked. “The menu is very prep-heavy but thankfully we’ve got a pretty epic crew at the helm and the longship is ploughing ahead fantastically.” Indeed.
Address: 267 Cleveland Street, Redfern
Phone: 02 96999142
Photo by Cocktails & Bars – © Copyright: All rights reserved. L-R: Eric the Red, Feeling Meady