Rockpool Dining Group’s internal cocktail competition

Rockpool Dining Group staged its own internal cocktail competition for bartenders at its premium restaurants, with the three winners to create a new Four Pillars small batch gin.

The group’s National Bar Manager Ryan Gavin designed the competition, which asked each entrant to design and create their own cocktail using Four Pillars Rockpool Bartenders Series Modern Australian Gin as the base, and create a dream botanical list for their own small batch gin.

Gavin conducted two tastings – one in Melbourne and one in Sydney – before announcing the three winners: Joe-Wing Chiu Chan from Spice Temple Melbourne, and Matt Langdon and Andrea Zafarana from Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney.

All three won a trip to Four Pillars Distillery in the Yarra Valley to create a new small batch gin, which will feature in the bars of all the premium restaurants. The trio’s winning cocktails will start appearing on selected cocktail lists over the next six months.

“The competition was a great initiative and encouraged our bartenders to think outside the square,” said Gavin. “We are all looking forward to creating the second bartender’s gin with the team from Four Pillars.

“Drawing on the knowledge and experience of Joe-Wing, Matt and Andrea, we’ll put a fresh spin on botanicals and come up with something extraordinary.”

There were a few other rules around the competition as well: cocktails could include no more than 8 ingredients, couldn’t exceed 70ml of alcohol (higher than 15% ABV), and could include house made infusions and ingredients; also, the botanical list could not contain fictional ingredients “such as dried unicorn eyelashes”.

Some of the country’s top bartenders work at the company’s stable of restaurants, which includes Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple, Jade Temple, Rosetta, Saké Restaurant & Bar and The Cut.

The winners’ cocktails

Joe-Wing Chiu Chan – Spice Temple Melbourne


  • 20 ml Four Pillars Rockpool Bartender Series Gin
  • 20 ml blackcurrant & hibiscus syrup
  • 20 ml lemon juice
  • 10 ml Fernet Branca
  • Garnish with a lemon twist and crispy brik pastry and serve in a Nika Nora.

Bartender’s comment: “’Explore’ was twist by Charlie Chaplin. While it combines very simple ingredients, you get to taste different flavours on your tongue such as sweet, sour, salty, spicy and a gentle bitterness.”

Matt Langdon – Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney 

“Blackthorn Down”

  • 45 ml Four Pillars Rockpool Bartender Series Gin
  • 20ml Cocchi sweet vermouth
  • 20ml bespoke pink grapefruit/ Sichuan pepper cordial
  • Sloe gin foam
  • Garnish with juniper dust.

Bartender’s comment: “My inspiration for this drink is a twist on a classic English Blackthorn. It was one of the first drinks I learnt to make when I started at Rockpool Bar & Grill.  I loved it at first taste but my cocktail palate has changed over the years and I have been playing around with different elements to elevate this classic cocktail.”

Andrea Zafarana – Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney

“Original Giada”

  • 45 ml Four Pillars Rockpool Bartender Series Gin
  • 15 ml jalapeño Cocchi Americano infused
  • 15 ml homemade cucumber syrup
  • 20 ml celery juice
  • 20 ml lime juice
  • 10 ml egg white
  • 1 dash Absinthe
  • 3 basil leaves
  • Dry and wet shake, serve in a coupe with no garnish

Bartender’s comment: “I got the inspiration for the cocktail from my partner. Her name is Giada (Italian), which means in Jade in English. Given jade’s green notes and colour, I have chosen to use only green ingredients (except for the gin) and use just vegetables (except the lime) to give the drink a special herbaceous taste. Gin is Giarda’s favourite spirit and when I looked at pictures of the Yarra Valley, where Four Pillars is located, I saw green so every side of this cocktail meets my expectations.”

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