Atriplex is a wonderfully hardy species, lauded for its survivability in the harsh climates of central Australia. As one humoured traveller once wrote:
‘When the apocalypse comes, all that will be left are cockroaches, nineties Volvos and Saltbush’
The anecdote holds true enough. In the red centre, vast saltbush plains hold court over the diminutive spinifex and scrub, aiding the ecosystem by balancing the salinity of the environment for its feudal floristic followers.
Even the great Banjo Patterson sought to immortalize the plant as an even fisted synonym for immovably tough - some would even say herculean.
Its flavours speak to the untamed expanse and unyielding soil of our arid interior. Saltiness, as its eponymous name would suggest, coupled with a grassy, umami dense complexity alongside a dash of bitterness is a savoury lover's fantasy. Deep-fried in beer batter, dehydrated and powdered, this incredible botanical should almost be too simple to use in gin.
But unfortunately, there’s a small hiccup in that assumption.
The chemical compounds of sodium chloride and potassium chloride - the elements that taste like ‘salt’ - are not lipophilic; meaning they don’t bond to alcohol molecules. The challenge of the Atriplex DNA is that it is diametrically opposed to its use in gin.
Despite these hurdles, we found a way to not only distill saltbush and its seed but complement its distinctive profile with a host of other botanicals that emphasise its profile.
With such a gorgeous host of flavours, the question shifts to exactly what drinks will highlight this delightful expression of gin? Well here are a few recipes for all cocktail lovers and palates, from the more savoury to the more fresh and summery flavours.
Laid Back Swizzle
When the Australian sun beats down, you need refreshment under the oppressing heat. For us, the combination of saltiness with juicy fruits tempers the cloying sweetness and heightens the elegant umami of the gin. The original Gin and Juice recipe that inspired the Snoop Dog hit with a native Australian twist.
The ultimate refreshment on a hot summer day. Made for beach days and refreshing sundowners with friends.
30ml Saltbush Gin
120ml Fresh Watermelon Juice
Fill a highball glass with ice. Combine all ingredients and stir. Garnish with either a strip of nori or a sprig of fresh basil.
In the beachside towns of Australia, coastal Saltbush reigns supreme as the main Atriplex species in the region. Tropical fruit and salt have always held a special place in our hearts as a match made in heaven.
For seaside getaways at the beach house and long trips down the tropical coast.
60ml Saltbush Gin
20ml Vanilla Syrup
3 drops of Wonderfoam
Shake all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and fine strain into a chilled coupette. Garnish with a sprig of sage.
The Japanese almost have a monopoly on the flavour of umami. First identified in 1908 by food scientist Kikunae Ikeda, it's no wonder that Japanese cuisine is reflective of this distinctive characteristic. The addition of sake instead of the traditional vermouth heightens the oceanic savouriness of the original dirty martini, and the combination of kombu bitters brings the complexity of seaweeds to the fore.
45ml Saltbush Gin
30ml Junmai Sake
2 dashes of Kombu Bitters
Stir all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.