Luke Dornan was shooting the breeze with his pal Suzanne Poli one evening, lamenting the fact he couldn’t find any use for Australian native plants as ingredients in his drinks.
“It was really strange to me when we have such a local focus on wines and beer and food,” The Ellington Jazz Club’s functions manager said.
“There were some products about but they were so expensive they couldn’t be justified as a cocktail ingredient. Four months later, Suzy called me and said ‘Hi – I’ve done that thing you mentioned!’”
She’d worked out how to extract the flavours of native Australian flora so they could be used as essences in drinks.
Today, Mr Dornan, Ms Poli and chef Sorsha Roberts are partners in The Bitter Bush, which sells native essences, all of which Mr Dornan uses as drinks ingredients.
“As far as I’m aware, no one else does this in Perth,” he said. “My favourite is the native bush mint that I use in what I call a Native Mintito.”
It’s his Australian take on the traditional Cuban highball, the mojito, and it comprises white rum, a little sugar and lime, and a fair bit of The Bitter Bush’s native bush mint.
The way is to make it martini-style according to Mr Dornan. “Add the lime with the mint and sugar to extract flavours out of the lime, then the ice and rum, shake till the flavours are well combined and then strain it into a martini glass. The flavours are very intense, very powerful and it’s delicious.”
He has devised another “Australiana” cocktail using lemon myrtle to make his version of the famous cosmopolitan – the Ausmopolitan.
And customers? It seems they’re both sceptical and eager to try them. “Then they go ‘Wow that’s amazing’, and come back for a second,” he said.