Credit: Stuart Garske

‘Tis the season for blockbuster summer art exhibitions, and with them, bars themed in accordance with those exhibitions in which to enjoy a well earned al fresco tipple.

It’s a winning combination, and undoubtedly one of summer’s simplest pleasures – one that the Museum of Contemporary Arts understands the value of all too well, evinced in the return of their summer drinking destination, which this year takes its cues from the Sydney-exclusive exhibition Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect With Everything.

Staged as part of the Sydney International Art Series, Connect With Everything is a Sydney-exclusive survey of one of Japan’s leading contemporary artist’s extensive body of work, encompassing sculptures and immersive installations with a digital twist. In occasion of the retrospective, the MCA has collaborated with the Archie Rose Distillery to create a tailored gin designed to blend perfectly with saké, while also enlisting Jared Thibault, Group Beverage Director QT Hotels and Resorts, to create a series of Cherry Blossom Bar Cocktails.

“Working with Japanese spirits is something relatively new for me,” Thibault told GRAZIA. “When you’ve been mixing drinks for as long as I have [sixteen years] it’s fun to work on a project [that requires] research and experimentation to come up with new ideas.”

At left, Tatsuo Miyajima, Pile Up Life No. 4, 2009/2016, waterproof LED, fibre-reinforced plastics, electric wire, transformer, and right, Arrow of Time (Unfinished Life), 2016, LED, IC, electric wire, iron
Credit: Both courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery; (right) The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Thomas B. Ling

The results speak for themselves: think A Taste of Tokyo (saké, pomegranate juice, yuzu, Insta Foam, lemon, edible flowers), “a light refreshing saké cocktail perfect for a summer day”, or the Kyoto Smash (Kakubin whisky, lemon, demerara sugar, yuzu bitters and mint), which Thibault calls “a twist on the summer whisky classic the Whisky Smash” comparable to a whisky mojito.

The first of Thibault’s four signature cocktails is the Nashi Kabukin Highball – another refreshing aperitif bringing together the perennially popular Kakubin whisky with a refreshing profile: Nashi pear with citrus, ginger and lemongrass. The cocktail itself is a twist on Japan’s number one libation (besides, well, beer and saké), thanks in no small part to the appeal of the highball globally, a large part of which owes to its no nonsense appeal and lower proof than other cocktails. It’s one of his favourites, and he says he relished the opportunity to pair (no pun intended) ginger and nashi, two flavours that complement each other, with Izakaya style dishes like soba noodles with chilled tofu, ponzu, ginger, spring onion and chilli threads.

While you await the bar’s opening next Friday, get a jump on this classic spring spritz, a recipe for which follows below.

The Cherry Blossom Bar will run in conjunction with the Sydney International Art Series exhibition Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect with Everything from November 3, 2016 until March 5, 2017 (Thursday – Friday from 4pm until late; Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon).

Nashi Kakubin Highball
45ml Suntory Kakubin Whisky
10ml Nashi Pear Drinking Vinegar
10ml fresh lemon juice
4 mint leaves

Fill a highball glass with Capi Ginger Beer (a normal one, not the Flamin’ Ginger Beer). Pour the remainder of your ingredients into the highball and stir. Garnish with a wedge of lemon and and a mint sprig.

Credit: Stuart Garske

Tile and cover image: Stuart Garske, courtesy of MCA