The Friday cocktail: Marlboroughpolitan

It’s not easy to get to the Bay of Many Coves Resort in Queen Charlotte Sound. It’s not accessible by road. So what you have to do is take a water taxi from Picton along Queen Charlotte Sound, passing by any number of sail boats, kayakers, a barge or two (one I passed was carrying a fresh load of salmon—about 50 tons worth according to the young water taxi skipper), and, if you’re lucky, maybe several pods of dolphins, until you come around a bend, the boat slows, and there before you, nestled among a thick native forest, are a dozen small buildings peaking out from the trees. This is the resort, which was built in 2003.

As it happened, I managed to catch the very last water taxi at 6 yesterday evening and by the time I arrived at the resort and checked in, the sun had set and it was surprisingly dark out with the only lights at the resort coming from the little orange path lights spaced alongside the hill.

Before dinner at the resort’s Foredeck Restaurant, with a stunning view overlooking the Sound, I pulled up a chair at the bar and asked the bartender, an attractive young woman with bright streaks of red in her otherwise black hair, if they had a house cocktail.

“That would be our Marlboroughpolitan,” she said. “Sort of our take on the standard Cosmopolitan.”

I didn’t even ask her what was in it—I just ordered it. It was a fascinating drink. I didn’t get the connection to a Cosmopolitan. To me, it tasted more like a margarita martini, if that’s possible. I sat there as the moon rose over the Sound, throwing a shimmering silver blanket over the water, trying to break down the ingredients. As I’ve said before, I don’t have the greatest palate. There was gin in it, for sure, and citrus elements—Cointreau, I was guessing since it was based on a Cosmopolitan. But there was something else I just couldn’t put my finger on so I asked the bartender what the secret ingredient was.

She smiled. “Sparkling white grape juice from the Marlborough vineyards. That’s why we call it a Marlboroughpolitan.”

The other secret ingredient, in my mind, is that they use South Premium gin, a lovely libation from Geoff Ross of 42 Below fame, both of which are made in New Zealand. Here’s the story behind South Premium gin: In 2001, Geoff Ross, who founded 42 Below, swooned up to a swanky bar in London in his Voyage shirt and Rogan jeans and ordered a vodka martini. Stirred. The fresh bartender looked at him under a pert fringe and said, “Everyone’s drinking gin martinis, darrrrrrrhling. Are you from the Antipodes?”

Geoff returned to New Zealand with his Antipodean accent and embarked on a mission to create the world’s freshest, most pert gin. He wanted something young, with a twist that had roots established firmly in New Zealand. Two years later, he opened the first bottle of South, and it’s now one of the premium gins in the world.

So, you could make your Marlboroughpolitan with some other gin—but I wouldn’t.


2 shots South Premium gin

1 shot Cointreau

Tiny squeeze of lime

Add ingredients to a shaker half filled with crushed ice, shake well, pour into a martini glass and top with sparkling white grape juice (or, if you prefer, as I do, with sparkling wine). Garnish with a lemon twist.

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1 comment

  1. david’s avatar

    Greg Grinnell writes: “Now you’ve answered my question about the whole NZ 42 Below and South puzzlement; on our last trip I wasn’t sure if it was a real Kiwi out to make great liquor or just a slick local marketing ploy.”

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