Petrichor: a Nostalgic Cocktail by Bar Clara

Opening doors in early 2019, Bar Clara is now blowing out the candles in celebration of its fifth birthday. Or rather, the bar team is firing up their blowtorches to caramelise the meringue clouds that perch atop the popular Banoffee-pie-inspired cocktail that has been the only drink to remain on the venue’s seasonally-evolving menu throughout the past five years.

Of the venue’s origins, Clara’s founder Joel McKenzie says, “we wanted to use modern cocktail techniques to highlight and express seasonal ingredients really clearly. That’s where the name ‘Clara’ comes from – it’s a play on the word ‘clarity’. We took it quite literally and did a lot of centrifuge-clarified drinks on our first menu.” 

After developing 170 unique, centrifuged, macerated, sous-vide or pressure-whipped drinks over the past five years, Joel and the Bar Clara team have now developed a limited-release birthday cocktail. It’s filled with nostalgia – a big cocktail trend in 2024 – for a childhood spent growing up in the Victorian bush.

Joel says, “[The bar] is growing up a bit. So what was I doing growing up? I was playing in muddy creeks in the Yarra Valley. It was summer. It was hot. The stones in the river would be hot. The water in the river would splash on your legs and you’d get this amazing smell which is why the drink is named ‘Petrichor’.”

Petrichor is that recognizably earthy smell (it’s mostly oils and bacteria by-product!) that emerges along with rainfall. Australian scientists were the ones who first identified the phenomena back in the 60s and gave it a name: “Petra” means “stone” and “ichor” means “fluid that flows like blood in the veins of the gods”.

So what’s in the glass? The spirit of a martini with the heft of a Manhattan. Four Pillars’ Rare Dry Gin is the backbone of the drink. “I grew up about 400 metres from where the Four Pillars distillery is now. My mum still lives in the Valley; she teaches kindergarten – she taught the head distiller’s kids. So with their place in the Valley and our connection, we really wanted to work with them on this drink,” says Joel.

The rest of the ingredients are also hyper-local. There’s Payten & Jones’ Ooh La La Fortified Vermouth (for spice and extra booze), Apiary Made’s Yarra Valley honey (they establish hives on the edge of National Parks so that bees can collect pollen from native wildflowers), and, for dilution, artesian water sourced from Gilderoy Springs. The Petrichor cocktail is presented amid its own “fern gully”: a platter of preserved fern fronds and moss with liquid nitrogen fog gently rolling over river stones. To garnish the drink, an aromatic rivergum oil is made into vape juice and blown into a bubble on top of the drink when it arrives at your table. It brings a touch of the Australian bush to Chinatown.

Wish “Happy Birthday” to Bar Clara – and sip Petrichor for a very limited time only – at 87 Little Bourke St, Melbourne. P.S. To further mark the occasion, the bar is offering a complimentary seasonal cocktail to every 5th customer from now until the end of March (up to five each night).





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