Pick your own

By Cuisine7 Minutes
February 1, 2023By Cuisine

A refreshing fruit cup is the quintessential sip of the summer – the team at The Churchill in Auckland presents the best of the season.

For a city full of high-rise skyscrapers, there are remarkably few places where Tāmaki Makaurau/ Auckland is the star of the view when drinking and dining. While other rooftop bars wrestle for a panorama of the harbour The Churchill, tucked at the top of Queen St, boasts one of the best evening views in all the city from the 20th floor of the Four Points by Sheraton hotel. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame the leisurely slope of the city down to the water, an outlook wrapped in international elegance. As the lights of the city emerge, the space easily evokes moody memories of hotel bars in New York, London and Chicago. That’s exactly what Scott O’Connor hoped for when he began work on The Churchill prior to the pandemic. Originally from the UK, Scott has travelled and worked internationally before making a home in New Zealand. The bar itself features big, scalloped curves where the light bounces gently off hanging glassware and shelves of carefully selected spirits, and rows of colourful and fragrant garnishes catch the attention.

The Churchill is a gin and cocktail-focussed bar, known for a clever 10 x 10 x 10 menu that encourages guests to select their own unique combination of gin, tonic and garnish, although the team does have recommendations if you need them. It also features a cocktail menu based on the award-winning Sir Winston Churchill gin – the house gin that Scott developed with local distiller 1919 Distilling. The cocktails are well-balanced, precise and they celebrate the diverse range of gin expressions stocked behind the bar.

Internationally, hotel bars frequently top the awards lists and must-see venues, but here in New Zealand they haven’t always had the limelight they might. Scott is ambitious about changing that. He is adamant that working within the hotel presents an opportunity to showcase and develop world-class menus and service to the highest standard.

Scott’s energy and enthusiasm are admirable, especially given The Churchill was closed for the duration of the COVID-19 response, as the hotel took on an MIQ contract. It was a long, drawn-out closure that left Scott with plenty of time to think and plan, so now there are new menus, cocktails and Sir Winston Churchill gin expressions on the way for summer.

“I want people to walk in and feel transported, like they could be anywhere in the world, but they’re here in New Zealand, a wonderful place to be. No one has a view of the city like this or the chance to explore gin like this.

“We have dozens of different tonics and I’m always trying to get the best varieties into the bar, things people can’t find anywhere else. We really love being able to recommend unique and specific pairings so that every gin is shown in its best light.”

This is the distinct flair that makes The Churchill really sparkle. Just like the best international hotel bars, it has a unique and unparalleled offering that makes it a destination worth visiting. As well as that breathtaking view. TASH MCGILL

THE HISTORY OF GIN LIQUEURS AND THE FRUIT CUP

The fruit cup is a style of drink rooted in history and one that has travelled the Atlantic back and forth. It’s best thought of as an individual punch in a glass – gin liqueur, fruit and garnish, and sparkling soda or lemonade. Perhaps the most iconic fruit cup was born in 1825. London is heaving under a thick blanket of summer and people are thirsty for a refreshing and light beverage. James Pimm has just purchased a small hospitality venue which will become known as Pimm’s Oyster Warehouse, where he develops a house recipe for a fruit cup – a trend that is popular at the time. A strong measure of gin, loaded with herbs, botanicals, fruit and a little sugar for sweetness is topped off with soda or lemonade, creating a lower-alcohol, thirst-quenching beverage. The Pimm’s Cup No.1 quickly became the iconic fruit cup, so much so that Pimm’s blend of gin, herbs, botanicals and fruit was quickly in demand as a bottled product that could be mixed with lemonade and garnished for full effect. It has stood the test of many seasons since to become the drink of choice at Wimbledon as well as our backyard summer soirées.

Liqueurs have always been closely tied to medicinal purposes, as alcohol is a good carrier and preservative of the compounds from botanicals and herbs thought to be beneficial, most often for digestion or appetite aids. But beneficial doesn’t always translate to delicious, so craftspeople have often turned to fruit and sweeteners to create a more delectable flavour. Today, the resurgence of gin has also birthed a new range of gin liqueurs and cup expressions that create deliciousness and cry out for summer garnishes of fruit and herbs that sparkle, refresh and look great at a summer party.

FRUIT CUP RECIPES

A cup is a built cocktail, which means it is made and mixed in the serving glass. You can use this same method for each of the cup recipes below. Take a serving glass (we recommend a large wine glass or gin cocktail glass). Add gin or gin liqueur, then half fill the glass with ice. Add the soda or lemonade, stir once with a swizzle stick or barspoon. Add the garnish and serve.