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Jez Spencer - West Winds Gin

Jez Spencer eats cocktails for breakfast. Alongside his muesli, blackberries and kale juice he ingests a Red Snapper: akin to a Bloody Mary, but with gin as its base.

One would expect nothing less from the (self-appointed) rear admiral of the boutique, award-winning gin distillery that’s making the wankiest bartenders weak at the knees and the stuffiest gin drinkers blush.

We’re talking, of course, about The West Winds gin from Margaret River. Chances are if you’ve accidentally swigged it with some tonic at a tiny, artfully graffiti-covered bar in an alleyway somewhere, you’ve been searching for it ever since.

Started up by three mates from Western Australia, West Winds is a distillery that has taken the country’s burgeoning gin fetish by the horns and ridden it off into the sunset.

“Bartenders have led the charge, championing the [gin] renaissance,” says Jez. “The local spirit movement has really started to gain some serious traction in the last two years, so it’s coming of age.”

Partly, no doubt, due to Jez’s profile in the bartending world: this is the guy behind Hotel Spencer who has been described by Bartending Magazine as “the second most dangerous person in hospitality.” He mixes with, and for, the best of them.

Partnering with Jason Chan of Greenhouse by Joost and master distiller James Clarke, Jez’s gin draws on juniper, locally-sourced coriander root, wattle seed, Australian bush tomato, and lemon myrtle and has won double gold at the San Francisco International Spirit Awards.

At 40% ABV it’s not for the faint-hearted. And neither is Jez’s latest concoction: Stanley St Merchants.

Part paddock-to-plate restaurant, Italian bitters dive, and cocktail mess hall, Stanley St Merchants will be the first ever hospitality venture to be  funded by new crowd-sourcing platform IconPark.

Due to open in Darlinghurst at the end of this month, Stanley St Merchants will bring together St Ali coffee, a local ingredient-inspired menu by Matt Stone, an entry-by-password speakeasy and a patriotic, attic cocktail bar in probably the most hipster hybrid the hospitality world has seen since hamburger toasties.

Jez tells me if Stanley St Merchants were a person, he’d look like Heath Ledger. The menu features tofu and kimchi silders, fried crickets, house made sodas and possibly every spirit being distilled in this country right now – and it’s clearly the right combination. It might have been a photo finish, but it was Stanley St Merchants that won the hearts of the most followers both in Australia and abroad, raising the most funds to make the concept a reality.

“Our emphasis will be on the sourcing of our ingredients and using old cooking techniques with a true local flavour,” says Jez. “And our concept is to excite the Sydney dining landscape.”

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West Winds gin is available here.

Stanley St Merchants opens 22 April.