Behind the drink: the Mary Celeste cocktail at Sydney’s The Rover

This sherry, gin and watermelon number is a drink we love.

Behind the drink: the Mary Celeste cocktail at Sydney’s The Rover
Alex Gondzioulis makes the Mary Celeste cocktail. Photo: Boothby

This drink is one of the Boothby Top 50 Drinks of the Year 2022 — you can see the full Top 50 here.

“It’s stirred — like a Gimlet sort of style,” says Alex Gondzioulis about the Mary Celeste cocktail.

He’s talking about one of the drinks he made for the relaunch of The Rover — nee The Wild Rover — from earlier this year, and it's a drink we love.

“That was one that I had in mind from the start,” he says. “I knew I had to start working on this menu and we were going to be seafood-driven. It’s olive oil-washed gin, clarified watermelon, a touch of dill. Bit of fino sherry.

“I’m very, very happy with it.”

You’ll be happy with it, too, if you get the chance to taste it (they’re due for a menu refresh any moment now). It’s refreshing, yet savoury; delicate but flavoursome; unique, and familiar — it’s a drink which lingers on the palate and in the memory.

There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes at The Rover to makes this drink this good — just take a look at the recipe below: there’s a house-made dill vinegar, a clarified watermelon cordial (that requires a more than just a few steps to make), and an olive oil-washed gin.

And because cocktails are a big part of the mix of drinks that goes out over the bar at The Rover, they batch prepare a pre-mixed batch of the clarified watermelon cordial, olive oil-washed gin and sherry ahead of time. To make the drink during service, all they need to do is add the four dashes of dill vinegar, and 80ml of this batch and hey, presto: you’ve got yourself one of the more delicious gin drinks you’ll come across.

The Mary Celeste cocktail. Photo: Boothby
The Mary Celeste cocktail. Photo: Boothby

Mary Celeste


  • 4 dashes dill vinegar
  • 25ml clarified watermelon cordial
  • 20ml Seppeltsfield DP117 Dry Flor Apera
  • 35ml Olive oil-washed Tanqueray Gin


  1. Stir all ingredients on ice.
  2. Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass.
  3. Garnish with drops of dill oil.

For the dill vinegar:
750g white wine vinegar
350g sugar
10g salt
200g fresh dill

  1. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a pot over medium heat.
  2. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt into the vinegar.
  3. Allow mix to reach a boil.
  4. Take off the heat, and add the fresh dill. Leave to sit for 20-30 minutes.
  5. After 20-30 minutes, turn off the heat and strain the brine using an oil filter.
  6. Bottle in bitters dasher bottles, and freeze the excess for later use.

For the clarified watermelon cordial:

Clarified watermelon juice
1500ml Watermelon Juice
300ml Water
5g Agar Agar


  1. Juice watermelon using a juice extractor. Leave aside.
  2. Add Agar Agar to lukewarm (not hot) water and whisk until dissolved.
  3. Bring water and Agar Agar mixture to the boil whilst continuously whisking. The Agar should be completely dissolved by now.
  4. Take off the heat, and allow the mixture to cool to 36C. (this can be done in an ice bath)
  5. Add watermelon juice to the agar and water mixture (important: do not do this the other way around)
  6. Whisk to make sure the juice and agar/water mixture are properly combined.
  7. Place in the fridge/walk in so the Agar Agar can set. It should take 20 minutes or so.
  8. Once the top of the mixture is properly gelled, filter through a chinois lined with 2 oil filters. The product should run crystal clear.
  9. If needed, run through a coffee filter to achieve clarity.

Watermelon Cordial
Clarified Watermelon Juice
Citric Acid
Tartaric Acid


  1. Check the sugar levels of the juice using a refractometer, and adjust to 30 Brix with white sugar.
  2. Weigh out the 30 brix syrup. For every 1000g, add:
    - 8.25g Citric Acid
    - 3.25g Tartaric Acid
  3. Stir to dissolve acids into the cordial

Olive oil-washed gin
2800ml Tanqueray Gin (4 Bottles)
750ml Alto Lemon Pressed Olive Oil


  1. Combine oil and gin in a large container with a lid.
  2. Leave to sit at room temperature for 8-10 hours, shaking/agitating the mix every so often.
  3. After 8-10 hours, place the container in the chest freezer and leave overnight.
  4. Once the oil has solidified (this should happen overnight), strain through a chinois lined with an oil filter.
  5. Store in a Jerry can in the prep fridge.

Adapted from a 2022 recipe by Alex Gondzioulis, The Rover, Sydney.