James Irvine's top three drinks from the new list at Eileen's Bar

Award-winning bartender James Irvine walks us through his three must-try cocktails in Eileen's Bar at the Four Pillars Lab in Sydney.

James Irvine's top three drinks from the new list at Eileen's Bar

There are bars, there are distilleries, and there are distillery bars — the latter being the less populated of those categories. But if you’re looking for a best in class example of a distillery bar, you’re going to be hard pressed to go past Eileen’s Bar at the Four Pillars Lab in Sydney’s Surry Hills.

That’s because the drinks program there is headed up by James Irvine. Irvine is no slouch with the tins, having won a number of cocktail competitions in the past, and with a solid stint leading the drink program for the influential Sydney hospitality group, Swillhouse (whose venues include The Baxter Inn, Shady Pines Saloon, Restaurant Hubert and more).

James Irvine at Eileen's Bar.
`James Irvine at Eileen's Bar.

Irvine is the Four Pillars creative director for gin drinks, which means that he spends a lot of time developing new drinks and evangelising the stuff to the public.

Here, we’ve asked Irvine to highlight his three favourite drinks from their autumn menu at Eileen’s Bar, and to tell us a bit about how each of these drinks come together.

He’s also shared the recipes for these drinks below, but as you will see, they can be on the complicated side — you’re going to need some sophisticated kit — so it might be best to visit the bar and taste the drinks at their best.

1. Beyond The Pines

What is the inspiration behind the Beyond The Pines?

We’re lucky enough to distil our own spirits on site. In doing so, we launch a Sydney Seasonal Gin every few months – news flash, it’s autumn. This gin packs a punch, with great flavour, body and texture, hero-ing lemon ad anise myrtle, strawberry gum, roasted wattle seed and pepper berry. These autumnal vibes drove us toward a drink incorporating these profiles – mainly, strawberry gum and pine needle.

How does it taste, and why does it work for you?

This drink has big Gimlet energy, with some bitter, floral notes. Rhubarb and gin is a combination that no one is ever mad with – it just works.

Can you briefly describe the techniques you use?

The initial technique is actually making the gin… which the team doesn’t trust me to do, so the Sydney Distilling Team do all the hard work for us. From there we can focus on two processes of sous vide, vap distillation and then pre-batching with some dry vermouth used as a lengthening agent. Once it’s in bottle it’s stirred down and served over block ice.


  • 50ml Sydney Autumn Gin
  • 15ml Rhubarb x Strawberry Gum
  • 10ml Regal Rogue Daring Dry
  • 5ml Pine Needle Distillate


  1. Stir and strain into a rocks glass over block ice.


For the Rhubarb x Strawberry Gum:

1kg caster sugar
1kg water
1kg rhubarb stalks, washed and cut into inch long pieces
45g malic acid
30g citric acid
8g strawberry gum
5g sea salt

Place all ingredients, except sugar and acids into cryovac and vac seal. Sous vide for 4.5 hours at 55ºC. Transfer to the fridge overnight. Once ready, fine strain through chinois and oil filters. Place into Thermomix, adding remaining ingredients. Blitz at 2.5 speed at 45ºC for 5 minutes, first 10 seconds at speed 5. Once ready, fine strain through oil filters and chinois. Run through centrifuge. Bottle and refrigerate.

For the Pine Needle Distillate (40%):

1,000ml Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin
500g Pine needle fronds, picked washed and dried

Cryovac and sous vide for 4.5 hours at 55ºC. Once ready; filter into rotary flask and distil at 50ºC at 120rpm until only oils remain. Once ready, dismantle and collect distillate. Bring down to 40% ABV. Bottle or batch.

2. Hop & Olive

What was the inspiration behind your Hop & Olive?

Essentially it was the gin. [Four Pillars] Olive Leaf Gin has such a huge flavour profile and weighted characteristics, it does a lot of talking in this drink. We complement this with extra added body with Cobram Estate EVOO and contrast the weightiness with an in-house hop distillate using four different types of hops for floral, fruity and citrusy notes. The drink is lengthened and finished with a very simple lemon myrtle soda. Considering this gin’s home is the Martini, we wanted to apply those flavour profiles to this serve, but maybe down a different route.

How does it taste, and why does it work for you?

The result is a really nice balance in flavour. Olive, lemon, savoury, bright, ginny. Makes sense and works really well in this serve.

Can you briefly describe the techniques behind the drink?

In Eileen’s we look at drinks in step processes (sounds simple and it is). Aspects of prep include: the gin, the distillate, the fizz and service assembly. The key techniques for Hop & Olive include sous vide and fat filtering, vap distillation and carbonation. Once it’s in the bottle its ready to serve over ice and garnished with an olive.


  • 10,000ml Lemon Myrtle Soda
  • 4,000ml EVOO Olive Leaf Gin
  • 1,000ml Hop Distillate


Batch into Cambro and funnel into cleanskin PET bottles and charge to 42 psi (3 x repeat).
Keep refrigerated. Pour into a highball glass over ice. Garnish with an olive.


  • For the EVOO Olive Leaf Gin: take 700ml Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin, and 140ml extra virgin olive oil, and place ingredients into cryovac and vac seal. Set ANOVA to 55ºC and sous vide for 4.5 hours. Once ready, dry bag and transfer to freezer for 24 hours. Once fats solidify, fine strain through oil filter (reserving fattened olive oil). Check clarity, should be fine. Bottle and refrigerate. Makes approximately 700ml.
  • For the Hop Distillate: take 1 litre of Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin, add 20g cascade hop pellets, 20g citra hop pellets, 20g galaxy hop pellets, and 20g hallertau hop pellets. Place ingredients into base of Thermomix and blend together – 5 minutes, no temp, speed 5. Once finished cryovac and leave at room temp for 24 hours. Once ready; wearing gloves strain through oil filter and squeeze the living shit outta it. Distil at 50ºC at 120rpm until only oils remain. Once ready, dismantle and collect distillate. Bring down to 40% ABV. Makes approaximately 1700ml.
  • For the Lemon Myrtle Fizz: Take 1kg Water, 200g caster sugar, 100g lemon myrtle leaves, 10g malic acid, and water for dilution. Place all ingredients, except for dilution water, into Thermomix. Blitz at 2.5 speed with no temperature for 5 minutes, starting at speed 5 for 10 seconds. Transfer to container and refrigerate for an hour, topping with any additional batching. Keep refrigerated. Once ready, filter through chinois and oil filters. Measure out filtered yield and lengthen to a 20% dilution ratio. (Eg; if yield is 1,000ml, lengthen to 5,000ml). Bottle and refrigerate.

    Recipe by James Irvine.

3. Oh My Gourd

What was the inspiration behind this drink?

Autumn put its hand up to be the season to provide the hard work and we tucked in straight away. We’ve had success with vegetal fizzes in the past and thought – why not pumpkin?

How does it taste, and why does it work for you?

In lieu of cream, this drink still reads heavier than it is. It works for me as it brings some interesting ingredients together, whilst remaining balanced and stays true to Spiced Negroni Gin.

Can you briefly describe the techniques behind the drink?

This is a straight up and down Fizz riff. I would say technically speaking, reverse dry shaking is a practice that is very under-rated. Essentially, you hard shake your cocktail, strain it back into your top half shaker, discard the ice and repeat a final dry shake. This ensures emulsification as the last step, building a great texture. I’d also suggest adding a little soda into the highball before the cocktail for maximum integration.


Reverse dry shake and strain into highball, add a splash of soda and ice (maybe a dash more soda).


For the Roasted Pumpkin x Hazlenut Orgeat:

1kg Water
300g Roasted pumpkin
300g Hazelnut kernels
Caster sugar
30ml Navy Strength Gin
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Cut pumpkin long ways and then half into squares, cover w/ EVOO + a pinch of salt. Roast pumpkin in oven at 180ºC for 45 minutes, or until roasty. On a separate baking paper laid tray, roast hazelnuts for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, allow cooling for 10 minutes and transfer to Thermomix, adding water. Blitz at 2.5 speed, no temp for 5 minutes, starting at speed 5 for 10 seconds. Filter through chinois. Wash Thermomix and reset for next step. Weigh out filtered mass and add an equal amount of sugar. Blend at 2.5 speed at 45ºC for 5 minutes. Once finished, allow cooling to room temperature. Once cooled, add NSG. Bottle and refrigerate.