Why drinks (and garnishes) that people can’t find elsewhere matter more

“Now more than ever, going out is about experience,” says Odd Culture’s Jordan Blackman.

Why drinks (and garnishes) that people can’t find elsewhere matter more
Jordan Blackman at Odd Culture in Newtown. Photo: Boothby
In partnership with Hendrick's
In partnership with Hendrick's Gin

“There’s a new bar opening every second day,” says Jordan Blackman. He’s the group bars manager for the Odd Culture group, which has venues in both Sydney and Melbourne. Odd Culture Newtown landed on the Top 50 Boothby Best Bars in NSW last year, and its Fitzroy outpost figured in the Top 50 on the Victorian list, too. The group also opened the Pleasure Club in Newtown last month, so they’re well aware of just how competitive the bar scene is right now.

“It’s healthy competition,” says Jordan. “At the end of the day, I think we make each other better by challenging ourselves and challenging others, not just relying on the status quo.”

That’s one part of the reason behind Odd Culture’s collaboration with Hendrick’s Gin, too. They’ve gone about canning their own unique pickle — one that is inspired by the botanicals employed in Hendrick’s Gin itself — that you can only get with their take on the king of savoury Martinis, the Gibson.

“Now more than ever, going out is about experience. It is about something else because you know, expendable income isn’t what it used to be for most people,” Jordan says.

Combine the competitive landscape for bars, and guests’ demands for a real experience when they visit, and you arrive at the conclusion that your drinks program needs to offer something people can’t get anywhere else.

Enter the Odd Culture pickle.

Made in collaboration with Hendrick’s Gin, the Odd Culture pickled cucumbers both highlight one of the key ingredients in Hendrick’s Gin, and call to mind the classic cucumber slice garnish for the Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic. The cucumber tins they’ve created are the first step in an ongoing project for Hendrick’s Gin — keep your eyes peeled for their next efforts.

Below, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, Jordan talks a little about what’s involved in this collaboration, why it’s important to offer something that the bar down the road doesn’t or is unable to do, and a little more about what they do at Odd Culture.


Sam Bygrave: I should probably put one of these in. Jordan, what am I doing here? What is this?

What is this? It’s our house pickle done in collaboration with Hendrick’s Gin. I just spoke with the kitchen team, gave them a little bit of a brief on what Hendrick’s Gin is about, all the botanicals and what makes it special. They went away, [and] did their thing inspired by obviously the gin itself.

[It’s] quite heavy on the juniper. There’s some more floral elements going on, which they didn’t really tell me too much about.

It’s a secret recipe, is it?

A little bit. Just riffing on the brief.

And that’s for a Gibson-style Martini, is it?

Yeah. I mean, I quite like a wet Gibson, and wet Martinis in general. So the vermouth, Oscar 697 is the base blended in with some joints from Saison Aperitifs, based in Melbourne, Chef Dave from Embla. [We’re] using his new summer flowers vermouth because, you know, Hendrick’s Gin and flowers.

And then also touching on a little bit of their new Marigold Amaro, marigold giving you that kind of like citrusy pepper vibe. Almost like a replacement for orange bitters if you feel like chucking that into a Martini sometimes.

What’s with the blend of vermouths? Because it’s something I see a bit these days.

Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that everyone’s got, you know, their own palate and their own ideas of what is balanced and what they want out of a product. I guess we’re all kind of perfectionists at the end of the day and chasing that ultimate vermouth.

It’s kind of an expression of that bar, that you can only get there, right?


I guess you want something unique, right? You want to be prize uniqueness a bit.


How does this kind of garnish play into that?

I mean, you’re not going to get these exact pickles anywhere, I guess. We like to have as many homemade ingredients as we possibly can. Obviously, we can’t do everything. And obviously, there are some things that are just good as they are.


But being able to find that flavour profile that you want exactly out of a pickle, rather than just getting store bought, even if they’re, you know artisanal or gourmet or whatever you want to call it.

Well, because the guy down the street might have those same store-bought ones, so it tastes the same.

Yeah, just a bit boring.

And what do you guys do here at Odd Culture in Newtown?
So we’ve been here about two and a half years now. So a bit of a bar, restaurant. The idea is, Odd Culture, obviously, is the group name, but also the venue name, it’s a wordplay on fermentation. So, yeast, culture, bacteria. So, Odd Culture. [It’s] exploring the intersection between natural wine, wild beer, sour beer, how wild fermentation kind of plays into that and what flavour profiles you get out of that rather than conventional inoculation in mass produced beer or commercial wine.

And a lot of these are old, ancient kind of techniques for preserving things.

Fermentation and preservation, you’re not only expanding the lifetime of an ingredient, but you’re introducing a lot of new flavours and complexities.

Get the recipe for Odd Culture’s Gibson riff
A house blend of three vermouths — and some very special collaboration pickles with Hendrick’s Gin.

Are you creating flavour?

Essentially, fermentation creates flavour. You know, it’s creating flavours that you couldn’t possibly make without fermentation.

And do you do a lot of pickling here as well?

A little bit, more probably in the kitchen. But I guess this will be the first kind of big step for us behind the bar doing our own, as I said, pickling program.

Why is it important to bring something unique to a bar for the customer experience? What does that do for them? It’s a busy bar landscape out there, there’s lots of competition. Is it kind of important to make your bar stand out?

Very much so. Yeah, competition is definitely like a big thing at the moment. There’s a new bar opening every second day and we’re obviously contributing to that ourselves. But it’s healthy competition. At the end of the day, I think we make each other better by challenging ourselves and challenging others, not just relying on the status quo.

I think now more than ever, going out is about experience. It is about something else because you know, expendable income isn’t what it used to be for most people.


Everything is experience-driven, experience-led. It’s all good to make a classic Martini very well. And that’s great. And that’s an experience in itself. But I think just elevating that just a tiny little bit with your own touch and your own passions and your own knowledge and what you can kind of offer to your guests — I think that’s what makes it special.