There’s a giant Hendrick’s Gin cucumber flying over Austin

Hendrick's Gin Flying CucumberIt’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a flying cucumber! That’s right, Hendrick’s Gin has created Hendrick’s Air, a gigantic billboard in the sky. The 130-foot-long, 44-foot-tall blimp nicknamed the Flying Cucumber is visiting Austin this weekend.

The Hendrick’s Flying Cucumber first set sail on April 13 in Los Angeles and will visit San Francisco, Austin, Dallas, South Florida, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Ann Arbor, Indianapolis and Chicago during its journey. In Austin, the blimp will fly over Levitation Festival, Zilker Park and South Congress. It’s the first booze blimp to grace the skies of Austin.

“Our giant flying cucumber will pay homage to the distinguishing ingredient that makes our gin special. We want to remind our loyalists that Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic deserves the finest cucumber garnish, every time. We hope that this journey will enlighten our imbibers as to the important role the cucumber plays in the Hendrick’s world,” said brand ambassador, Jim Ryan, at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport where the blimp is tethered.

Whether you cast a jaded eye on the massive cucumber or see it as an omen that you must immediately have a cocktail, you have an opportunity to take a flight on the blimp.

“We are able to take a select group of people to ride with us in the Hendricks Flying Cucumber,” says Ryan. “These fellow ‘unusualists’ include loyal drinkers from the industry trade, press, and of course, our fans. Anyone can enter [for] a chance ride in the Flying Cucumber through social media by snapping a photo of it as it soars over Austin and post[ing] it onto Twitter or Instagram using #HendricksGin, #FLYINGCUCUMBER and #CucumberChallenge.”

The dirigible will fly over Austin “slow and low” at a sub-1000-foot cruising altitude from May 8-10. Hendrick’s recommends gathering at one of its viewing spots during the weekend to catch sight of the Flying Cucumber:

  • Friday, May 8, 6-8 pm at Maggie Mae’s
  • Saturday, May 9, 4:30-6:30 pm at Olive and June
  • Sunday, May 10, 7:30-10 pm at the W Hotel, Bar 96 and Bungalow

Only two to three people can ride at one time in the tiny capsule, so you may be lucky to catch a ride. The weather also may play a nasty role in grounding its flight. As of filing time for this story, Hendrick’s was unable to get its cucumber up for the press.

Well, as Mr. Hendricks, er Hendrix said, “Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why. Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking? 

Hendrick’s Gin’s exclusive new cordial is available in only three cities — and Austin is one of them

Lesley Gracie, Hendrick’s Gin‘s master distiller, and a couple brand ambassadors are barnstorming a few U.S. cities, including New York, Austin and San Francisco to introduce a new quinine-based cordial called Quinetum (sorry Portland and Seattle — apparently your bar culture simply isn’t cool enough).

Here’s the kicker: Gracie distilled only 4,000 small bottles of the stuff and is bringing only 2,400 bottles to the States. With that limited supply, Hendricks isn’t even selling it — they’re just giving it away to two dozen of the coolest bars in these select cities.

In her first ever visit to Austin, Gracie recounted how she spent five years testing various recipes of herbal distillates. “I built this to find the right flavor to make delicious cocktails based on Hendrick’s Gin. We tested out tiny batches with local bartenders in Scotland to get it right.”

Now Hendrick’s is looking to top bartenders to create dazzling cocktails with Quinetum to pair with its cucumber- and rose-kissed gin. It’s a genius marketing ploy to gin up prestige for Hendrick’s by adding in an ultraexclusive lover to tease us.

Since you can’t buy it, your job is to track down where Quinetum is served and give it a taste before it all runs out. Here is your insider tip — NoVa Kitchen & Bar on Rainey Street has secured a coveted bottle and plans to start making cocktails with it very soon.

Tacy Rowland, lead bartender at NoVa, is thrilled to land a bottle, saying, “Hendricks Quinetum was expertly created with the bartender in mind. It’s complex without being overpowering: floral, slightly sweet and balanced with a lovely little bite from the cinchona bark. It’s very friendly in playing with a variety of spirits. I plan on using it in a gin, green tea and cinnamon toddy throughout the fall.”

Quinine made from cinchona succirubra bark has been used for centuries as a cure for malaria and a way to calm a nasty fever. In the 1630s, the Spanish brought it from South America to Europe, where it evolved over the years from being used just for medicinal purposes to become a nice bittering agent to pair with alcohol in cocktails. It’s a bit of an ironic twist that Hendrick’s chose to package Quinetum in a container fashioned after an antique poison bottle that they found in an old London shop.

Gracie’s tinkering with the Quinetum recipe eventually landed on a blend of quinine, lavender and orange distillates with extracts of orange blossom, wormwood and holy thistle, blended with glycerol to for a silky texture and a nip of sucrose to give it a sweetness (and to satisfy Alcohol Tobacco and Trade Bureau laws). The base distillate has four percent alcohol, which puts it in the cordial category, rather than syrup.

The result is a concentrated elixir with a rich, honeyed flavor. It’s potent enough to go a long way in a cocktail. As Gracie lovingly described it, “What most bartenders will immediately pick up on is the orange nose, giving way to subtle lavender notes. The taste has a deep green, bitter flavor from the wormwood, holy thistle and, of course, quinine. Bartenders should find this combination amiable for crafting into cocktails with Hendrick’s characteristic floral notes and spicy bitterness, which comes from the caraway seed and cubeb berries.”

While the intent is to find some of the best bartenders to create new cocktails with Quinetum, the Hendrick’s crew mixed up a couple concoctions to get the creative juices flowing.

Whiffen’s Wonderful Wibble

  • 2 parts Hendrick’s
  • ½ part fresh lemon juice
  • ½ part fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • ½ part Quinetum
  • ½ part tamarind syrup

Serve chilled or on the rocks in a coupe or martini glass.

Warburg’s Buck

  • 2 parts Hendrick’s
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice
  • ½ part Quinetum
  • ½ Rooibos Syrup
  • Topped with ginger ale

Serve over ice in a Collins glass.  Garnish with cucumber slice.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a small sample of Quinetum and plan to test a cocktail with it, gin, Fino Sherry and sparkling water. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

If you want to try it, head to NoVa or conduct a foraging expedition at likely bars around town, including Bar Congress,ContigoDrink.well.Eastside Showroom and Whistler’s. One of them is bound to have a batch.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?