Cocktails on Ben Lomond

Some things in 2016 were just meant to happen. Perhaps Brexit and Trump are the logical expression of rising inequality and anxiety about neoliberalism and globalisation? And perhaps the universe had plans to correct our absence from the ANU Mountaineering Club’s annual Cocktails on the Castle event by encouraging us to host our own in Tasmania.

Or so at least it seems preordained in hindsight. It all started when Nick entered a competition run by Tasmania’s newest gin distiller, Abel Gin, with his cocktail recipe from a previous Cocktails on the Castle. He successfully won a bottle of Abel’s Quintessence gin, and we were primed for our own cocktails. Nick had also just successfully become an opener at Forester’s Hut at Ben Lomond, where he’d spent much of his childhood and I’d been inducted to during one of Tasmania’s rare successful ski seasons. The confluence of events was interpreted as a sign, which we set about realising with the help of our favourite and ever-enthusiastic Taswegians.

Further confirmation of our decision came in the form of the very helpful salesman at the newly opened Dan Murphy’s in Launceston, who sold us a bottle of yet another exciting new Tasmanian gin (this Splendid Gin was actually launched the next day, and made by the same distiller as Abel Gin, Nat!), and thusly prepared Nick made his official first opening of Foresters. We steam-cleaned the floors for the first time in 25 years, thanks to a generator, and settled in for the night.

The next day was an ascent of Stonjeks Lookout, scrambling across the untracked dolerite plateau while eating the delicious and gloriously butterscotch flavoured nectar of ripe richea scoparia. Sucking scoparia nectar and spitting the flower husks took up much of the stroll down to the Strickland Gorge waterfall as well. This was also the day of the hoodiepants and the now-infamous cat jigsaw puzzle, confirming my prejudice against jigsaw puzzles as a pasttime.

Finally it was time to don our splendour (my dress and hat from an op shop, as expected) and partake of cocktails. The food, which was a test run for a few of the menu items for our upcoming wedding on this same mountain, was well received. Both Abel and Splendid gin were immediately declared on par with our previous favourite, Tanqueray No. 10, and there was much rejoicing.

The next day was spent canyoning down Strickland Gorge. It was a day of glorious sunshine, whirlpools and yet more ripe scoparia.

And while the two waterfalls were perhaps not as beginner friendly as we’d hoped, we changed routes as we progressed and brought everyone down safely (if a little chilly as the sun disappeared behind clouds).

It was an entirely different event from the original Cocktails on the Castle, and certainly needs a better name, but the inaugural annual Cocktails on Ben Lomond was a resounding success – a tradition certain to be established!



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