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Make your own pre-dinner cocktails at Four Pillars
They say you can make gin in a bathtub. But in Melbourne, we don't really have to do that as it already feels as if we are soaking in the stuff.
There are gin joints and events popping up everywhere. But one of the forerunners of all the kerfuffle about gin is the famous Four Pillars Gin company in Healesville. This is a small distillery that sprang up in 2013. The company uses incredible botanicals and claims they are 'flying the flag for Aussie gin around the world'.
While there are plenty of distillery tours and tastings on the market and even places where you can blend bottles of our own gin (click here) some of these can get pretty expensive.
Then you have a hands-on workshop, making a Tom Collins under expert instruction. This classic long cocktail is the most famous of the 'Collinses' and you will be guided through all things sour and fizz. You'll also get to hear all about Jerry Thomas and the Tom Collins hoax of 1874…. I looked it up and I can only hope that the bartender can tell a better story than the version I found.
While you sip on your Tom Collins and nibble some excellent bar snacks such as olives and nuts, you'll be shown how to make another boozy cocktail – and everyone gets a taste.
After an hour of cocktail making and drinking, you can either grab another drink in the bar (open until 9pm) or head down the street for dinner at one of Healesville's great restaurants. Or the 'Ville' as the locals call their township.
These cocktail making classes are on monthly on Saturday nights, so why not make a weekend of it and stay the night in the Ville as well.
I quite like eating at the Healesville Hotel. The food is excellent and even their bar is a great place to eat without the price tag of their more upmarket dining room. You can also stay there in revamped accommodation and they do a gin package with tastings at Four Pillar.
There is the famous Healesville Sanctuary, of course, and a culinary stock up in the main street is encouraged. Grab a baked treat or a cheap lunch at the famous Beechworth Bakery (in Healesville). Visit Dame Nellie's on the way home for a garden tour or a Devonshire tea.
For a host of other WeekendNotes writers' suggestions here.