Better Together: Maidenii

Maidenii’s Shaun and Gilles are putting Vermouth back to the top of the cocktail menu. With a base wine made from high-quality Australian grapes, native foraged botanicals and no added anything, Maidenii Vermouth is breaking with tired traditions.

This week, as part of our Better Together series, focusing on our Australian partners and friends in the F&B industry, meet Maidenii Vermouth!

Maidenii x CAPI Better Together
Would you mind giving a short introduction of yourself for the folks across Australia?

Shaun Bryne: Shaun Byrne is my name and I have been working in the hospitality industry for over 20 years - since my first job as a waiter at pancake parlour when I was just 16. Since then I have spent some time abroad in the UK and upon returning started work behind the bar at Melbourne's infamous gin den, The Gin Palace. Whilst working at GP I met Gilles Lapalus and we started Maidenii Vermouth. That was almost 10 years ago, seems like yesterday! 

Gilles Lapalus: My name is Gilles Lapalus. I moved to Australia in 2001 after growing up in Burgundy in a 'wine family', and traveling the wine world for a few years. I managed Sutton Grange winery from 2001 to 2015, and in the meantime started several side projects including Bespoke Brothers and Maidenii. In 2015 I launched Maison Lapalus which is the structure covering all my activities, including Maidenii. 

What does it mean to be Australian to you?

Shaun Bryne: Something I haven't really thought about before, which probably means I take it for granted! I do love the biodiversity we have in the country - one of the most diverse in the world apparently! Combine that with one of the lowest populations densities in the world, we can really consider ourselves lucky to be living in the lucky country.

Gilles Lapalus: Well I'm actually not quite Australian... yet! I still have to renew my visa every 5 years. I have been coming to Australia since 1987, and the evolution of the country has been amazing to witness, live and participate in. 

Tell us about your vermouth? How is it made, how do you source the materials? What makes you guys a bit different from the rest?

Shaun Bryne: We start 'vintage' around November where we start sourcing botanicals, some of this is purchased from reputable suppliers whilst other botanicals are foraged from our own backyards and friend's farms. All of the botanicals are macerated individually for anywhere between 2 weeks to 2 months in Neutral Spirit, which is then strained off and combined with the other tinctures to become the master tincture which gets used for fortification.

Gilles Lapalus: There are 3 key points making Maidenii different. 1. We make the base wine specifically from grapes grown in high quality vineyards, with a continuous relation with the growers. 2. We use native botanicals and mostly fresh ingredients foraged very locally in parts, and again building good relations with farmers. 3. The wine is made with minimum intervention and no additives, and in particular no sugar no caramel and no colorant added for the final product - vermouth. 

What is your goal in what you do or what is the message you hope to get out?

Shaun Bryne: Our goal I guess is to make a good product for people to use in their mixed drinks or to enjoy on their own. And our message, 'Vermouth is cool again, no longer relegated to the back of Nana's cupboard'

Gilles Lapalus: One goal is to make a high quality product with less manipulation, one that is reliable, unique and that speaks to the place it comes from. Also as Shaun mentioned, bringing vermouth back to the spotlight with its original virtues, to make people feel better when drinking.

Who are some local heroes or brands that inspire you?

Shaun Bryne: The West Winds Gin did wonderful things for the category of gin in Australia, and in my opinion, really started that ginvolution here in Aus. One of the directors at the time, Jeremy Spencer, was incredibly helpful during the launch of Maidenii, certainly a local hero and incredibly helpful to us.  

Gilles Lapalus: I think of MGC for the focus on one product, Animus for the best team and energy to have around, and generally the good connection in the industry through people like Worksmith

What are some of your favourite bars and restaurants in Melbourne?

Shaun Bryne: When I'm allowed to leave the house, I do enjoy a lunch at The Lincoln in Carlton and a beverage at Bar Liberty in Fitzroy. And in the very rare occasion I am out until the wee hours, my homing beacon for Gin Palace is firmly set on.   

Gilles Lapalus: As I live in the bush, my highlights are the Spaghetti bar in Kyneton and Botanik Bar in the same street. I do come to Melbourne sometimes; Gerald’s bar for a sherry on the terrace. Sunda for a creative meal and I'm lately loving Lagoon for their very soft and subtle touch. 

If you had to pick the signature late-night-had-a-few-cocktails meal what would it be?

Shaun Bryne: Just a few cocktails, it'd have to be steak tartare. It's been a while since I've had it at Movida, but that was my go-to. A few too many cocktails and it's a Baked Bean sandwich on buttered white bread with sliced cheese. Not your fanciest meal, but when consumed with a hydralyte before going to bed, it works well to make you feel not as rubbish the next day

Gilles Lapalus: A hot fresh croissant from Falco or Loafer with coffee - but we are talking early morning then :)

What’s your go to Maidenii and CAPI Cocktail?

Shaun Bryne: Melbourne Fruit Cup - 30ml Maidenii Classic Vermouth, 30ml MGC Dry Gin, 45ml CAPI Lemonade, 45ml CAPI Dry Ginger Ale. Build over ice and garnish with sliced strawberries and fresh basil leaves. Full recipe & photos can be discovered in a book titled 'The Book of Vermouth' available at all good book stores.

Gilles Lapalus: I love the Native Tonic or the Dry Tonic to mix with the CLASSIC or KINA.

If this made you as thirsty as it made us, head here to find out more about Maidenii Vermouth