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The World’s Beast Gin Comes from Waverley

By Nicola Smith on July 29, 2021 in News

Sticking to their roots. Photo: John Humphreys

The husband-wife duo that runs Bellagio Café in Waverley and Bondi Junction has won ‘Best Gin in the World’ with their new spirit, Ester.
Felix Clark, the co-creator of Ester, said that his interest in gin started very close to home.
“My interest in distilling started about six years ago during a competition with a mate to create some bathtub vodka and gin,” Mr Clark told The Beast.
He refined his gin recipe through feedback from his wife.
“I was providing my wife, who is my palate, my nose and everything, with different samples of gin and vodka for 2-3 years and she would tell me, ‘This is good, this isn’t good’,” he explained.
Mr Clark says this partnership has been key to their success so far.
“It sounds crazy, but my wife and I, we do everything together. We own the cafés together, we do Ester together, our whole relationship thrives on creativity and working together,” Mr Clark told The Beast.
Mr Clark and his wife, Corinna, have successfully run Bellagio Café in Waverley for seventeen years and their second café, Bellagio Tuckshop in Bondi Junction, for seven years. Bellagio has become the HQ of Ester Gin.
“We feel this traditional pull to the east, particularly Bronte and Waverley. It’s where we met and lived and it’s always felt like home.”
After a plan to purchase a brewing space in Sydney fell through, the couple decided to shelve the idea for a few years before trying again, this time using a contract distiller in Melbourne.
“I went in with a very clear idea of what I wanted the gin to be and what I wanted the recipe to be, so in our situation it was very much Ester’s intellectual property and Ester’s recipe,” Mr Clark told The Beast.
Things only went up from there.
“We went to market in June last year and we keep getting crazy awards and great feedback, as well as a lot of traction in the industry,” Mr Clark said.
The couple began sending their gin to competitions such as the Australian Gin Awards because they wanted industry feedback.
“We knew the gin was good but we wanted it to be ratified by the industry, so to have the awards come back was very surprising, sort of like that proud dad moment when you realise you’ve made something special,” Mr Clark said.
Ester Gin won ‘Best in Show’ at the Australian Gin Awards and then topped the global markets by getting the gold medal in The World Gin Awards in February.
However, winning such a prestigious prize hasn’t taken the curated attention to detail out of the brand.
“We’re still very much sitting in the indie market and a bit on the side of obscurity, but the biggest change has been the way that it opens doors – it’s allowed us to get a tasting for a restaurant or a liquor chain and things like that,” Mr Clark said.
Looking forward, the couple is now planning to set up a distillery closer to home, in Sydney’s Inner West, which Mr Clark describes as “the mecca of drinking in Australia”.
The future looks bright for the makers of the world’s best gin, with Mr Clark hoping they can continue as they’ve begun.
“We’re focused on capitalising on what we’ve achieved in our first eight months of operation. Staying true to our roots and not selling out, and making sure our products reflect our values and the values of those around us,” he told The Beast.
You can buy Ester at Bellagio Café, Native Drop Bondi, Georges Cellars, the Robin Hood Hotel, Bellevue Hill Cellars and P&V in Paddington.