We recently went to the Upper West Side to have Tim Harris of Burke & Wills show us how he makes the restaurant’s “Before Too Long” cocktail. Drink names tend to be silly and nonsensical, so you probably wouldn’t think twice about why something made with vodka, lychee, lime and ginger beer would get this moniker. But Burke & Wills is an Australian restaurant, and their cocktails have been named with a nationalistic flair: They’re all the titles of Australian rock songs. “Before Too Long” is a 1986 tune by Paul Kelly; the “New Sensation,” made with Citadel Gin, Suze Apertif, Dolan Blanc and grapefruit bitters, comes from the INXS hit; and Nick Cave, Midnight Oil and Kylie Minogue all get their own drinks, as well. Here, Harris explains how the menu came to be.
Edible Manhattan: Why did you decide to name cocktails after Australian rock songs, and why these specific songs and personalities?
Tim Harris: Inspiration for our cocktail names can come from many places: music, film, proverbs, adult film stars, etc. When we were developing these new cocktails for the list, I had some of my favorite Aussie rock songs blaring and the idea came to me to name the cocktails accordingly. In some cases, I had the right song already in mind, while for others I had a band in mind that I then tried to find a suitable song from.
EM: How have the songs and artists informed the flavors of their respective cocktails?
TH: Most of the cocktail recipes were set, so it was just a matter of finding the right soundtrack for each drink. Some of them were simple, like the AC/DC classic “You Shook Me All Night Long,” which got paired with a Kaffir-Lime Gimlet that you could just drink all night. Or Midnight Oil’s “Bed’s Are Burning” for a spicy margarita. Others had a double meaning that related to drinking, like “Better Be Home Soon” which was a Crowded House track or “Help Is On Its Way” by the Little River Band. There were also ingredients that inspire the selection, like “The Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave: The drink has a red wine float.
EM: Do guests to the restaurant usually get the references?
TH: To be honest, it’s really only the Aussies that get it straight away, but it is interesting to see that a lot of people don’t know that some of these iconic bands were actually Australian. A lot of people try to argue with me that AC/DC are not Aussie!