59. That’s the number of iterations Margot Robbie’s gin Papa Salt went through over five years, before it was finalised and soft-launched in May this year. The drink was created by not just Robbie, but also four others, who all met through the film industry in London and now live within a 10-minute-by-foot radius of each other in LA.
“Josey [McNamara], Tom [Ackerley] and Margot initially called Charlie [Maas] and me about starting the brand,” says co-founder Regan Riskas. “At that point, it was just a seeding of an idea with no real direction yet. That’s when the fun began.”
The result is a gin that’s sustainably made at Lord Byron Distillery, known for its zero-waste and entirely renewably powered facility, and uses only Australian native botanicals, like roasted wattleseed, pink peppercorn, waxflower, hibiscus and citrus peel. Its press material describes it as a spirit that captures the taste of a perfectly languid day at the beach.
“It feels smooth with the notes of native wattleseed, a little hot with the pink peppercorn, bright and zesty with the citrus peel, and slightly salty with the hint of oyster shell,” says Riskas. “I am always so pleased with how refreshing it tastes and how smooth it is on the finish.”
The gin, bottled at 43% APV, goes well in any format, says Riskas — martini, classic gin and tonic or even a gin and soda. With that drink, he says, there’s nothing to hide behind – the team knew it had to nail the gin for that drink. A ‘Papa Salt and Soda’ or, as the group’s taken to calling it, a ‘Salt and Soda’ is easy to make and drink. With a chunk of your favourite citrus and lots of ice, it’s deliciously refreshing.
So, why the 59 iterations? Well, says Riskas, it was the result of a lot of tinkering after putting five creative people around a table with loads of gin.
“We loved the creative process, mostly because we love gin, but also because we could put our creative juices, so to speak, into the process,” says Riskas.
“It included lively discussions, garnish debates and some wacky tangents. I’m so glad we didn’t end up with a rooibos or dill gin. We were in no rush to bring this to market, so we really took our time exploring the perfect flavour profile. That explains the 59 recipes.”
Ackerley, Robbie an McNamara were at a beach bar in Sri Lanka with a salty sea dog who went by the name Papa Salt, the group told Concrete Playground. The dog was originally from the Gold Coast, but after circumnavigating the globe a few times, had wound up on that beach.
Initially, Robbie had said that if the team could make enough just to satisfy themselves and their family and friends, they’d all be thrilled.
“Once we knew we had something truly spectacular, we wanted to share it with Australia, where we proudly make it, and next, we hope to share it with some of our other favourite cities in the world,” says Riskas.