The first thing you notice when you arrive at Halcyon House in Cabarita Beach, on the far north coast of New South Wales, is how perfectly the white walls of the boutique hotel pop against the bright blue sky. Then you'll clock sight of the blue-and-white striped pool lounges, and you'll be ready for a cocktail.
For spring, the refurbished '60s surfer motel has partnered with another fan of blue-and-white: Grey Goose Vodka. The French vodka brand has created a cocktail pairing for what's on the plate at Halcyon's in-house restaurant, Paper Daisy.
From now until 1 December, guests can kick-off proceedings with Le Grand Fizz, a delicate spring take on a Spritz, made with Grey Goose, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, wedges of fresh lime and soda. It's a great welcome drink, that's for sure - but it also pairs beautifully with Ben Devlin's light and flavoursome cooking: fresh mozzarella salad with zucchini flowers, say, or green rice-crumbed prawns with chilli.
The Grey Goose cocktail menu sits within the regular bar menu at Paper Daisy and consists of around nine vodka cocktails. Guests who book in for a weekend stay at the hotel throughout spring will also receive a complimentary Grey Goose celebration kit, which features all the ingredients needed to make Le Grand Fizz in the comfort of your own room (the rooms are individually designed by Brisbane's Anna Spiro, no less).
"Halcyon is sunny, elegant, bright and breezy, and Paper Daisy is certainly not your typical beach bistro," says Australian Grey Goose brand ambassador, Andy Wren, who designed the new menu. "The food is beautifully put together with fresh seasonal ingredients and great flavours, and we wanted to reflect and celebrate that with the cocktail pairing, too."
The French Reviver, perhaps matched with paperbark-smoked fish with native pepper, for example, sees Grey Goose, Cointreau, lemon juice, Earl Grey-infused Lillet Blanc and a hint of absinthe come together in a coupette. "It's really important that the drinks don't dominate the food or experience, so all the recipes I've put together are a wee bit lighter on the palate," adds Wren.
There's a signature Grey Goose Martini, with Noilly Pratt French vermouth and a dash of orange bitters, too. Wren decided it was the perfect sipper for caramelised pork neck with Davidson's plum glaze, or grilled flame tail with pomelo. "Serving a Martini with protein works incredibly well," he says. "And bitters for a bartender is like salt and pepper for a chef. It really helps to bring all the flavours together."
A Rhubarb and Pear Highball (Grey Goose La Poire, lemon juice, rhubarb cordial and soda), meanwhile, "offers a little bit more punch and intensity," says Wren. As does The Paper Daisy: a fruit on fruit concoction of strawberry-infused vermouth, strawberry shrub, Grey Goose, rhubarb syrup, egg white and lemon juice, which comes garnished with a tarragon leaf.
The sunny 65-seat Paper Daisy forms the heart of Halcyon House - it's open lunch and dinner, and boasts another 45 seats opening onto the pool area. "It's been really educational for us to work with Grey Goose," says chef Ben Devlin (who has clocked time at Noma and Esquire in Brisbane). "Having a list of cocktail matches works really well for the light-hearted and festive atmosphere we're trying to create here."
And would it really be a holiday without an Espresso Martini? Probably not, says Wren. Luckily the Grey Goose version errs more beach-side than sweet-side. "Ours is a much fresher expression," he says. "It's not too sweet or cloying, and always with a pinch of fleur de sel."
The Grey Goose Vodka and Halcyon House spring cocktail menu is available until Friday 1 December.
Halcyon House, 21 Cypress Cres, Cabarita Beach, NSW, (02) 6676 1444, halcyonhouse.com.au; lunch daily noon-3pm; dinner daily 6pm-10pm; greygoose.com.