Mac and Eileen Mackenzie, my grandparents, were a dynamic duo who made a significant contribution to the entertainment industry in Geelong, Victoria. From 1955 to 1984, they managed Geelong's first drive-in, located in Moolap.
Mac had a rich history managing cinemas, while Eileen was the mastermind behind the catering that made the drive-in experience exceptional. They worked tirelessly to bring Hollywood glamour to Geelong, with Mac always sporting a crisp suit and Eileen impeccably dressed in heels and looking like a Hollywood star herself.
Even years later, I never saw my grandmother look any different from those days. Her smile always lit up a room, and her laughter could be heard from miles away. As the catering manager of the drive-in, Eileen took her role seriously and served incredible food at every show. The drive-in catered to 544 cars, and attendants delivered food to each one of them.
Eileen's food was so exceptional that by 1955, most of Australia was enjoying the MacKenzie family pudding, which won her a gold medal at the Melbourne Royal Show. The pudding recipe was so popular that one of the judges, an editor at Australian Women's Weekly magazine, asked Eileen to share her recipe with the country, so a slightly edited version was printed in their magazine and ran for six consecutive years.
As the inheritor of Eileen’s previously hidden recipe, our family grew impatient, and after a fifteen-year lack of Eileen’s Christmas pudding I was asked to take on the annual responsibility. One look at the two-page recipe written in very old cursive revealed a myriad of ingredients, prepared for three days, then left to sit for a further eight to twelve months. I popped it back in the envelope along with the small bag containing nine sixpence (yes, one was missing from a minor mishap in the late forties when my father as a young boy learnt a quick lesson on enjoying your food and not wolfing it down).
Content with the fact that I was busy running a business and no one could make Eileen’s Christmas pudding like her, I went to bed. The next morning when I woke, I saw the envelope and a feeling of guilt came over me, pretty much at the same time a feeling of “oooh, this would make a bloody great gin!”
That afternoon I took Eileen's original recipe and started creating a delicious full-flavoured gin. In hindsight, the pudding was a far easier task. Our Eileen’s Christmas Pud gin takes over eight months to create. From ageing the base gin in an Italian oak barrel creating an almost brandy like flavour, to the added cherry and vanilla liqueurs that adorned Eileen’s Christmas pudding in the form of a rich custard and a tangy cherry compote.
Eileen’s Christmas Gin is made with a blend of unique botanicals that give it a distinct flavour profile. The gin is infused with all her Christmas pudding ingredients, including raisins, currants, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mixed spices. The addition of juniper gives the gin its distinct character, with the aroma of the pine needles complementing the other ingredients. The resulting Christmas gin has a rich, warm flavour that is perfect for the festive season and onwards through to winter. Eileen’s Christmas Pud gin tastes like liquid pudding.
Our Christmas Gin is not just popular in Australia, it has also received recognition on the international stage. In 2023, the gin won a silver medal at the London Spirits Competition. This is a significant achievement for Little Juniper, as the competition is one of the most prestigious in the world. The fact that Eileen's Christmas Gin was recognised by the competition is a testament to Eileen’s original recipe, the quality of the gin, and the care that went into its creation.
Family means everything to us, and we are proud to release the limited Eileen's Christmas Pud Gin for the first time in 2022. Eileen's beautiful smile continues to live on in this exceptional gin and it is a perfect example of our commitment to quality. Our limited Christmas gin is made in a small batch once a year. Christmas pudding in a bottle that keeps her legacy alive.
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