Australia’s liquor industry has been abuzz with rainbows as the country celebrates the 44th annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival.

A range of events across the city form the festival, which began on 18 February and finishes this weekend with the annual parade. Traditionally held on Oxford Street, the location where the event first began in 1978, this year’s parade is again being held at the Sydney Cricket Ground in order to keep it more COVIDSafe.

Despite this different format, liquor retailers on Oxford Street and beyond are still getting into the Mardi Gras spirit, joining a range of drinks brands that are also recognising the event. This includes official Mardi Gras drinks partners, Little Creatures, Treasury Premium Brands and Archie Rose.

One retailer getting into the spirit is Darlinghurst Fine Wines, located right amongst the usual Mardi Gras action near Taylor Square. Manager, Imogen Murphy, said there is lots going on in-store, with lots of rainbow-themed decorations, lights and displays, as well as specially labelled products from brands such as Absolut. There is also the omnipresent rainbow flag on the roof, which was set up four year ago and never taken down because it became so well-loved.

Aside from that, Darlinghurst Fine Wines has teamed up with some other businesses for the occasion. Last weekend, for example, the store set up a drag queen selfie stand out the front, alongside seltzer tastings from the team at Staple Drinks, and currently there is a promotion running with store neighbour, Mykiki.

Although Murphy anticipates it won’t be as big as other years, the Darlinghurst Fine Wines team is excited.

“Sydney is one of the greatest spots for Mardi Gras in the world. The international tourism we get for Mardis Gras alone is quite overwhelming, and I think because we’ve only just opened up our borders, we’ll miss out on that extra fun. But that won’t stop our spirits, we’re still excited for the best and are going to dress up ourselves too,” Murphy said.

Just a couple of kilometres away is Elizabeth Bay Cellars, which is featured on the Mardi Gras ‘Glittering Mile’, a walking route of retail offerings, history talks, live music, viewing parties and art exhibitions. The store has utilised its window facing Elizabeth Bay Road to showcase the work of local photographer, Robert Knapman, displayed alongside bright rainbow decorations, lights and disco balls.

“In this area, LGBTQIA+ people are very well represented, and we’re part of that community, so we felt it was important to really celebrate Mardi Gras,” said Nicole David of Elizabeth Bay Cellars.

“Our first stores as a business were on Oxford Street and we knew the original people who started Mardi Gras, which, in those days, was a political protest and then it became what it is today – a real celebration. It’s been part of the ethos of our business to support that community throughout our years of operation, especially now that [Mardi Gras] is such an incredible part of the local community.”

In honour of the occasion, Elizabeth Bay Cellars has also released special labels for its own wine brand, In The Loop, and has created a multi-buy discount around them too.

Online retailer BoozeBud is also celebrating Mardi Gras with a list of its boldest and brightest drinks, giving customers the chance to drink the rainbow.

The list goes through all the colours of the rainbow – Red: Absolut Watermelon Vodka, Orange: Aperol Aperitivo, Yellow: Patron Reposado Tequila, Green: Midori Melon Liqueur, Blue: Continental Liqueurs Blue Curacao, Indigo: Husk Distillers Ink Gin, Violet: Newy Distillery Purple Vodka. BoozeBud has also bottled the Rainbow with a limited edition Crystal Head Vodka Pride Edition.

In addition BoozeBud is offering same day delivery in Sydney and Melbourne and as a site-wide promotion is offering free delivery and 10 per cent off on first orders for all new members.

The limited-edition Crystal Head Pride Vodka

On a larger retail scale, Endeavour Group has been getting into the Mardi Gras spirit both at stores in Sydney and across the nation. After the recent announcement of new product line Loud and Proud, which will donate profits to Pride Foundation Australia to support LGBTQIA+ specific programs, Endeavour Group has now also turned several BWS stores into BWYASSS stores, a move which was incredibly welcomed last year.

“‘Yasss Queen’ has its origins in the LGBTQ+community and by incorporating the rainbow colours in our BWYASSS sign, we want to show our support and celebrate the diversity of the LGTBQ+ community in a loud and proud way,” said BWS Area Coach and Endeavour Group’s Proud at Endeavour co-chair, Ash Martin.

A further seven stores have joined the BWYASSS lineup, adding to the three stores that celebrated the concept in the Sydney Mardi Gras precinct last year.

“The feedback on the first BWYASSS signs in those three stores was incredible, with many in the LGTBQ+ community saying they wanted to see the signs at their local stores too, which is why we decided to expand it across the country,” Martin added.

Coles Liquor has also expressed support for Mardi Gras on a national scale. Coles has actually signed up to be the primary sponsor of Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras (which takes place on March 12), building on a campaign that rolled out last year.

A Coles spokesperson said: “LGBTQI+ inclusion is a key focus area of our Better Together strategy. To support the queer community, last year, we rolled out Welcome Here in Liquorland, First Choice and Vintage Cellar stores.

“Welcome Here is a powerful program that signals for all our sexuality and gender diverse customers and team members that our stores are a place of inclusion and safety.”

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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