Gin is in: The newest ‘trendy’ drink

It's the newest 'trendy' drink with bars dedicating entire menus to the spirit. But what has sparked this new-found love for gin? We ask the experts.

gin While it is not at all easy to produce a great gin, the production time is relatively short, with no need for ageing like fine whisky or wine.

Whether it's straight up or on the rocks, shaken or stirred in a cocktail, there is no denying that gin is one of the fastest growing spirits in the world. The juniper-infused spirit, one of the most important building blocks for cocktails, is now the drink du jour for both hipsters and educated drinkers. “Worldwide, there are now more than 3,500 different brands of gin. It's a staggering number. Though dethroning vodka is still a huge challenge, gin's popularity is on the rise and it has undoubtedly taken a fair share of vodka fans. Finally, it’s getting the respect it deserves,” says Dimitri Lezinska, mixologist, The Good Wife, a bar at Mumbai's Bandra-Kurla Complex. Lezinska credits the spirit's growth in popularity to bartenders for experimenting with it.

But how has gin done it?

The public's appetite for gin shows no signs of abating. And it's easy to see why. While whisky with its ages and special releases can get really intimidating, wine with its “terroir” and “tannins” is no less of an ordeal. Amidst all this stands gin —a clean and easy-to-understand product. You don't have to worry about its age or where it was barrelled. The recipes are usually easy to follow. If all else fails, you can always dump it in tonic water!

On a more serious note, the cocktail trend revival has played a major role in resurrecting gin. Apart from the fact that it is usually consumed as part of a mixed drink, gin also has a long and storied history in the cocktail world. “The base for one of the most popular cocktails these days, the Negroni, which was created in 1919, is gin. The martini cocktail is another one that was initially made with gin, way before James Bond told the world to have it with vodka,” adds Lezinska. Gin, aside from the classic G&T (Gin and Tonic) combination, is a versatile spirit that works in cocktails well. “Gin works very well as a binding base spirit: it's clear and light and doesn’t compete with other ingredients as brown spirits tend to do. Its spiced, herbal flavours help create a balanced drink and its versatility makes it a highly valuable tool for the cocktail-minded bartenders,” says Abhishek Bindal, AVP Operations at Mumbai's KA Hospitality which owns F&B brands such as Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Nara Thai and Cin Cin.

Other classic cocktails such as Tom Collins, Vesper (the famous drink ordered by James Bond in Casino Royale), Martinez, Aviation and Ramos Fizz are all gin based. Most of these drinks are a century old or more, and their recipes serve as the basis for all modern gin cocktails. The growth of cocktail bars across the country may have contributed to its popularity.

crystal-gin

While it is not at all easy to produce a great gin, the production time is relatively short, with no need for ageing like fine whisky or wine. This has allowed the market to swiftly rise with the demand and to diversify, turning a spark of interest into a bonfire! “There has been a boom with many of the popular international brands arriving in India. Even the tonic water segment has more variety with newer brands such as Svami Tonic waters offering a different drinking experience. Their regular variant allows the gin to not be drowned by too much sugar while the their grapefruit and cucumber versions offer a new perspective,” says John Leese, consultant mixologist, Toast & Tonic.

Gin’s revival has led to two Made in India gin brands. Greater Than is India’s first craft gin brand since it was launched in Goa followed by Bengaluru. It is also gearing up to introduce its second craft gin brand, Hapusa. The other brand is Stranger & Sons, a domestic gin distilled in Goa with locally sourced botanicals.

Ways to have gin

There is a reason bartenders love gin — it’s the most versatile spirit to mix with. “The flavour profile of gin is such that it can be used in many different ways as a preferred choice of beverage. From classic cocktails like Negroni and Martini to the good old GnT (Gin and Tonic), its diverse perceptions have something to offer everyone,” says Abhas Saxena, assistant director, food and beverage, and chief sommelier at Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. While gin and tonic still remains the epitome of an easy, flavourful gin drink, Bindal believes the in-vogue thing right now is a Gin and Sonic — half tonic/half soda, which is super refreshing and compliments the gin well. But if your favourite way to drink G is with the T, then it’s important you don’t skimp on quality. After all, it’s often three quarters of the glass. A large balloon glass is the usual vessel of choice of most bartenders.

How about on the rocks? “A lot of the new brands have so much flavour, a little bit of dilution takes away the burn and opens up the flavours of the spirit,” believes Leese.

Gin and food

The choice of food would depend on the way you prefer the drink. “If you have it as an aperitif as a martini or straight up, then light hors d’oeuvres work perfectly well. If you choose a Negroni, then a cheesy/bacon-based/red meat preparation would be my first choice,” says Saxena. At Yauatcha, gin-based cocktails are paired with spicy chicken dim sums while it’s the soft shell crab at Hakkasan. According to Nikhil Agarwal, sommelier and director of All Things Nice, the best way to pair gin cocktails is with appetisers made from the same botanicals/herbs. “Good gins can also be enjoyed neat with a slice of lime/cucumber/rose petal, etc, and a cube or two of ice. I think more gins will pour in from other parts of the world. We should also have one or two more gin brands made locally coming into the market. I also predict that we will see gin bars opening in tier-1 cities across India.”

Let’s drink to that gin revolution!

dimitri

Dimitri Lezinska, Mixologist at The Good Wife. reveals his top four gins and what makes 

them special

Watenshi by Cambridge Distillery

The production of this gin is extremely rare — a mere six bottles making this the rarest gin in the world. One bottle of Watenshi, meaning “angel’s share” in Japanese, requires 50 distillations “at half the pressure found on top of Mount Everest, and at a temperature lower than the coldest ever day at the South Pole”. The gin is presented in a decanter hand-blown in Cambridgeshire and features silver pieces by jeweller Antoine Sandoz. The liquid inside is just as exquisite with notes of sweet citrus and spice supported by bitter juniper and an incredibly long, complex finish.

Monkey 47 Distiller’s Cut

martini

The standard bottling of Monkey 47 dry gin from Germany is already one of the best bottles you can buy, especially if you prefer a fruitier gin. But they make something special every year when they produce the distiller’s cut. Every year, distillers feature a different, rare botanical. In 2017, it was musk yarrow, an aromatic, alpine flowering plant.

Forager’s Clogau

You may have a tough time tracking down a bottle of Snodownia Distillery’s single cask expression of its Forager’s Gin. That’s because fewer than 500 bottles were made to celebrate the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with unique botanicals like sea buckthorn and gorse flower.

Silent Pool Distillers 9L

romos-gin

Touted as the world’s only nine-litre bottle of gin, it has been hand painted and signed by artist Laura Barrett and contains the 24-botanical Silent Pool Gin after “years of research and trials”. The design of the bottle is said to be inspired by ingredients of the gin, the area in which it is created, as well as local mythology.

Gin is more popular than ever. it’s a good time to learn some simple gin cocktails

1. Gin old Fashioned
What you need

Gin of your choice 50ml

Passion fruit syrup 5ml

Bitters 2 Dashes
Method

* Stir all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake for 20 seconds with ice.

* Serve on the rocks in a rocks glass.

* Spray the glass with the zest of an orange peel.

(Courtesy: Toast & Tonic)

2. Gin Fizz

assortment-tonic

What you need

Gin of your choice 60ml

Lemon juice 20ml

Simple syrup 20ml

Egg white 1

Soda to top up

Method

* Add all ingredients (except soda) in a cocktail shaker and shake hard.

* Strain into a highball glass and top it up with soda.

(Courtesy: Toast & Tonic)

3. The Breakfast Martini
What you need

Gin 50ml

Triple Sec 15ml

Fresh lemon juice 15ml

Orange marmalade 1 tsp

Garnish: dehydrated orange zest

Method

* Shake all the ingredients vigorously.

* Finely strain into a chilled coupette and garnish with the dehydrated orange zest.

(Courtesy: The Good Wife, BKC, Bandra)

4. Ramos Gin Fizz

What you need

Gordon's Gin 45 ml

Lavender syrup 20ml

Lime squeeze

Egg white 1 (optional)

Garnish: Edible flowers

Method

* Shake all the ingredients vigorously.

* Finely strain into a champagne saucer and garnish with an edible flower.

(Courtesy: The Looney, The Lover And The Poet, Mumbai)

5. Thai Spritz
What you need

Lemongrass flavoured gin 40ml

Martini Extra Dry 20ml

Fresh green apple juice 40ml

Lime juice 30ml

Slice of green apple 3/4

Pieces of lemon grass 2/3

Lemongrass sugar syrup 15-20ml (Lemongrass soaked in sugar syrup overnight)

Chandon Brut top up

Dash of Soda

Rose Water spray Mint

Ice cubes 3

Green apple fan for garnish

Method

* Add the apple chunks and lemongrass in a shaker and muddle it followed with the lime and lemongrass sugar syrup.

* Add the spirit, Vermouth and a bunch of mint leaves followed by the rest of the contents.

* Add the ice to the contents and shake the contents vigorously for 15 seconds.

* Double strain the mixture in a chilled wine glass.

* Pour the sparkling wine forming a layer over the contents along with a dash of soda.

* Spray the cocktail with some rose water to finish it off.

* Garnish with a green apple fan.

(Courtesy: Nara, Mumbai)

6. Lam peak Martini

What you need

Gin of choice 50 ml

Martini bianco vermouth 10ml

Fresh pineapple juice 25 ml

Lemon juice 10ml

Chunks of pineapple 2

Basil leaves 3

Method

* Add ice cubes to the cocktail shaker, then add all the above ingredients and shake the cocktail.

* Double strain into a frozen martini glass and then garnish it with a basil leaf.

(Courtesy: Yauatcha; PAN India — Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata)

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