A Spirit Reawakened
It’s the inspiration of many a famous author, film maker, and songwriter. It’s the tipple of choice of the rich and famous, and those who’d quite like to be: gin.
Winston Churchill famously said: “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” However, gin and tonic wasn’t always the posh beverage for a day at the polo, or to be sipped at the yacht club on a hot summer’s day.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF GIN
There was an occurrence in English history that’s now only whispered about: The Gin Craze.
What started out as a medicine in mid-18th century London became known as “Mother’s Ruin” because it was cheap and readily available. Writer and historian Patrick Dillon noted that “not even maternal instinct has survived the ravages of gin”.
It was produced on a massive scale, making it the chosen drink – although it was considered to be more of a drug at the time – for the poor and working class. Until this point, beer had been the most popular alcoholic drink in the country, but it was significantly more expensive and also much weaker.
To curb the excessive consumption of gin, the government raised a tax on the alcohol and gin sales moved predominantly to the underground black market. But it wasn’t until 1757 when distillation was banned due to a grain shortage that the craze subsided.
For years after this, gin lurked in the shadows as rum, vodka and whisky gained popularity.
Now, fast-forward almost 300 years, and the aromatic spirit is going through a global renaissance.
A REMARKABLE RESURGENCE South Africa has also well and truly embraced the trend, with more than 50 independent gin distillers in the country producing more than 75 local gin brands.
According to Avukile Mabombo, Group Marketing Manager for Protea Hotels by Marriott, gin sales are consistently growing at almost 15 % worldwide year on year, with tonic following suit with a 12 % growth – more than any other mixer. “We’ve seen not only an increased demand for the classic G&T, but for many other gin-inspired cocktails, especially at our Fire & Ice! hotels. To me, this is an indication that the younger generation is definitely on the gin train,” he says.
Local brands like Inverroche, Jorgensens, Durban Dry, Ginologist, Hope on Hopkins, Woodstock Gin Co, Musgrave, and Wilderer can be found on the shelves of bottle stores and bars across the country, joining international heavyweights like Hendricks, Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, and Tanqueray.
New on the local scene, Khayelitshabased couple Luvoyo and Nodumo Jongile recently launched their craft gin brand, Mayine Premium Gin – the “first black owned gin produced in Africa”. Their introductory products, Rooibos Infused Mayine Gin and Grape Mayine Gin, are fast gaining popularity, and the couple already has plans to add more flavours in the near future.
IT’S GIN O’ CLOCK
While you can get a G&T pretty much anywhere, dedicated gin menus can be found in popular hot spots across major South African cities. So when it’s Gin o’ Clock (which it always is somewhere, at least), where can you go?
Social on Main and Workshop 55 in Johannesburg, and Carbon Bistro in Pretoria, are seeing people arriving in their droves to sample variations of the drink. Protea Fire & Ice! hotels in Cape Town, Pretoria, and Johannesburg have long supported local gin brands on their menus. But to take things to the next level this summer, they’ve launched a new “Over the Top Gin & Tonic” (OTT G&T) menu for gin lovers to enjoy. In Umhlanga, Europa is serving up a delectable cherry and mint option, as well as a watermelon and basil one.
The general trend is to be adventurous when using gin as a cocktail base, with pairings of apples and cinnamon, blueberries and thyme, black pepper and rosemary, or jalapeno and lime.
“Global trends inspire innovation. It’s not enough to simply serve a classic G&T anymore. It’s all about creative combinations. We need to cater to the latest international trends for our guests, but we always like to put our own spin on things to make things really interesting for them,” Mabombo says.
And if you’re planning on indulging in a few G&T cocktails, the good news is that clear spirits are known to have fewer hangover effects. However, traditional gin’s key ingredient – juniper berries – are a diuretic, so make sure to drink lots of water if you want to avoid a headache the next day. Cheers!
Gin sales are consistently growing at almost 15 % worldwide year on year, with tonic following suit with a 12 % growth – more than any other mixer.