A few years ago, when you went for a drink, you probably ordered a whiskey or a vodka or cocktails with these spirits.
Cut to 2022. The fancy restaurant you’re heading to is doing a gin collaboration in association with one of the many gin brands that have sprung up in India. Mixologists create mind-blowing cocktails with gin as the base ingredient. Indian gin brands are a preferred choice.
The rise of gin
Speaking of the gin boom in India, Kunal Patel of Monika Enterprises says, “Before the trend started, we would be struggling to sell 400-500 cases (each case contains 12 bottles) per year. Now we are selling close to 5,000 to 6,000.”
Like almost all trends, this one also started in Europe and the United States before spreading to India. Sakshi Saigal, director and co-founder of Stranger & Sons, among the first Indian gins to hit the market, was studying in Spain when the gin boom hit the European country. Its co-founder, Vidur Gupta, was witnessing the same trend in London at that time. This started the conversation that, despite the presence of fresh botanicals, no gin was coming out of India. Their first gin, Stranger & Sons, came from Goa in 2018. During the lockdown in 2020, in association with Bombay Canteen, they launched their first distilled cocktail made from fresh guavas. “We made about 3,000 bottles that year and sold them only through Bombay Canteen. The bottles sold out within days,” says Saigal.
When Craig W. Wedge, Retail Operations Manager of Mansions by Living Liquidz, came to India in 2006, vodka was the go-to drink. He also sees gin going in that direction. “Gin drinkers are like beer drinkers. They are particular about their drink,” he says.
Gin is versatile and its flavor can be easily transformed by adding various botanical infusions. It can serve as a martini or a new-age cocktail or can even be enjoyed over ice.
At Epitome in Mumbai, head of mixology Mahesh Panigrahi says there has been a meteoric rise in gin-based cocktails. “We have our own fresh gins infused on site. Some of the popular infusions I like to work with are anise, orange peel, lavender, and vanilla bean,” says Panigrahi, an award-winning mixologist.
In April, the popular BKC restaurant Taftoon Bar & Kitchen took over the bar with Tamras Gin, the newest gin released from Goa. Taftoon owner Pankaj Gupta says, “Every month a new gin arrives and our mixologist creates something new with it,” he says.
Jai Prakash Chopra, co-founder of Spaceman Spirits Lab Pvt Ltd, which markets the popular gin brand Samsara, suggests having gin on the rocks. But what about the bitterness caused by juniper berries, the main ingredient in gin? “At Samsara, we use 11 plants. We adjust the ingredients to make the gin smooth,” explains Chopra.
Made in India
The make in India has taken off for gin and how. Goan brands like Stranger & Sons, Hapusa, Tamras and others compete well with foreign gins.
But will the gin momentum continue? “We are still nothing compared to the UK or the US. I have reservations about the length of this period,” says Gupta of Taftoon.
Wedge also thinks it will pass. “My only concern is how many herbs can you fit in a bottle?” he asks.
Anjali Batra, founder of the Gin Explorers Club, is however optimistic. Having recently brought the gin festival to Mumbai, she finds that people’s enthusiasm for gin continues to grow. “People don’t come to the Gin Explorers Club anymore and say, ‘Hi, where can I get a beer?'” she says. When she launched the festival in 2018 in Delhi, only 4,000 people attended and five brands took part. In 2022, the numbers have risen to 10,000 and 15 respectively.
“Some people like Hapusa because they like gondhoraj lime, Stranger & Sons has quite a loyal following and they do a lot of innovation. Then some more discerning people just drink London Dry,” Wedge added.
Indian gin is already heading to the global market. Have you ever followed the trend?
Must try in Mumbai
King of the Jungle in Esora – Wine and Bistro: Cream cheese, dragon fruit, watermelon and passion fruit plus gin make a breathtaking combo.
Pudin Hara Ginito at Hitchki: It includes pudin hara, with black salt, mint leaves, lime wedges, sugar and soda.
Tsukemono to Taki Taki: A blend of gin, martini blanco, homemade anise liqueur and pickled cucumber, this one packs a punch.
Situation of Gin Gin at Loci and Toot: Contains spiced pomegranate gin, sweet vermouth, fresh lime and aquafaba mousse.
Kung Fu Panda in Chin Chin Chu: A gin blend with lemongrass, basil, ginger, star anise, coconut, passion fruit and lime, this one is fun and seductive.
Gin Pesto at Mansions by Living Liquidz: A classic mix of Beefeater London dry with lemon juice, sugar syrup, basil and mint leaves.
Fifty-Fifty Martini and everything else at Sofitel Mumbai’s Gin Bar by Jyran: This is a place where gin lovers can go wild.
The angle of British India
Gin may be all the rage today, but the trend dates back to 1825 under the British Raj. British Army officers stationed in India began mixing gin, a drink made by distilling neutral grain alcohol with juniper berries and other botanicals. They mixed it with tonic water – basically a liquid made from quinine, sugar and water. It was a cocktail that helped them fight the deadly disease of malaria, which also originated in India at that time. Quinine and juniper berries have been shown to be preventive measures against malaria. Of course, it helped that the cocktail masked the terrible quinine taste. Originally produced as medicine and prescribed to treat ailments such as dyspepsia and gout, it quickly became a popular cocktail with its popular tonic water mix. Today, gin is infused with botanicals like citrus fruits, seeds, rosemary, and various herbs and spices. Indian brands are coming with Goa leading the gin revolution.
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