Gin is now the hottest drink in town (at least Cape Town). and South Africa have a veritable menagerie of gins from which to choose! But I get ahead of myself, so let’s just take a step backward and see why gin is so hot right now.
Gin had to be content with taking a back seat to whisky or whiskey in recent years, but all of this has changed dramatically in a short space of time. This is due to the emergence of premium gins like international Hendrick’s Gin and local Inverroche Gin, leading the category that challenges you to sit up and take notice. Secondly, mixologists have recognised the rising quality of gin, and regard it as a key ingredient in creating the perfect upmarket cocktail for those of us with the most discerning of palettes.
This, in turn, has led to the phenomenon of gin bars mushrooming all across the globe, and particularly in Cape Town, with Mother’s Ruin being my favourite gin bar to frequent when I am in the Mother City.
If we needed any proof that the South African palate is following global trends, the speed with which the tickets to Africa’s first Gin & Tonic Festival in Cape Town sold out removed all doubts, and Johannesburg’s version is set to be even more popular (event organisers take heed). Long queues and VERY upset people aside, the CT event was a roaring success (at least for those who actually made it into the venue) and rubber stamped gin’s current popularity.
Once inside, I felt myself drawn to the Hendrick’s Gin stand, where I spent the lion’s share of my afternoon. One of the many reasons why Hendrick’s Gin tantalises my taste buds is its unique use of essences of rose and cucumber to create a unique drink experience. This unique taste is echoed by the addition of a slice of cucumber to their take on the traditional gin and tonic, which is an utterly refreshing improvement on the traditional drink. And this refreshment was very welcome in the sweltering Cape Town sunshine.
One can therefore say that each drop is lovingly crafted, leading to a gin that is simply heaven on the tongue. But don’t just take my word for it. The first South African to receive a Michelin star, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, cited Hendrick’s Gin as one of his favourite drinks.
At the festival, the brilliance of this gin did not end with their modern take on the gin and tonic. In addition, Hendrick’s Gin’s mixologist created two brilliant cocktails for the festival that left myself and a vast contingent of festivalgoers finding ourselves at a loss of superlatives. The first of these was the Hendrick’s Tea and Tonic, a drink infused with chamomile and green teas. The result is a remarkably complex drink. Who would have thought that tea could taste this good in a cocktail? Kudos to the mixologist for being this brave!
The last drink on the Hendrick’s Gin line-up was the Candyfloss Punch. The name is not a gimmick, this cocktail actually contains candyfloss, which then melts as the other ingredients are added. If ever you felt nostalgia for going to the circus, this drink will take you there.
The festival was certainly an eye opener in terms of how good gin could be. However, I am not waiting for the next G&T Festival to taste these wonderful concoctions again, and have stacked up royally on a few bottles of Hendrick’s Gin. I have also managed to get my hands on the recipes of these fine drinks, and will try my hand at playing barman in the very near future. I have included them here for any other budding mixologist to hone their skills and impress their guests.
Aside from The Hendricks’s Gin stand though, there were other gins in attendance, most of which delivered exceptionally good cocktails of their own.
While the stands were busy, some stood out more than others, and special note must be made of Gordon’s Gin which sold some really good gin ice lolly’s (but less tantalizing gin cupcakes), and Inverroche that delivered some great fynbos gin cocktails.