A toast to the classic Gin & Tonic
Though British in its roots, the Gin & Tonic is a colonial classic born in the Indian subcontinent. Today, with modern mixes in myriad flavours – the Classic G&T comes with unexpected twists on your palate
The history of Gin is quite antiquated indeed. A drink that sowed its seeds as a medicinal potion made with Juniper Berries has now become the talk of the town. Gin traces its history to its precursor Genever in Antwerp, where the British soldiers picked it up during the Eighty Years' War and brought it to the British Isles where it became a rage under the rule of William of Orange. The popularity of the drink spread like wildfire as it loosened whiskey's grip in many places.
History of G&T
Although Gin may be a traditional British colonial drink, the Gin & Tonic is a quintessential Indian one. The tonic water available during colonial times was basically made of quinine for treating malaria. The quinine was dissolved in soda water to make the tonic water. As it was extremely bitter, the soldiers of British East India would mix it with Gin and sugar syrup to make it palatable. Thus, Gin & Tonic was born, right here in India. Although the drink never picked pace outside the Armed Forces, the recent resurgence of its popularity is due to its varied character and layered flavours, Beverage Expert Ankur Chawla tells me.
New Flavours, New Berries
Today, the days of quinine may be over but a slew of Indian and international Gins and tonic waters are stirring up the drinking scene with some brand new zingy Indian flavours. One of these is the recently launched Stranger & Sons – with a healthy mix of Mace, Pepper, Coriander, Cassia Bark and a number of Indian citrus peels like my favourite Gondhoraj Lebu from Kolkata. Made in a still at the birthplace of Gin in the Netherlands, this Gin has a spicy, citrusy note that will leave you refreshed in no time.
One of the essential elements of Gin is the Juniper Berries. These are drawn from quite a few major areas of the world. Macedonia is one of the primary regions producing these berries and it is used in both the Stranger & Sons that I mentioned along with the Greater Than Gin from Nao Spirits. But Macedonia is not the only region from where these berries can be sourced. Back home, the Himalayan region is home to small pockets of forests covered with these elusive berries. The Hapusa Gin from the same distillery makes use of these along with added flavours of Mango and Turmeric – making it one of the few savoury gins in the market.
Many shades of Gin
During the Gin rage of the mid-18th century, there was quite a bit of unscrupulous Gin being made in England. To combat this, the London Dry Gin was introduced to standardise the making of Gin. The Jodhpur Gin is one such type, drawing botanicals from along the ancient spice route. The multiple column still distillation makes for a smooth flow on the palate, subtly interrupted by the citric notes that characterise it. The Star of Bombay is another London Dry Gin, from the house of Bombay Sapphire. Other than the 12 different handpicked botanicals that this liquor uses, there's also the added effect of Bergamot Orange peel and Ambrette seeds giving it a spicy, zingy flavour. Two other London-based Gins are also making their way to the market: No. 3 which combines three fruits (Juniper Berries, Orange Peel and Grapefruit) along with three spices (Angelica root, Coriander seeds and Cardamom) and the turquoise-coloured London No. 1 which gets its colour from the maceration of Gardenia flowers.
Another style that's found quite rarely is the Old Tom Gin. Slightly sweeter than the London Dry Gin, the Langley's Old Tom Gin transports you back to Victorian England with a soft, creamy orange base added to the base of Juniper. Although one of the most common Gins found in India is the cold compound, which doesn't undergo a distillation process allowing the addition of artificial flavours – India is now opening its doors to the most expensive of the lot, the Distilled Gins. The Gin Mare manages to bottle the flavours of the Mediterranean with hints of Olive, Thyme and Rosemary. The Monkey 47 is a unique distilled gin filled with citrusy, herby and peppery notes from its 47 different ingredients along with some fuller flavours of their secret: Berries. The chemistry lab styled bottle with a cork stopper just adds to the mystery of this one.
Story of infusion
But flavours can't only be limited to the Gins themselves. Juniper Bar at Andaz, New Delhi, is creating a bevvy of infused Gins to expand the market even further. At Juniper, there are 39 different infusions with eccentric flavours such as Lavender, Cherry and even Celery. One of these is the Timur infusion. The Timur is a pepper from the forests of Uttarakhand and it bursts on your palate with a spicy yet herby flavour that lingers for quite a long period.
Tonic Water & Cocktails
Gin cannot be complete without its companion – Tonic Water. Until a few years ago, there was a limited range of what kind of mixer we could use with our Gins but a host of new tonic waters are hitting the Indian shores, some artisanal, some subtly flavoured. Bengal Bay sources its Quinine from Peru along with the Oranges, Cardamom and Lime from India making it one Tonic water that can even be tried without the Gin. Combine your Gin Mare with 1724, which pays homage to the Inca trail in South America where Quinine was first discovered. The trail is located at 1724 metres above sea level, thus deriving the name. The Yuzu variant from the New Zealand import East Imperial also makes for a potent G&T. The Quinine is imported from Congo while its 150 ml bottling makes for the perfect 1:3 ratio.
Let's get on with some cocktails now. The Toast to Calcutta is one of Monkey Bar's new signature Gin cocktails that combines the hugely popular Beefeater London Dry Gin with basil and Kolkata gondhoraj lemon house-made cordial. It brings together the unique aroma of the famed gondhoraj lemon from Calcutta to create a light smoky gin-based concoction. The lemon is lightly smoked and infused with the famous jaggery, nolen gur, and then blended with the
Gin to create this drink
There you have it, the perfect makings of a Gin & Tonic that will have your afternoons and evenings occupied in a quiet frenzy.