The most magical gin potions are crafted with farm-fresh botanicals, together with the best quality tonic on the market.
Think about it: why pay an arm and a leg for a bottle of imported Monkey 47 Dry Gin and taint it with low-cost tonic and over-ripe blueberries?
No. If you’re going to dazzle at your next summer soiree, then only the finest tonic water and garnish will do.
Although quite pricey, it’s worth biting the bullet and sourcing something like Barker and Quinn’s range of locally produced tonic waters as they will certainly hit the sweet spot.
Taking the time to forage for an outstanding variety of fresh berries, citrus, rose petals, and herbs like rosemary, thyme and mint to compliment the gin and tonic will pay off in a deluge of crisp refreshment.
And don’t forget the ice; a warm gin & tonic is about as refreshing as a dusty old hiking boot.
To knock gin o’clock out the park, the right tools for the job will almost ensure success.
This is probably not the last time you’ll be entertaining guests so you may want to invest in a wet bar and kit it out with an ice maker and beverage cooler for tonic and other cold beverages as well as the fresh botanicals you are going to add to gin and tonics, cocktails, and other tall drinks.
A solid cutting board, a couple of good quality sharp knives, a cocktail shaker, blender and the right glasses complete the inventory.
Gin and tonic can be served in either a tall glass (the Colonial way) or in a Coupe de Ballon (oversized, round wine glass) which allows you to better smell the aromas of the botanicals.
Which gin to choose?
Gin is essentially pure ethanol, distilled from fermented grain and flavoured through re-distillation with a variety of botanicals, one of which must be juniper berries.
London Dry Gin
With a balanced bouquet of juniper and citrus, plus some floral notes from botanicals added during the second distillation, London Dry Gin is the benchmark of quality gin. Dry and light-bodied, with just enough pungency, London Dry Gin (such as Beefeater, Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire) is many a bar tender’s gin of choice.
However, this hoity-toity hooch didn’t just appear overnight, but its ancestry can be traced back to the Middle Ages where gin originated as a medicinal liquor made by European monks and alchemists to treat gout and indigestion.
Today there are six gin styles in existence of which the most popular are London Dry and New Western.
Genever is the original gin style which was used for medicinal purposes in the Middle Ages as well as in all the classic gin cocktails during the 19th century.
Strictly speaking, gin is not genever as the latter can only be made in the Netherlands, Belgium and specific areas of France and Germany and is always made from grains like rye, malted barley and corn while gin can be distilled anywhere and from almost any raw material.
Genever can be aged (oude) or unaged (jonge) and is best served on the rocks with a twist of lime or lemon.
Old Tom Gin
Old Tom is dryer than Genever but sweeter than London Dry, which makes it an intermediate style that bridges the gap between sweet and dry. Popular in the 18th century England, Old Tom was the original gin used in the Tom Collins cocktail (made from gin, lemon juice, sugar and carbonated water). If not in a Tom Collins, then this rare gin (should you be able to find a bottle) is best served straight up over ice and with lemon peel.
Plymouth Gin, named in the first recorded dry martini recipe in 1904, is only produced by Black Friars Distillery in Plymouth, England and has a distinctively different, less crisp flavour than most London Dry Gins on the market today.
This is owing to an unusually high proportion of root ingredients that contribute an earthy feel and a smoother juniper tone. Serve Plymouth Gin slightly chilled with simple garnish such as orange, coriander or angelica root.
Navy Strength Gin
Looking for something strong enough to put hairs on your chest? Then navy strength gin hits the nail on the head. At 58.8% ABV (alcohol by volume), this style of gin can stand up to other, potentially overpowering flavours found in cocktails.
Locally distilled, Hout Bay Harbour Distillery (HBHD) Navy Strength Gin was awarded World’s Best Navy Strength Gin for 2020 and is a must in any proudly South African’s gin bar.
This navy strength gin is described by HBHD founders, the Schmidt family, as juniper-forward, surprisingly smooth for a 57% ABV and with “orange and cardamom coming through to create a well-rounded drink that lights up the back of the throat”.
New Western Dry Gin
Introduced in the early 2000s, New Western Dry Gin is not juniper dominant but places the spotlight on botanicals and other flavours, for example, rose and cucumber in Hendricks Gin or sweet toffee apples, fynbos, citrus and delicate floral notes in Inverroche Gin Amber.
This young gin style is chic, colourful and works well in cocktails made with trendy ingredients including ginger, grape, rose petals and hibiscus syrup.
Ultimately, whether finding love at first gin with a classic London Dry, a brawny Navy Strength or a swanky New Western, it’s never too early for gin o’clock.
We have an open-door policy; show up with gin and we’ll let you in!