If the 2010s were all about the resurgence of gin, the 2020s are all about the rise and rise of Indian gin. Distilleries that are thinking out of the box, mixologists who are resetting India’s artisanal cocktail template, and well-heeled Indian travellers who are back on the road after the brief pause during the pandemic. Indian gins are enjoying the global spotlight like never before. If you’re shopping for a fine Indian gin this Diwali season, you will spoilt for choice.
Himmaleh Spirits in the heart of Uttarakhand has just released Kumaon and I, India’s first provincial gin with a farm-to-bottle approach. All the botanicals are sourced locally in tandem with farming communities in the region. In May 2023 Broken Bat by Nao Spirits was picked as the Best Gin in Asia at the Gin Guide Awards 2023 The gin makers opted for a process that used Kashmir willow (used for cricket bats) to celebrate India’s love for cricket instead of traditional oak barrels.
The earliest references to Gin probably go back to the 16th Century. By that time there were many Flemish distillers (in modern-day Netherlands and Belgium) that were distilling Genever, the precursor to Gin with juniper berries. Genever was a common fix for stomach and kidney ailments. The British shortened Genenver to Gin and by the 1700s it became one of the most widely distilled spirits in Britain. The first versions of Genever also used herbs and spices like anise, caraway, and coriander along with Juniper berries.
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Types of Gin:
There’s no clear classification for gin, this has allowed various interpretations of the spirit to blossom over the years. Strictly speaking, Juniper berries need to be the main flavouring agent for a gin to be classified as a gin but there are quite a few modern gins that don’t use juniper berries. Most juniper berries grow in the wild unlike grapes for wine that tend to be cultivated methodically. There is no restriction on the number of Botanicals for flavours – each gin has a different count. Kumaon and I use Himalayan juniper along with 10 other locally sourced Botanicals from the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand. Hapusa is another Indian gin that uses Himalayan juniper. Distilleries today either use the pot still method or column stills and many pot-stilled gins are stored in casks just like whiskey.
There are different types of gins but you’re mostly likely to come across a London Dry or Distilled gins. London Dry is arguably the quintessential gin with natural ingredients and flavourings that need to be part of the original distillation process. Flavours and colours are never added after the distillation process. London Dry doesn’t necessarily have to be distilled in London. Distilled Gin follows a similar process as London Dry but the flavouring can be added after distillation. Many modern gins follow this process as newer flavouring agents have emerged.
How to enjoy a fine Indian gin
Ansh Khanna and Samarth Prasad, the architects of Kumaon & I, believe that you should never be afraid to drink your gins neat. I agree. We tend to look for cocktail recipes almost immediately after we buy our first bottle of gin. I’d recommend savouring a small measure of gin with a simple tonic or soda water to understand its flavour profile. This allows you to start experimenting with ingredients for your cocktail mix. Once you’ve done that, try one of the simple Gin and Tonics. G&Ts originated in India as early as the 19th Century and G&Ts have evolved quite a bit over the last couple of decades. Once you’ve aced a few G&Ts, it’s time to try some cocktails. As you understand your flavour preferences, you can also try incorporating seasonal Indian ingredients into your cocktails for a unique botanical journey. I’ve tried everything from fresh turmeric to Gondhoraj lemon (a popular ingredient in many Bengali homes) to create a unique twist to classic gin cocktails.
Also Read: Gin: The Spirited Revolution Taking Over Cocktails And Instagram
Your home bar set up
Get these bar essentials if you’re planning to try G&Ts and other cocktails at home:
- The Right glasses: I’d recommend at least three types of glasses for gin aficionados. There’s the Copa glass for your G&Ts, a highball glass that is very versatile and can be used for any gin cocktails you serve on the rocks. And then there’s the Martini glass for the classic Martini that never goes out of fashion.
- Three-piece cocktail shaker
- Peg measure
- Two long bar spoons
- Hawthorne strainer
- Conical fine strainer
- A Muddler
- 550-800-watt centre detachable hand blender with jar
Try these cocktail recipes at home
The Simple Kumaon G&T
Recipe courtesy – Kumaon & I
- Gin 60ml
- Soda water: 60 ml
- Tonic water: 60 ml
- Splash of lemon juice
- Stir all ingredients with ice and serve with a garnish of lime.
The Dunes of Jaisalmer
Recipe courtesy – Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin
- Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin 60ml
- 2-3 Basil leaves
- Grapefruit Juice 90 ml
- Lime juice 50 ml
- 5-6 Ice cubes
- Tonic water 60 ml
- Garnish: Grapefruit Slice and Golden Hearts
- Method: Shaken
- Shake all ingredients and then add ice and shake. Strain it over ice in an old-fashioned glass and splash off the tonic. Garnish with grapefruit and basil leaves.
Pocket full of Green
Recipe Courtesy – Hendrick’s Gin
- 50 ml Gin
- 8 – 10 Torn Mint Leaves
- 30 ml Cucumber Juice
- 20 ml Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
- 35 ml Aloe Vera Juice
- 30 ml Soda Water
- Add gin, cucumber, and lemon juice along with mint into a glass and gently muddle until a pulpy consistency. Add plenty of cracked ice and churn. Add aloe vera juice, and soda and stir. Add more crushed ice, building into a stack.
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