Call it a resurgence, or a renaissance, but the gin craze that is sweeping across India, and gathering momentum is here for the long haul—it’s homegrown, on tap and in deliciously made cocktails to make at home
They gave us the trains, the pitch-perfect English and, of course, a stubborn love for cricket. But the British also gave us another thing of great import—a love for gin. It was around the 18th century that Great Britain went through a phase (different from the long, long phase of spreading its empire far and wide, that is), of what is known as the ‘gin craze’. Average Londoners were consuming as much as 14 gallons of gin a year. In what was to be a far-reaching vision that even outlasted its dreams of world dominance, Britain took the spirit the world over. Now, this gin resurgence has once again got Europe, and India, in its grips—and seriously, no one’s complaining, least of all the connoisseurs who are looking at this as an opportunity to craft their own gins right here in India.
Take the case of Greater Than Gin, India’s first craft gin by Delhi-based Anand Virmani, which he launched under the aegis of his brand Nao Spirits. The former owner of a club found a yawning gap between high-end gins like Bombay Sapphire and less premium ones such as Beefeater. “Greater Than is an affordable indigenous alternative that bridges that gap,” Virmani says. A few months after its introduction in 2018, another homegrown gin, Stranger & Sons by Rahul Mehra, his wife Sakshi Saigal, and Vidur Gupta, made a favourable debut in the Indian market. Its USP is that the gin is made using eight locally sourced botanicals.
But he didn’t stop at that. Considering the vast playing field open to him—and the fact that gin and tonic is, perhaps, the most popular gin cocktail—Mehra went on to establish Svami Drinks along with Aneesh Bhasin and Sahil Jatana. The co-founders spent six months looking for the right quinine for the tonic and ensured that “everything from recipe development to bottling remained an in-house effort”. While Svami is available across India and in parts of Asia, entrepreneur Angad Soni’s brand Sepoy & Co is focused towards establishing itself as a mainstay in Delhi. Sepoy came into being after Soni’s failed attempt to recreate a gin and tonic he enjoyed in London, using the same gin. “That tonic water plays such as crucial role in the cocktail was not lost on me,” says Soni, who went back to the UK and with the help of experts, created a recipe for tonic water, including flavoured varieties. On this front, Rishabh Gupta’s Bengal Bay brand of tonic waters that exclusive use local and indigenous ingredients is all set to make a comeback this monsoon.
Testament to this gin revolution is the fact that the spirit is available on tap in Mumbai’s Thirsty City 127 in Lower Parel, and that Jyran, the Indian restaurant at Sofitel Mumbai BKC, is home to the country’s first gin bar. So, it was only natural that we got Peter Sethi, beverage manager at Sofitel Mumbai BKC, to share gin cocktail recipes simple to make at home and show-off to friends.
- 45ml gin
- 15ml campari
- 15ml smoked orange marmalade form
- Dehydrated orange (garnish)
Method: Pour each ingredient one after the other in order. Stir gently and garnish with dehydrated orange before serving.
2. Gin and tonic
- 60ml gin
- 100ml Indian tonic water
- Cucumber slice (garnish)
Method: Pour gin and tonic water into a high ball glass. Stir well. Garnish with cucumber slice and serve.
3. Gin martini
- 45ml gin
- 15ml dry vermouth
- Olive or pearl onion (garnish)
Method: Pour gin and vermouth in a glass and stir. Serve with olive or pearl onion.
4. Ramos gin fizz
- 60ml gin
- 60ml orange blossom water
- Egg white
- 30ml simple syrup
- 30ml fresh lemon juice
Method: Pour the ingredients into a shaker and use blender to mix. Pour into a glass and serve.
5. Love with a pinch of salt
- 30ml gin
- 30ml zinfandel
- 5ml peach puree
- 5ml almond syrup
- 5ml ginger juice
- 5ml lime juice
Method: Pour ingredients into a shaker and shake well. Strain the mix and serve in a tall glass.