A classic gin and tonic is a refreshing cocktail that you can easily make without any fancy bar equipment in the comfort of your own home. And with a growing demand for gin in Asia, there’s now a wide variety of unique gin styles that are easily available for purchase online as well as at specialty grocers.
Having easy access to a huge selection of gin means countless flavour possibilities with just a few simple additions and garnish choices.
Here’s a quick list of botanical spirits worth considering that will elevate your home-made G&T (gin and tonic) experience the next time you have friends over.
GO LOCAL: PAPER LANTERN SICHUAN PEPPER GIN
This flagship product from Singapore-based craft spirit company Paper Lantern Distilling was launched in 2016 to a very warm welcome from seasoned gin drinkers on the island.
The gin is distilled from Thai rice at their distillery in Chiang Mai, which provides a softer, more subtle spirit base. Besides juniper, Asian herbs and spices like lemongrass, makwhaen, Sichuan peppercorn, galangal and a touch of longan berry honey are used to bring a distinctively regional and undoubtedly complex flavour to the gin.
This is the one to get if you’re looking for a very different spirit to add to your collection – or if you’re someone who just loves mala (numbingly spicy) flavours. It tastes great with a quick dash of soda or tonic and a light squeeze of fresh lime so you don’t drown out the delicate flavours of the gin.
ENGLISH STANDARD: SIPSMITH LONDON DRY GIN
While there are a number of gin variations produced by the Sipsmith distillery in London (including a Raffles 1915 Gin created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Singapore Sling in 2015), we think their London Dry Gin is an excellent choice for a home drinker who prefers a classic gin and tonic.
Distilled with traditional copper pot stills (cutely named Prudence, Patience and Constance) at their distillery in the Chiswick district of London, botanicals such as Madagascar cinnamon bark, Spanish liquorice root, Seville orange peels, Belgian angelica root, Bulgarian coriander seeds, Chinese cassia bark and juniper berries bring quintessentially London Dry notes to the fore.
A G&T with this gin will come with a good dose of refreshingly dry bitterness and ought to be garnished simply with a lime wedge (don’t squeeze it!). Best enjoyed overlooking some greenery on a sun-kissed late afternoon.
DELICATE STRENGTH: KI NO BI KYOTO DRY GIN
We all know Japanese whiskies are in high demand these days, and we won’t be surprised if this same thirst transcends to gin distilled in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin from Kyoto Distillery is a rice-based spirit that distills botanicals in six separate categories – Base (juniper berries, orris root, Japanese cypress), Citrus (yuzu, lemon), Herb (sansho, kinome), Spice (ginger), Fruity and Floral (bamboo, red shiso leaves), and Tea (gyokuro tree tea) – before blending them together along with water from Fushimi, which is famous for its purity and used in the brewing of sake.
All this brings about an amazingly clean, crisp gin with hefty yet balanced Asian flavours. Works wonderfully in a gin and tonic with a yuzu peel for garnish, or even served together with an equal part of warm water to be enjoyed like a warm sake.
OLDER AND BOLDER: BLUECOAT BARREL FINISHED GIN
From Philadelphia Distilling in the USA, Bluecoat Barrel Finished Gin takes its classic American Dry Gin (also available in Singapore) and ages it in an American oak cask for at least three months. This ageing process warmly rounds out the flavours from botanicals like coriander seed, juniper, angelica root and an American citrus blend, and wraps them in cosier notes of vanilla and caramel in each sip.
This mellower, whisky-like gin works well with soda instead of tonic, topped off with garnishes like an orange peel and a sprig of thyme. Its deeper flavours also make a great negroni, and can even be enjoyed neat (if you really want to scrimp on prep time).
CITRUS AND HERB: MELBOURNE DRY GIN
Melbourne Dry Gin from The Melbourne Gin Company is a blend of 11 individually distilled botanicals from their distillery in the Yarra Valley region of Victoria, Australia. Besides the classic gin ingredients such as juniper berries, coriander seed, orris root and cassia bark, local botanicals such as macadamia, honey lemon myrtle and organic navel oranges are also used to create this bright and bold spirit.
The uniquely Aussie flavour notes work well in a gin and tonic topped off with a squeeze of grapefruit along with a garnish of grapefruit zest or sprig of rosemary.
Sidenote: You’ve got to love its oh-so-hipster bottle design with copper accents across a pale cream label. Fortunately, the liquid in the bottle doesn’t fall short on flavour.
JUST JUNIPER: PORTLAND DRY GIN 33
While most distilleries use a number of different botanicals to bring character to their gin, the good people of the New Deal Distillery in Portland, Oregon have taken things in a very singular direction with their Portland Dry Gin 33. This American gin uses only one botanical in its production process: Good ole Juniper berries.
While this certainly makes for a spirit that is juniper-forward in flavour, drinkers will still find curious hints of citrus and grassy notes with each sip, which goes to show just how multifaceted those juniper berries really are in taste.
Perfect for drinkers who are looking for a more modern style of gin that steers away from heavier flavour profiles. Just like the gin, we’d advise keeping the garnish simple with a single well-cut lime slice.
CIDER HOUSE RULES: LE GIN DE CHRISTIAN DROUIN
The Calvados Christian Drouin company has been known through the years for distilling vintage calvados, an apple brandy exclusively made in Normandy, France. And with the rise in gin demand, the company decided to launch its own personal style of gin a few years back.
Leveraging on generations of expertise in creating calvados, Le Gin begins with a neutral spirit blended with distilled apple cider from 30 different cider apple varieties on the family’s estate. Botanicals such cardamom, Brazilian ginger, Madagascan vanilla, rose, almonds, Indonesian cinnamon and juniper berries are then used to accentuate the apple cider notes – for a very unique gin that deserves a second thoughtful sip.
Once you’ve found your way past the turquoise wax seal of the bottle, get a few thin slices of apple or a slice of ginger to garnish. A piece de resistance of a gin.