While on a recent trip to Nairobi, Hendricks Gin Ambassador Ally Martin – who with his hipster ginger beard looked like he had just stepped off the set of Game of Thrones, where he would probably have been busy defending the wall from the onslaught of the army of the dead – shared some knowledge on what it takes to make a good gin.
About 300 years ago in the inner city ghettos of London, a gin craze took hold of the population that had the same impact on the society as cocaine had on the Bronx in the 1990’s. People were said to be “Gin crazed” and the authorities were at a loss on how to control the drunkenness. Gin was sold in the same fashion as chang’aa is now: in back alleys, made with lethal ingredients such as turpentine and sulphuric acid.
Today, those unflattering origins serve little more than as fun anecdotes to be told at cocktail hour. What started as a poor, old man’s drink in the 18th Century, turned into a drink that would far eclipse its founders. To many, it is now seen as the epitome of cool, hipster drinks. The world of gin has had as many different varieties as there are different types of Whisky. This trend has been further fuelled by the increase in micro distilleries, creating a whole new world of craft and bespoke gins.
The textbook definition of gin is a neutral grain spirit, re-distilled with predominant flavours of Juniper. Although right, this definition barely scratches the surface. There is not one governing body that decides what exactly constitutes a gin. We know it has ingredients like citrus, cucumber and of course, juniper berries which grow all over different parts of Europe. Gin, as opposed to Vodka (which is basically a neutral spirit and water), is full of different herbs and botanicals making it one of the most versatile of white spirits.
“Gin stands out due to the versatility and variety in its category and this is what makes gin very approachable” thinks Ally Martin, the Hendricks global Gin ambassador, speaking during his recent trip to Kenya.
Here in Nairobi, people increasingly want to learn more about what’s in the bottle they are drinking. This is what attracted Hendricks Gin into the country says Martin, who hails from Scotland. You may be surprised to discover that in a country which is synonymous with whisky, gin in Scotland is a big industry. 70% of gin made in the UK is, in fact, distilled in Scotland.
For someone who has never drunk gin, it is easy to explain to them the minutiae of how to produce it. That said, there is infinitely more magic and botanical knowledge that goes into making an amazing batch. When it boils down to it, the proof is in the pudding says Martin, adding that: “When it comes to good gin, you can sit back and drink something in which you feel there is heart, soul and that time has gone into it”.
Now we get into the story of why Hendricks as opposed to other gins. Hendricks Gin is a redistilled gin, meaning that it is produced after a series of botanicals are infused into spirit alcohol and then redistilled. Rose and Cucumber are the prime ingredients in a recipe that contains another thirteen botanicals.
Martin explains that what makes Hendricks stand out, “is the sourcing of the ingredients. There is no substitute in gin to firsthand knowledge and attention to scouring the Earth making sure you have the best juniper, coriander or citrus available. These samples,” he underlines, looking serious as he strokes his red beard, “are sent back to the Hendricks lab to make sure the quality and consistency adhere to the style of the gin they produce – a round, light, floral, spicy spirit that has the versatility to work in many cocktails.”
According to Martin, the true test of Hendricks is to drink it in a classic gin Martini with a touch of Vermouth. “This allows the Gin to really come alive especially with a slice of Cucumber or Lemon”. And if you fancy a Gin and Tonic, he adds, “three slices of Cucumber work best as it creates a synergy with the Cucumber infusion in the Gin.”
So the next time someone is talking about botanicals, you can be sure to know a thing or two. At least when it comes to Hendricks Gin.
For some classic cocktail’s infused with Hendrick’s Gin, click here