Here's How You Can Gin Up A Revolution
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India is a brown country, or at best, a wheatish-brown country. We are, of course, talking about the liquor the country likes. Brown spirits—the whiskies and the rums, hello Old Monk! —make up 97% of spirits sales in the country. Clear spirits claim just 3%, and of that, 2% is vodka. That leaves a tiny one percent of the market for gin. Then there is, of course, the beer behemoth to contend with. Given this, why exactly are we seeing a profusion of craft gins in India? Because the ones who love gin luurrrrvegin (and won’t shut up about it). But then again, it really is a neat little drink. 

As with most things, one can blame the millennials for the current gin rage. And, speaking for them, it is a burden we are willing to bear. You see, prior to the 2010s, gin was an old-fashioned drink for old-fashioned people who were also, well, old. A ‘gin and tonic’ invoked visions of a matronly British lady in a cardigan and sensible kitten heels sipping a drink during her weekly bridge game, after which she would head to bed promptly at 7 p.m., lights out. But thanks to the gin revival that was happening in the West—specifically in Britain—and the well-heeled, well-traveled Indian, gin was about to wake up from its nap. Vocal for local; jeenafor gin. There are now well over twenty Indian craft gins. The good days are finally upon us. Aatmanirbhar Bharat. 

Bharat was also the site of the OG gin and tonic. The very first version as we now know it consisted of quinine (an antimalarial drug derived from the bark of a cinchona tree), water, sugar, lime, and gin. If mosquitoes must be dealt with, and malaria must be avoided, one might as well be tipsy for it. ‘Bombay Sapphire’ is in fact an ode to the Raj’s love of gin. While Indians did take to the refreshing drink quite eagerly, gin never quite posed a challenge to brown spirits. (It likely never will; but at least now we have range.) 

The 2010s were indeed an amazing time for gin in India, the craft beer revolution notwithstanding. Niche bars and trendy bartenders began to put their own spin on classic cocktails. They replaced vodka with gin in popular drinks like the Moscow Mule and Bloody Mary. Foreign-returned desi boys and girls wanted their Hendrick’s and Tanqueray and Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire. And thus was born Greater Than, a true trendsetter.  

But what makes a gin craft gin? A craft gin is an artisanal take on the classic spirit. It’s made using high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients and often features bold flavors that set it apart from the standard gin. In the case of Indian craft gins, think ingredients like tulsi, fennel, rose, coriander, Himalayan juniper, cassia root, hemp, raw mango, and several uniquely Indian spices. Unlike most gins, craft gin is usually not made in a continuous still. Instead, it’s distilled in a small pot still that uses a variety of different heating methods. This leads to a more complex flavor profile, with each batch tasting slightly different than the last. The process of crafting gin also makes it more expensive, which is why Greater Than has been such a game changer for the price point that it is available at.  

Global interest in Indian gins is certainly piqued. Diageo India will acquire a minority stake in Nao Spirits & Beverages Private Limited: the company behind Hapusa and Greater Than. And why not, there has been a use case for the market. Gin consumption is still niche, but the pandemic showed us something interesting. During 2020, India’s overall gin sales decreased by more than 50%, but during that same time, premium gin sales rose by 16.9%! Like we said, it’s a consumer segment that may still be small, but boy, is it passionate! 

We are a country obsessed with ranks and awards. As we send our little gin children out into the world, let’s see if indeed the "boys played well." 

    Trading Tides Gin (from Third Eye distilleries, which also produces Stranger & Sons; distilled in Goa, it contains Australian botanicals such as lemon myrtle and river mint, as well as Indian ingredients such as kokum, tamarind, and mangosteen) - Silver at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) 2022.

    Greater Than No Sleep Gin (coffee and gin) - Silver at IWSC 2022 

    Stranger & Sons (Goa-made; made with juniper, black pepper, nutmeg, mace, coriander seed, angelica, liquorice, cassia, and citrus peels including gondhoraj limes, Nagpur oranges and Indian bergamot)—the first Indian gin to win Gold Outstanding at IWSC 2020; Gold at the Gin Master 2021 

    Hapusa (from Nao Spirits; made with Himalayan juniper, gondhoraj, and raw mango, among others) - Gold at the International Wines & Spirits Competition 2021 

    Pumori (Goa-based; spice-forward with cardamom, coriander seeds, liquorice, nutmeg, rosemary, aniseed, cinnamon, almond, and vanilla) – Gold at the 2020 New York International Spirits Competition, Silver at the 2020 International Spirits Challenge 

    Tamras (Goa again; 16 botanicals, including lotus flower, fennel, grapefruit, and Nilgiri tea) - Gold at San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2022 

And finally, our personal favorite...

    Jaisalmer—a true Bharat Jodo gin, with Darjeeling green tea leaves from the east, orange peel from central India, lemongrass from south India, lemon peel from west India, and coriander and vetiver from its namesake Jaisalmer - Best Gin Gold Medal 2020 by The Fifty Best, USA and also ranked Best in Asia 2019 by The Gin Guide Awards, UK