Guide to enjoying a fine Indian gin this Diwali – Find it inside


If the 2010s were about the resurgence of gin, the 2020s are about the rise and rise of Indian gin. Distilleries thinking outside the box, mixologists resetting India’s craft cocktail template, and well-heeled Indian travelers back on the road after the brief pandemic hiatus. Indian gins are enjoying the global spotlight like never before. If you’re looking for a fine Indian gin this Diwali season, you’ll be spoiled 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 chosen as the best gin in Asia at the Gin Guide Awards 2023 The gin makers chose a process that used Kashmir willow (used for cricket bats) to celebrate India’s love of cricket instead of traditional oak casks.

Origin:

The earliest references to Gin probably date back to the 16th century. At the time, there were many Flemish distillers (in present-day Holland and Belgium) distilling Genever, the forerunner of juniper gin. Gin was a common remedy for stomach and kidney ailments. The British shortened Genenver to Gin, and by the 18th century it became one of the most widely used distilled spirits in Britain. The first versions of Genever also used herbs and spices such as anise, cumin and coriander along with juniper.
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Gin types:

There is no clear classification for gin, this has allowed different interpretations of the spirit to flourish over the years. Strictly speaking, juniper must be the main flavoring agent for a gin to be classified as a gin, but there are quite a few modern gins that do not use juniper. Most junipers grow in the wild, unlike wine grapes, which tend to be methodically grown. There is no limit to the number of Botanicals for flavor – each gin has a different number. Kumaon and I use Himalayan juniper along with 10 other local botanicals from the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. Hapusa is another Indian gin that uses Himalayan juniper. Distilleries today use either the pot still method or column stills, and many pot still gins are stored in casks just like whiskey.

There are different types of gins, but you are likely to come across a London Dry or Distilled gin. London Dry is undoubtedly the quintessential gin with natural ingredients and flavors that must be part of the original distillation process. Flavoring and coloring agents are never added after the distillation process. London Dry does not necessarily have to be distilled in London. Distilled Gin follows a similar process to London Dry, but the flavor can be added after distillation. Many modern gins follow this process as newer flavors have emerged.

How to enjoy a fine Indian gin

Ansh Khanna and Samarth Prasad, the architects of Kumaon & I, believe you should never be afraid to drink your gins neat. I agree. We tend to look for cocktail recipes almost immediately after buying our first bottle of gin. I would recommend enjoying a small measure of gin with a simple tonic or soda to understand its flavor 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. Originating in India as early as the 19th century, G&Ts have evolved quite a bit over the past few decades. Once you’ve had a few G&Ts, it’s time to try some cocktails. Once you understand your taste 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 on classic gin cocktails.
Also read: Gin: The Spirited Revolution Takes Over Cocktails and Instagram

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Your home bar is configured

Get these bars if you plan to try G&Ts and other cocktails at home:

  • The right glasses: I would recommend at least three types of glasses for gin aficionados. There’s the Copa glass for your G&Ts, a highball glass that’s very versatile and can be used for any gin cocktail you serve on the rocks. And then there is the Martini glass for the classic Martini that never goes out of style.
  • Three-piece cocktail shaker
  • Peg measure
  • Two long bar spoons
  • Hawthorne say
  • Conical fine sieve
  • A Muddler
  • 550-800 watt center removable hand blender with jar

Try these cocktail recipes at home

The simple Kumaon G&T

Recipe courtesy – Kumaon & I

ingredients

  • Gin 60 ml
  • Soda: 60 ml
  • Tonic water: 60 ml
  • Sprinkle with lemon juice
  • Stir all ingredients with ice and serve with a garnish of lime.

Dunes of Jaisalmer

Recipe courtesy – Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin

ingredients

  • 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, then add ice and shake. Strain it over ice in an old-fashioned glass and sprinkle with the tonic. Garnish with grapefruit and basil leaves.

Pocket full of greens

Recipe courtesy of Hendrick’s Gin

Ingredients:

  • 50 ml of 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 the gin, cucumber and lemon juice together with the mint in a glass and stir gently to a pulpy consistency. Add plenty of crushed ice and churn. Add aloe vera juice and soda and stir. Add more crushed ice and build into a stack.

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