City of Gin
Food Talk India co-founder Anjali Batra says she started drinking gin in 2011,when gin wasn't "trending", and ever since she has embraced this spirit. "That was the time when not many people were drinking gin. It was still the spirit grandparents had in the garden. No one our age or our parents age was drinking it," she says. Six years later, in August 2017, she started Gin Explorers Club with the first festival at Perch Vasant Vihar with over 200 people. "Today, there is a consumer who's ready to try something different and that's why you can walk into most of the restaurants and realise they have a section dedicated to gin and tonics," says Batra adding, "we want to become the largest platform for anyone who is interested in gin." Just like Batra, a growing tribe in the city has taken to the spirit in a big way. Especially during the treacherous summer months when Delhiites give a little break to their love for whiskey and want to explore something cooler. With restaurants across the city offering cool gin infusions, the choices are clearly not so tough.
Going by the bar sales of GK II's restaurant Fig and Maple, one can understand Batra's point. "Majority of my bar sales are from gin infusions," says chef Radhika Khandelwal, the founder of Fig and Maple. Starting with five gin infusions in early 2018 to 58 now, the bar at the restaurant is basking in the success of its gin infusions that are in tandem with the restaurant's seasonal and fresh produce philosophy. "Food leftovers are used in the infusions and bar leftovers are sometimes used in the food. For example, a lemon peel," says Khandelwal. On June 8, chef Khandelwal curated a masterclass with Beefeater London Dry Gin. Similarly, at La Roca in Aerocity, a new tapas bar, gin cocktails are popular. Says beverage programmer Aman Dua, "Gin today has replaced a lot of spirits and has now become an all season spirit, best enjoyed on sunny days. The way it was consumed has tremendously changed, people used to drink gin with tonic only but today there are many gin bases that have come in the market and with them there is a huge scope of inventing cocktails. I can now see a lot of gin bars entering the industry and many bars are using gin infusions for making cocktails." Take for instance Juniper at Andaz Delhi Aerocity, a bar dedicated to gin infusions. "Gin's flavour profile comes from juniper berries, which actually pack a lot of health benefits unknown to most. For instance, Juniper has been known to ease joint pain and has a naturally low sugar content. The other botanicals & herbs in gin also add flavour to gin cocktails, and keep the spirit light and fresh on the palate- making it an ideal summer drink," says Prakash Chandra, assistant director, restaurant operations Juniper Bar.
Spoilt for choice
At the festival organised by Gin Explorers Club in February 2019 at 1AQ Mehrauli, eight brands of gin participated with over 5000 people attending it. With millennials wanting to try out different gins, it is all about variety. Says Batra, "Gin is fascinating because no two gins in the world will taste the same because they're a by product of how they're made. You can have spice forward gins, fruit gins." Speaking of which, Payal Nijhawan, head of marketing, William Grant & Sons India Pvt. Ltd says, "It's without a doubt that gin is becoming a mighty favorite amongst audiences in India. With Hendrick's being an unusual gin, we have always looked at embracing the peculiar and offering amusing flavour combinations." On Friday, which was World Cucumber Day (June 14), Hendrick's, the Scottish gin brand celebrated the humble cucumber with some cucumber inspired cocktails which are refreshing and perfect for the weather.
Spirits company Pernod Ricard India, which has Beefeater gin also acknowledges the resurgence of gin in the Indian market.