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July 20, 2024

Image from Avinash Khapoli

Celebrating Indigenous Botanicals and ingredients in gin 

By Avinash Kapoli  

According to me, lately in the world of spirits, we are seeing a quiet revolution underway in India. Indian gin brands are redefining their identity by embracing indigenous botanicals, crafting spirits that showcase the country’s rich cultural and natural heritage.  Unlike imported gins, which often rely on botanicals from diverse global regions, Indian gins are turning inward, sourcing unique ingredients from their native landscapes. This approach not only sets them apart in the crowded global market but also offers consumers a distinctly Indian experience in every sip. 

Image from Avinash Khapoli

A distinct identity 

Although imported gins are celebrated for their complexity, typically featuring botanicals from various parts of the world like the citrus peels from the sun-drenched Mediterranean, Orris root from North-Central Italy, Juniper berries, traditionally from Italy or Macedonia and other ingredients which contribute to their nuanced profiles, these ingredients, while exquisite, often lack the singular essence that defines a particular place. Indian gin brands, on the other hand, are tapping into the country’s diverse market to create gins. 

By incorporating locally sourced spices, herbs, and botanicals   such as cardamom providing sweet and savoury notes, coriander seeds adding a slightly nutty flavour, turmeric, which is a warm earthy spice, cassia bark which is a sweet and woody spice, timur which provides a unique citrusy heat, local citrus varieties like Gondhoraj lime Indian gins are able to offer a flavour profile that is deeply rooted in India’s terroir. This localised approach provides an exceptional sensory journey through its varied landscapes. 

Local knowledge 

Image from Avinash Khapoli

The enthusiasm to use indigenous ingredients is a nod to traditional practices and a revival of ancient knowledge about local botanicals and ingredients. This focus on authenticity and innovation has allowed the Indian gin brands to create products that stand out in the global market. The distinctiveness of these gins lies in their ability to capture the essence from the Himalayan foothills to the tropical coasts of Goa. 

The main difference between imported and Indian gin is their flavour profile. Imported gins are typically elegant and nuanced. A classic London dry gin might present a well-integrated juniper base with harmonious layers of citrus, spice and floral notes. These gins are often smooth and versatile, designed to be enjoyed in a variety of classic cocktails like the Martini, Gin and Tonic or Negroni whereas Indian gins are often robust and complex offering a sensory journey. The use of bold spices and fresh botanicals result in a gin that can stand out in cocktails, providing a distinct twist on the classics recipe. An Indian gin might transform a simple gin & tonic into an experience with its layers of earthy turmeric, aromatic cardamom, and spicy citrusy timur. 

Indian Gins and indigenous botanicals 

Kumaon & I 

This gin is a tribute to the serene and majestic Himalayas. Crafted from fresh Himalayan spring water and an intricate blend of 11 regional botanicals, it offers a complex flavour profile. The botanicals, which include galangal, black turmeric, thuner leaves, coriander seeds, kinnu, kalmegh bark, timur peppers, rose, and walnuts, are distilled for nine hours, resulting in a spirit that captures the pristine essence of its origin. 

Hapusa Himalayan Dry Gin 

Hapusa, derived from the Sanskrit word for juniper, is a gin that brings the rugged beauty of the Himalayas to life. It uses local juniper and a selection of botanicals such as turmeric, mango, ginger, cardamom, coriander seeds, gondhoraj limes, and almonds. Each ingredient is carefully chosen to reflect the diverse flavours of the region, creating a gin that is both robust and earthy. 

Jaisalmer 

Named after the historic city, Jaisalmer Gin pays homage to the regal era of the Maharajas and Maharanis. Produced using traditional copper pot stills in a distillery located at the Himalayan foothills, it incorporates 11 botanicals, seven of which are sourced from India. These include coriander, vetiver, orange and lemon peel, cubeb pepper berries, lemongrass, and Darjeeling green tea leaves. The result is a luxurious gin that evokes the opulence of India’s royal past. 

Great Indian Gin 

Great Indian Gin is crafted through a meticulous process and infused with nine handpicked natural botanicals like the juniper berries, coriander, lemon peel, cassia bark, cardamom, fennel, liquorice, pepper come together to create a harmonious blend. This gin shows India’s diverse spice palette, offering a refreshing and complex experience. 

Greater Than 

Produced in the vibrant state of Goa, Greater Than Gin incorporates Indian botanicals such as coriander seeds, fennel, chamomile, ginger, and lemongrass. This gin stands out for its balanced and aromatic profile, representing the eclectic flavours of India. Each ingredient is sourced with care, ensuring that the spirit reflects the local character and vibrancy of Goa. 

In the end I can say Indian gin brands are not merely crafting spirits; they are creating different narratives. By prioritizing indigenous botanicals, these brands are offering a deeply immersive experience that captures parts of India resulting in vast flavour profiles. Each bottle is a journey through the country’s rich landscapes and cultural heritage, making Indian gins a compelling choice for enthusiasts around the world.  For me Indian gin is a celebration of authenticity, innovation, and a deep connection to the land, ensuring that every sip tells a story of its own and the endless possibilities it provides for innovation.   

Here are some cocktails made with Indian ingredients from SOKA and Jamming GOAT in Bengaluru:

I Blame Jasmine From SOKA – Hapusa Gin, Otto’s Vermouth, Mysore Jasmine Soda

“I Blame Jasmine” is a refreshing gin cocktail with a delightful floral touch. 

Ingredients: Hapusa Gin 60ml, Otto’s Vermouth 15ml, Jasmine Soda topped, Jasmine Cordial

Jasmine Cordial Ingredients: Bloomed Jasmine flowers 50g, Sugar 250g, Tartaric acid 2.5g, Citric acid  5g, Water 500ml

Method: 

  1. Combine all ingredients in a zip-lock bag and mix until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Fill a deep dish with water and heat to 60°C. Submerge the zip-lock bag in the water, maintaining the temperature at 60°C for one hour.
  3. Remove the bag from the water and let it cool. Once cooled, strain the liquid.
  4. For the cocktail: In a tall glass filled with ice, add Hapusa gin, Sweet Vermouth and Jasmine Cordial. Top with soda and enjoy!  

PI PI Martini FROM SOKA  

The PiPi Martini from SOKA is a cocktail that brings out your inner child with nostalgic flavors from jujube berries, raw mangoes, and more. 

Ingredients: Hapusa Gin 45ml, Extra dry vermouth 20ml, Jujube Totapuri raw mango pickle brine 40ml

Pickle batch Ingredients: Jujube berries 100g, Chopped Totapuri raw mango  100g, Vinegar  200ml, Water 180ml, Sugar 100g, Himalayan pink salt 7g, Bay leaf 1, Kashmiri red chilies  2 

Method: 

  1. Combine the pickling ingredients in a container and refrigerate for about 3 days. After pickling, filter the liquid for use in the cocktail. 
  1. For the cocktail, in a mixing jar, combine Hapusa Gin, pickle brine (filtered from the pickle batch) and Dry Vermouth. 
  2. Add plenty of ice and stir well.
  3. Strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass.
  4. Garnish with a jujube berry on a stick and drop it into the glass
    6. Enjoy this delightful twist on the classic dirty martini.

KGF From Jamming Goat  

The KGF cocktail is a refreshing blend of flavours meticulously crafted to tantalise the senses. 

Ingredients:  Gin:-50ml, Kaffir lime leaves:-3 nos, Tender coconut water:-90m, Vegan foam:-4 drops  

Method:  

  1. Begin by assembling a two-piece shaker and filling it with ice. Measure out the specified ingredients: kaffir lime leaves, gin, and fresh tender coconut water.  
  2. Consider adding 5 drops of vegan foam to enhance the cocktail’s texture from Cocktail Kompany. 
  3. Shake the ingredients vigorously for 30 seconds to ensure thorough blending and chill. 
  4. Double strain the mixture into a highball glass to achieve a smooth and refined texture. 
  5. Garnish the cocktail with a single kaffir lime leaf for an elegant presentation, embodying the essence of sophistication and taste.

Problem Dog From Jamming Goat  

Introducing the Problem Dog cocktail, meticulously crafted with a blend of exquisite ingredients for a truly exceptional taste experience. 

Ingredients: Greater than  50ml, Problem dog prebatch 50ml, Elaichi banana 400gm, Water 400m, Cold Brew Classic Coffee 150ml, Cold Brew Vanilla Coffee 150ml, Toned milk 150ml, Lime juice 100 ml 

  Method: 

  1. Combine all the afore-mentioned ingredients. The process begins by blending the Elaichi banana, Cold Brew coffees, toned milk, and water until smooth. Strain this mixture into a container.
  2. In a separate container, pour the lime juice. Slowly add the blended syrup to the lime juice container, allowing it to curdle.
  3. After a brief period, strain the mixture through muslin cloth or a coffee filter paper to achieve a clear liquid, which should then be stored in the refrigerator for approximately 4 hours.
  4. This meticulously clarified elixir is now ready for use, promising an unparalleled sensory journey for cocktail enthusiasts everywhere. 

Zara Flavia Dmello

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