Stumbling Upon Gin
An ideology of “being classy without being pretentious” has always been my thing, and that is exactly what I found in gin. Whether it is an Old Tom, a Plymouth, a Sloe Gin, a London Dry or a Genever. With so many diverse and complex recipes, gin today still delivers a very subtle and refreshing experience. I, Arth, was someone who avoided alcohol, until a friend of mine, a bartender in Dubai, introduced me to a bottle of Hendricks. I found myself standing there, completely starstruck, looking at a classy, black bottle and felt its’ magic take over all of my senses.
My journey to explore the best G&Ts that the world has to offer has only just begun. Getting to experience some pretty insane G&Ts and photographing them is literally food for my mind, heart and soul! I bought my very first bottle of Gin from Duty Free; of course it had to be a Hendricks! The gin craze has made me crazy, turning me from a teetotaler to a gin collector! I quickly realized just quite how amazing the spirit is when I managed to turn my brother from a reckless teenage drinker into a man who knows his order (although he still remains reckless about drinking!).
My love affair really started when I returned to Mumbai (my hometown), having finished my studies and work-ex abroad. If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting much in India, knowing the alcohol laws and how the market was when I left 2 years ago. But to my surprise… ‘GIN WAS IN’! “Gin Deconstructed”, an event I literally stumbled upon when I googled “Gin Mumbai”, was hosted by Keshav Prakash (who also is a connoisseur when it comes to spirits) at one of the only restaurants in the city that can be considered classy, without being pretentious. Simple lessons such as being taught that gin is essentially a mixture of vodka and juniper with some other botanicals thrown in to making cocktails that required great amount of skill, it was all covered. Gin was truly deconstructed. Never before understanding the logic of how A spirit (other than wine) could taste better when paired with food, the event not only gave me a better understanding, but also a career.
Having learnt a great deal more about spirits from a fellow sommelier, managers, and the rest of my work team, I developed a deeper understanding of the market and the technicalities of Gin. As a result of this, whenever a guest orders a gin, I’m standing there, ready to impart my knowledge on them. I decided that I wanted to further discover the spirit and experience more in order to better myself and widen my knowledge, and thankfully our annual leave was just around the corner.
Taking annual leave with a work colleague and going to Goa for a reason other than to get sloshed is quite unusual in India. The idea of seeing someone from school always brings a smile to your face, and I almost considered doing a Colgate commercial when I found out my junior from high school was a co-distiller of a locally crafted Gin! Greater Than, based around the idea of catering to each and every individual, I realized just how important the little things in life are, just like the little botanicals are in Gin. Today, this Gin sits proudly on my shelf, amongst legends like Tanqueray No. 10, and modern twists like Bloody Shiraz by Four Pillars.
Whilst in Goa, we did it all – from going to 2 of the Top 10 restaurants in India (listed by Condènast Traveller Magazine in 2018) to finding local gems. Of course, there are always a few that stand out, leaving such an impact that you just want to go back!
Gunpowder was one of them. Located in a remote village called Assagaon, just 10 mins away from the hustle bustle of the main town, it gave us an experience that was so amazing that we could go there at least once every year. Birds chirped in the background (no music is allowed by law) and the feeling of an evenly chilled glass on your lips, the aromas of the gin, and the botanicals used for garnish truly delivered a multi-sensory experience. Evgenya Prazdnik (a very niche, down to earth, senior and simple bartender) heads up the bar and shakes cocktails inside an almost ‘home-like’ bar. The cocktails looked so instagramable, which we all know today is a free ad campaign technique, and they tasted even better! The flavour transported us to a garden full of botanicals. This G&T truly exhibited the power of justice delivered to a G&T. It even posed as one of my most liked/reposted instagram pictures! P.S.- I love attention on instagram @arth_gintended.
Black Sheep Bistro in Panaji, Goa is one of those bars that twists a classic G&T with infusions. Most importantly, a knowledgeable and friendly bartender who poured us our poison with so much passion in his eyes, made our experience rather interactive and fun! After a year of diving in the deep sea of Gin, I’ve realised how fast the Indian market has evolved and upped its’ game as it now boasts various products, from locally handcrafted gins and spirits to tonic and soda.
"I feel strongly that the 'gin trend' is here to stay"
Today, there are a number of new entrants that are trying to take advantage of the growth in the industry on a global scale by coming up with new and unique creations such as flavored gins and gin liqueurs. Just to name a few, Kalahari truffle, ‘Gibson style pickled gin’, grapes from the Australian Yarra Valley, sake, cherry blossom, Rangpur lemons, strawberries, sloe berries, Earl Grey tea and ginger bread. The list goes on. But on the other hand, a very humble and well reputed bartender, Yangdup Lama, once told me is that “in this process of so much of trial and error, the consumer is getting exposed to all of the products and at the same time is getting educated about these valuable spirits and the passion and hustle that it takes to get it together”. I strongly feel the “gin trend” is here to stay and will convert quite a lot of drinkers, just like a single malt does. However, considering how long gin has been around for and that it is currently trending again does makes me wonder whether it is the marketing, the new age distillation techniques, or just innovative bartender and well trained servers that are the reason for this revival.
I personally believe, whether you are making gin or serving gin, the key is that you need your USP to be so strong that it is almost navy strength. The one thing that I have realized in the dozens of bars and restaurants that I have dined in and those where I have worked, it is essential to have the correct person standing behind that bar. You need someone who makes you feel at home, who can empathize with you, who remembers your name and your usual tipple, and is someone who has the expertise to be able recommend a spirit. Someone who knows the story behind how “Bathtub gin” got its’ name, for example. On top of this, the vibe in a bar or a restaurant completes the package, along with the perfect service, and perfect food and beverages. After all, I strongly believe that “someone may forget how the food or drink tasted but will never forget how you made them feel”.
So, until next time - Bottoms up!
Written by Arth
5th August 2018
SHARING IS CARING:
Arth Shah is a graduate from The Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, Mumbai and has a Masters Degree in Business Administration in International Hospitality and Service Industries Management from Glion, Switzerland.
He has worked at The Ritz Carlton Dubai, and is currently working at The Table in Mumbai as the Guest Relations Supervisor, handling Front of House.
Arth eats, sleeps and breathes hospitality. Gin has recently become one of his main passions and is a vital part of what he does – giving people an experience that they will remember for life!
A dream of Arths’ is to own his own distillery!