Stigma might well have been the only thing standing between gin and it's modern makeover. At the back of many a mind, gin was just what old white women drank, confides Bars-Equipped co-owner and mixologist, Ndumiso Mncwabe.
The bitter juniper-taste deterred the youthful masses, who might not have known it but steered clear of the drink because of it's very British connotations.
Gin was in fact said to have been invented in the 16th century in Leiden, Holland by Dr. Sylvius de Bouve, and was originally prescribed as medical treatment, thought to aid circulation.
It only later made it's way to the UK, where, exempt from tax laws, became the poor man's drink.
Either way to the South African youth it was stodgy.
It was only recently when low juniper gins made their way into cocktails, earning a broader flavour profile that it has begun to give Vodka a run for it's money in the local market.
South Africa’s best bartender, Julian Short, who recently won the South Africa Diageo World Class Bartender competition, says gin is a fashion statement of the times. Short, who runs Sin & Taxes, a bar in Rosebank, said they sell much more gin than vodka or other spirit.
“The botanicals that are commonly used in gin have many health benefits. It's also really easy to drink and mixes very well with most things. The world is beginning to grasp its beautiful complexities”, he said.
Gin Cocktails- a favourite of millenials. Picture: Supplied
Durban cocktail mixologist, Haroon Haffajee said international brands like Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire are popular among young people while locally produced gins like 031 Gin from Durban are also getting much deserved attention.
“Gins and tonics are defiantly “in”. I think that we are at a stage in the industry where all consumers are beginning to try different spirit categories. Gin offers young people many options and a wide variety of the botanical flavours."
Having gleaned knowledge from many top restaurants and bars in the greater Durban area, Haffajee believes any spirit should be enjoyed responsibly and only by person of age.
Mncwabe said the race is on.
“Gin is not far off and I see the numbers rising very close to what they are for spirits such as vodka. The rise of gin drinkers has been quite a gradual one, but it has been silent as the “G” in lasagna. I remember back in 2014 where a few of us mixologist were asked to create a few gin cocktails, at that time the spirit was making a few small waves in the bar industry. It has moved away from that stigma as we also have the artisanal or crafty creative distillers coming out with some dope gins in the market.
"The craft industry has really contributed to the rise and it has shown us how versatile the spirit can be. As a lover of gin myself I always suggest it."
In keeping up with the fast growing gin and tonic trend Durban will be host to the first Fitch & Leedes Gin and Tonic Festival tomorrow (Saturday, June 4, 2017) at Umhlanga's Chris Saunders Park.
The festival will be showcasing some of South Africa’s own premium gins as well as an array of international gins to the public and to inspire all gin lovers and people who want to learn about the new gin and tonic trends.