There's no longer any debate that gin is the spirit du jour, especially in Cape Town, where dozens of craft distilleries are creating increasingly interesting blends of secret botanicals; some are even making their own tonics which best complement their gins.
Dedicated gin bars are sprouting all over, and the 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa has introduced its own Gin Lab @ The Conservatory, with tasting, pairing and blending experiences.
The Gin & Bare It Experience:
A tasting flight of three gins each paired with a different tonic water, botanicals and spices.
I was hosted in the Leopard Bar by manager Angus van Aarde, whose gin knowledge is extraordinary.
The three gins are usually an Inverroche Amber, Musgrave Pink, and Woodstock Inception Beer Base, but since these are the three which are standard in the blending experience which I was doing later, Van Aarde chose different ones for me.
On the table were bottles of Musgrave 11, Woodstock’s Inception Wine Base and Amari Atlantic Ocean. Along with the tonics there were lime wedges, apple slices, cucumber ribbons and herbs. Tiny containers of other ingredients were there to explain what can go into a gin, beginning with the obvious - juniper berries.
Van Aarde had me taste each gin on its own, then with complementary garnishes, and again with ice blocks.
Final touch was the tonic, and each step revealed different characteristics. The Woodstock was a mind-blower.
This experience is available from 11am till 9pm, at R250 a person.
The Gin-Making Experience:
This happens every Friday at 5pm and costs R495,which includes a welcome drink and canapés by chef Nicholas Goldschmidt for pairing.
We began with a tasting of two gins from Cape Town Gin Company; there is a special guest appearance every week. We went on to taste the three aforementioned gins in the same way Van Aarde had done with me.
We then got to try them paired with the savoury and sweet canapés, and for the grand finale, we crafted our own gins, choosing from a range of botanicals including coriander seeds, cardamom and flower petals.
You can take your bottle home and drink it soon, or leave it until it becomes gin bitters, then add it to other drinks.
If you talk nicely to Van Aarde, he might hang on to to it for a bit, redistil it for you, and add a personalised label.
Gin & Canapés:
For details and to book, call 021 437 9029 or e-mail [email protected] Gift vouchers available.