Gin, blessed spirit of the liquor cabinet

Gin, blessed spirit of the liquor cabinet
(Photo: cocktailtime on Pixabay)

It’s said to be the original ‘Dutch courage’ – a drink once associated with medicine, misery, and a mother’s ruin. 

Gin, as we know it today, has its roots in the Dutch genever, a whisky-like juniper-dominated spirit that is believed to have inspired the phrase “Dutch courage” – the liquid (and misplaced) courage that soldiers needed before going into battle. 

In the thousand or so years since juniper berries and botanicals were first used to render a rough-tasting distillate more palatable, gin has evolved from a “wine of the poor” to the international star of craft cocktails, as soaring demand shows little signs of souring.


Growing category

Internationally, gin as an alcoholic category is expected to grow by $6.68-billion between 2021-2026, at an average annual rate of 7.59%, according to analysts. In South Africa, gin volumes are expected to reach 4.98 million litres by 2027, according to data from Statista

Market research company Technavio expects the category’s market share growth in the standard gin segment to be “significant” by 2026. It’s reported that “the increasing on-trade consumption of gin and the rising popularity of and demand for premium and super-premium gin products will facilitate the gin market growth in Europe”.


The new gin craze

For the past decade, gin as a category of spirits has experienced a massive revival thanks to the growth of cocktail culture and the global popularity of gin and tonic. With renewed appetite for high-quality, artisanal gins, premium brands are offering innovative styles and gorgeous packaging.

From classically flavoured juniper-infused gins, to artisan gins enhanced with a combination of herbs, spices, fruit or floral flavours, most gins are best served with tonic water, as a base spirit for cocktails, or as a gin-based fruit cup or even liqueur (think Pimm’s – a blend of gin, quinine, and spices).

Popular botanicals or flavouring agents for gin, besides the requisite juniper, often include citrus (such as bitter orange, grapefruit and lemon), spices (such as aniseed, angelica, blueberry, cardamom, licorice root, cinnamon, and rhubarb).


Cocktail hour

The most well known gin cocktail is the classic martini, traditionally made with gin/vodka and dry vermouth. Bond preferred his with the explicit order: “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet, shaken, not stirred”.

Living on the edge, 007 might have preferred his cocktail somewhat adulterated: by shaking, rather than stirring, the ice in a Martini melts, diluting the drink, and it becomes cloudy rather than clear.

Whatever rocks your boat then.

If you prefer something a little less ordinary, here’s a selection of three gin cocktails that are effortless to whip up and delicious at any time of year: 


Wilderer at heart 

No call at the Spice Route would be complete without a pitstop for a tasting at Wilderer, SA’s first private grappa distillery.

Founded by German restaurateur Helmut Wilderer in 1995, the Wilderer Grapperia has been located at the popular tourist destination outside Paarl since 2014. Helmut passed away in 2016 but his son, Christian, has continued to build on his legacy.

Today, the Wilderer team produces award-winning fynbos gin, grappa and eau de vie.

In the tasting room at Wilderer Estate, Pappa Grappa (on the R45 – Simondium road outside Paarl) and the Grapperia, you can taste and buy all Wilderer’s fine spirits. 

Lavender and star anise cocktail


A complex take on the classic gin and tonic. 


50 ml of Wilderer Fynbos Gin

2 stars of anise

A single twig of lavender for garnish


Fill a gin glass with ice, add the Wilderer Fynbos Gin, anise and garnish. Top with 200ml of premium tonic water.


A London original

The UK’s top selling gin, Whitley Neill is a craft gin producer based in London. Created by eighth generation distiller Johnny Neill, whose family have distilled gin since 1762, Whitley Neill is produced at the 200-year-old City of London Distillery.

Neill’s first gin was the Original London Dry – inspired by the flavours of his wife’s homeland of South Africa, with fresh citrusy baobab and Cape gooseberries.

Slightly softer and smoother than traditional gins, the Original has rich notes of juniper and citrus, pot-pourri and exotic spices.

In SA, the “local” Whitley Neil range includes seven variants, including the exclusive Protea and Hibiscus; Blackberry; Blood Orange; Lemongrass; Raspberry; Rhubarb and Ginger; and Aloe and Cucumber.

Protea & Hibiscus cocktail

(Photo: Supplied)


50 ml Whitley Neill Protea & Hibiscus gin

200 ml Hall & Bramley purple tonic

2 lemon slices

Edible flowers (optional)


Pour two tots of gin to a glass with ice, top with tonic and garnish with lemon slices and edible flowers.


La dolce vita

Inspired by the lifestyle on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, the bright, stylish and slightly salty Malfy has been distilled in copper stills at the Torino Distillati in Moncalieri, Italy, Malfi since 2017.

With a distinctive Italian oak stopper and a glass bottle decorated with bright and bold coloured bands representing the citrus fruits in their recipes as well as the vibrant spirit of the Italian coast, Malfy makes four variants of gin: Lemon, Blood Orange, Rosa and Originale.  

Flavoured with juniper, Italian lemons, Sicilian pink grapefruit and blood oranges, Malfy Gin is made using cold-distillation, at a lower temperature, to keep botanicals fresh and flavourful.

(Picture: Supplied)

La Dolce Vita Spritz


35 ml Malfy Gin con Arancia 

50 ml San Pellegrino Limonata

50 ml Prosecco

Blackberries, slice of pink grapefruit and sage leaves 


Layer ingredients in a glass over ice cubes.

Gently stir to combine and garnish with a slice of orange and sage leaves. DM/TGIFood


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