Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Dry gin in a time of drought

I am always curious when it comes to the ingredients and flavours of food and drinks. I like to experiment with flavour profiles. When making liqueurs, I use vodka or gin as my base liquor, to which I add the fruit or herbs. Vodka is an easy liquor to use. Normally I can add the fruit pieces on their own. With gin, it is a bit more complex. The recipe generally calls for the addition of other spices.

Cucumber gin and cucumber tonic
If one wants to taste the true origin of gin, I suppose it will be the Dutch gin or Jenever. This is the juniper flavoured traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium.

Juniper berries
According to Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 of the European Parliament, the names Jenever/ Genièvre/ Genever  can only be used in Belgium, The Netherlands, France (Départements Nord (59) and Pas-de-Calais (62), Germany (German Bundesländer Nordrhein-Westfalen and Niedersachsen). Source:

Jenever has been produced in the Netherlands and Belgium since the 13th century. Juniper berries were added to the distilled malt wine. Jenever was sold as medicine and could apparently treat a wide variety of ailments. I will definitely explore Jenever in the near future.

When the Dutch king, William of Orange invaded England in 1688 and became the country’s monarch, it was only to be expected that traders would import the most popular Dutch drink, Jenever. Gin then began to be distilled in England. Gin shares many qualities with jenever, including its main base, juniper berries. Jenever and gin became identified as two entirely separate drinks with the jenever having subtle, herby flavours. Something that is absent in traditional gin. Source:

I would say that gin has entered a golden age, having become a preferred drink among many new followers. The flavour profiles available to the gin connoisseur are mind-blowing. With many excellent gins being made in South Africa, one does not have to look too far to enjoy some interesting combinations.

 Homemade bread with chicken liver and gin pate
Luckily, the manufacturers of tonic water too have become more experimental. One can find cucumber, hibiscus, basil, rose and many more flavoured tonic waters to enhance the gin experience.

Pienaar & Son, a small craft distillery in the centre of the City Bowl of Cape Town, have created their Empire gin with citrus and cucumber notes. They describe it as follows, “This beautifully balanced, dry English-style gin is positively brimming with flavour. From the fresh hints of citrus to the comforting earthy, pine notes of Juniper and Angelica, it is the refreshing signature cucumber that makes this gin a deliciously fruity, yet complex experience.”

From the moment I discovered the distillery, I wanted to try this beautiful bottle of gin. In February this year, they launched the drought edition of their gins. I was intrigued and decided that I must have a bottle of this innovative gin.

According to Pienaar and son, “Gin comes off the still at 80% alc. Usually diluting this gin to 43% requires about 200L of water per batch. We decided to skip this step. It saves water and gets us all thinking about water and how to save more of it in our day to day lives. Pienaar & Son Drought Edition Gin is bottled at 80% alc.”

I decided, for this gin, I have to find the right mixer. I decided to try Lamb and Watt’s cucumber tonic water made with organic agave and spring water from the Lake District, in England. I rounded off the mix of cucumber gin with cucumber tonic water, with a fresh slice of cucumber. This was a seriously refreshing gin and tonic, with cool notes of cucumber and the punch that comes with 80%.

As a cocktail snack, I served fresh homemade bread with chicken liver and gin pate, garnished with juniper berries. One can never have enough gin! The pate is my first foray into using juniper berries as a food flavourant.


  1. Something good to come out of the drought! Lovely post thanks.

  2. Ever tried Jankum? I hear that's big in Africa.

  3. Never tried Jankum. Not as big in Africa as in Rockville apparently. :)


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