As a legitimate Cape Town foodie, I’ve experienced it all. I’ve done the wine tastings and pairings, I’ve explored the expansive network of wine routes, the olive route and even the lesser known brandy route. So, when I was recently invited to attend the launch of the Cape Town Gin Route at the classy inner-city Pepperclub Hotel & Spa, I simply knew this was going to become a route I should remember to wear comfortable shoes for, because I’m going to be leaving my footprints all over it.
Background and introduction
World Gin day on the 9th of June 2018 presented the perfect opportunity to introduce the concept of the Cape Town Gin Route to the city. The main driving force and idea behind the gin route is to celebrate the artisanal nature and outstanding quality of our very own local gin distilleries.
Did you know that that there are six top-notch gin distilleries within six kilometres of the Pepperclub Hotel? These include our all-time favourite brands: Hope on Hopkins, Musgrave Gin, the Woodstock Gin Company, New Harbour Distillery, Pienaar & Son and the Cape Town Gin Company.
I am personally very excited for and proud of this initiative. As you all know, I’m all about supporting local, and being #proudly #capetownian as far as I can. Between these six gin gurus, there will be more than 20 exceptional gins available for tasting and purchase as part of the Cape Town Gin Route. And the best of all? The tour will be available to visitors and locals alike, so that we can all enjoy the ample offerings of our mother city.
In a few weeks, you can expect the actual launch of the Cape Town Gin Tour, which will take the shape of a guided full-day tour of all the distilleries, which will include a tasting experience of each gin, and even the opportunity to make your own!
On arrival, we were whisked up to the 20th floor and penthouse suite of the Pepperclub Hotel. The atmosphere was electric and filled with an excited hum and buzz. The Pepperclub crew looked all swanky in black and heartily welcomed us to this incredibly beautiful space, which boasts with 360° views across the mother city.
General Manager of the Pepperclub Hotel & Spa, Efi Ella, opened the event and as soon as he started talking about the gin route, it became crystal clear that this is such a passion project for the hotel. “As a proudly inner-city hotel, we saw this as an opportunity to celebrate the exceptional gin that is being produced locally – which, we would argue, is even better that its international counterparts. We are honoured to be associated with these incredible distilleries and provide a platform where users can plan their own journey of gin discovery, that is likely right on their doorstep”.
After plenty of toasts, laughs and a few jovial words from one of the owners, David Solomon, platters of #instadelicious canapés were lined up in the kitchen and readied to be received by the large group of happy bloggers, foodies, influencers and connoisseurs who filled the cheery space. Each of the six featured distilleries packed out their best glasses and garnishes and we were absolutely spoilt for choice and taste. To my utmost delight, five of the six distilleries present were in my personal top-10 gin brands and the sixth, New Harbour, was a delightful discovery for me. Needless to say, New Harbour is now also right up there in my top-10 list!
What was on offer?
Whether you like your gin neat or mixed, infused or classic, twisted or innovated, cocktail’ed or stripped down, bold or modest – it was all there and then a bit more.
Of course, I wasn’t able to try all the gins (to my utmost dismay!), but here are the ones that stood out for me on the evening:
Cape Town Gin Company: I adored the hibiscus and rose-petal infused Cape Town Gin Company’s Pink Lady gin cocktail; a delicately floral drink served with lots of ice, tonic and wedges of grapefruit.
Hope on Hopkins: They served a killer negroni on the night of the launch using their Salt River gin, a limited release Hope on Hopkins mix and Fitch & Leedes tonic. Add a squeeze of orange and this classic cocktail will leave your taste buds begging for more.
Pienaar & Son: I opted for their dry English-style gin, called Empire. I first tried it neat on the rocks and was pleasantly surprised by the soft and smooth earthy flavours of citrus, juniper and cucumber. Add tonic and cucumber ribbons and this becomes an amazingly sophisticated drink that not only tastes incredible, but also looks the part.
New Harbour: Wow, what an experience. I was mesmerised by the process of the drinks being poured and prepared, which seemed like an art-form in itself. I chose the Spekboom gin, mixed with Goldberg Japanese Yuzu Tonic and garnished with dried flower petals that infuse the drink with the most beautiful deep magenta hues as it soaks. I was also completely fascinated by the winter warming rooibos-infused gin, served with Goldberg tonic and a generous helping of orange slices and cinnamon sticks, so I had to steal a taster (at this point my FOMO was real, you guys!).
I was so heartsore that I didn’t get around to The Woodstock Gin Company and Musgrave Gin, but seeing that both are absolute staples in my house, I promised to include my favourites of theirs, anyways.
I’m totally in love with The Woodstock Gin Company’s High Tea gin with its gentle undertones of rooibos and honeybush – you don’t want to overpower these subtle South African flavours with too heavy a tonic or too many garnishes. Serve with sparkling water to really appreciate and savour the subtle nuances of fynbos and botanicals.
And then Musgrave Gin…where do I find the words to describe their pink gin? It’s gentle with only the faintest hints of spice, just enough to warm up the palate. Vintage rose and rosehip lends an incredibly sophisticated flowery taste to this gin, before it’s infused with rosewater to give it its signature perfume and aroma. Also best served with a light tonic, because you want to experience the full-mouth sensation of this exquisite gin.
Where do I go for updates?
Much like the websites for the major Cape wine routes, http://capetownginroute.co.za/ will allow visitors to get to know each distillery, what they offer, and plan their visit around this fragrant spirit. Keep an eye on the website or follow along on Instagram or Facebook for updates as they are announced.
A few weeks back, during a chat with South Africa’s Michelin starred chef, Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen, I was graciously reminded that we should all grow where we are planted. Jan is so passionate about using what you know and what surrounds you; whether it’s local ingredients, family recipes, generational traditions or knowledge imparted by our elders. Most times we look too far for inspiration and indulgence, when it’s very often right on our doorstep. Let’s support this incredible adventure. Let your feet find the gin.
Second photographer and photo credit: Timothy P. Gibson