Termed the ‘Gin-aissance’, the world saw a revolution in 2015 that India’s spirit market could have definitely gotten behind—but unfortunately...didn’t. Our country’s spirit market caters to a larger percentage of brown spirits; a whopping 97% as compared to a mere 2% when it comes to Vodka and an even lower 1% for Gin. Strange for a country that is credited to be the origin of a classic cocktail; the Gin & Tonic. Although the suave G&T has a far less glamorous origin story than it deserves, it still makes for an interesting fact to throw around into a conversation! The cocktail was invented by the British as a way to curb the onset of malaria in India. Quinine (used to treat or prevent malaria) was mixed with sugar, lime, water, and gin, making the very first version of the now (considerably more palatable) Gin and Tonic.
However, Anand Virmani and Vaibhav Singh (also the names behind Nao Spirits) decided to take their love for gin to another level when they couldn’t find an adequate option for those looking to purchase an affordable, local craft gin. “Just going by India’s spirit market numbers itself, meant that this could have been a terrible idea. But we’ve seen the shift towards gin globally, and at the end of the day, we’re happy with the gin we have and just excited about getting something of greater quality out there,” says Anand. A journey that took them a good two years resulted in a remarkable recipe that they loved enough, to not just serve at their own bar, but to take to the rest of the world—using angelica root, chamomile, coriander seeds, fennel, ginger, juniper, lemongrass, orange peel, and orris root.
Described as the only London dry gin made in India, ‘Greater Than’ has clean juniper and fresh lemon peel on the nose; and a zing of ginger on the finish. “We’re in a country where exotic gin botanicals are found in most home kitchens! Yet, we’re still in the dark ages of gin. Craft spirits in India were at such a nascent stage that there was just no blueprint we could simply follow. No distillery agreed to make such small quantities for us so we had to go out and buy our own small copper pot and learn how to make gin from scratch,” laughs Anand, detailing how the duo experimented with every spice, herb and fruit they could find. He continues, “We distilled a lot, tasted a lot—and fell down a lot (mostly figuratively). It was an absolute stroke of luck that the master distiller from London’s Bermondsey Distillery (and now the master distiller for Bombay Sapphire) agreed to come help us out and teach us all she knew about gin-making.”
Recommended for all those who’d love a good, refreshing drink, Anand firmly believes the Gin and Tonic should be our national cocktail as well, given our hot and humid climate. When asked about fun food pairings with their craft gin, he let us in on a rather surprising combination—a Gin-Tonic and a Samosa! “A bit left-field I know, but give it a try. Take a simple samosa, one without dry fruits inside. The lighter the spice, the better, as the botanicals of the gin weave in really well with those of the samosa. Also, the Gin-Tonic cuts through the oiliness effortlessly.” On the other hand, his personal favourite is a Gin-Tonic paired with a hard cheese like an aged cheddar or Comte.
As of now, Greater Than (GT) is available all across Goa and parts of Bangalore already. They’re planning to make their way into Delhi and Bombay fairly soon.
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