India's Craft Gin Revolution: Step Into This Community Lab Fostering Innovation

India's Craft Gin Revolution: Step Into This Community Lab Fostering Innovation

Gin and Tonic, easily one of the most popular cocktails in India is, in fact, a British colonial legacy. The story goes that it was invented by the British as a ploy to get British soldiers and officials of the East India company to take their quinine in order to fight malaria which was considered a deadly disease back then.

The juniper-based liquor sweetened the otherwise bitter tonic and made it more palatable, and this is how the mighty gin was born in India. Even though it eventually became popular in India, it remained the preserve of the elite. However, in the last three years, India has witnessed the birth of a gin revolution, wherein many young entrepreneurs have stepped ahead to create a plethora of innovative G&T concoctions.

Founder of Spaceman Spirits Lab, Aditya Aggarwal, had no romantic notions about the alcobev industry in India when he set his foot in the industry about two years back. A student of the University of California (UCLA), Aditya went on to work as a management consultant at a US-based company right after graduation. His work took him across many countries in Europe as well as in South America, where he was exposed to many fine dining experiences. Those experiences further evolved into a introduction to a plethora of alcoholic beverages from all over the world. He relates his experience with different kinds of alcoholic beverages, including single malt Scotch, Japanese whiskies, and other kinds of gins that talked about the culture of the country.

However, he observed that there was a dearth of craft gins that related the story of as diverse a country like India, on a global level. He quit his full-time job and spent the next two years travelling throughout India, as well as Europe to decode the craft of making an alcoholic beverage that would be novel and innovative in its appeal. Eventually, he went on to establish his own gin brand, Samsara, the road to which was paved with its fair share of struggles.

“I realised that everybody at some level wants to start an alcohol brand. It is a very romanticised concept. But very few people can actually do this, because of the large capital investments that is required, and the legalities that are extremely difficult to navigate, especially in India, and for that matter, in the rest of the world as well right,” he says.

Crafting alcoholic beverages needs very specific kind of mentorship which is currently lacking in India. Getting access to manufacturing equipment and the right creative inspiration is also a hurdle that most people aspiring for entrepreneurship in the alcobev space tend to face. Aditya realised that this was one big problem that needed to be solved in order to foster innovation and experimentation within the industry.

Therefore, he designed Spaceman Spirits Lab to build a community and create a space where somebody could go in and have access to mentorship, and all the other paraphernalia that one needs to experiment with. Gin, as a recreational drink, is also a relatively new concept in India, and the first challenge was to understand what went into making a gin. To solve that, he took a distillation course in London last year that laid a foundation for him to venture forth with his aspirations in the alcobev space.

Speaking about his challenges in starting a business during such testing times, when the world is reeling under a pandemic, he says,

My job as an entrepreneur is to navigate crisis. On an umbrella level, it looks like that bars are closed, people are not going out, so alcohol sales will be affected. But, the point is to innovate, and provide a digital at home experience that brings people together.”

They plan to conduct workshops in a WeWork style, throwing the space out to mixologists, distillers, brand experts, and anybody from the alcobev community that could impart mentorship to anybody interested in the alcobev sector.

In order to make their own handcrafted gin, Samsara has officially partnered with Bombay Hemp Company (India’s largest cannabis research organization), who is helping them in their R & D aspect of infusing hemp seeds in their beverage.

“It’s pretty much a first in Asia, where we are working with hemp seeds which is a slightly taboo topic. But we are infusing it in our beverage in a very wellness-oriented manner,” says Aditya.

Samsara’s craft gin also consists of 11 other botanicals, including rose petals, cardamom, coriander seeds, spices and herbs sourced from all around the country, and of course, juniper berries, which is actually the main ingredient. Juniper is what gives gin that herbal taste and adds floral aroma to it. What comes of this distillation is a very strong concoction, which is further diluted with water to make our gin, as we know it.

A locally-sourced beverage, it is one of the few such craft gins made in India, and lends itself to a growing craft gin revolution in the country.

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Aditya is a graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Over a period of 5 years, Aditya has travelled to over 50 countries and has worked as a risk consultant for clients that include The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros, Snapchat and IBM to name a few. Through Spaceman Spirits Lab, Aditya strives to make India the new hub for AlcoBev innovation and create a range of craft spirits that bring the lesser known stories from his country to the world. Professional ambitions aside, Aditya is a space enthusiast, a licensed scuba diver and a passionate artist - He is committed to using multi-sensory artwork and immersive experiences as a medium to inspire positive impact in society.

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