Despite being a consumer of predominantly darker and stronger spirits, India’s craft gin revolution seems to be creating ripples across the country. The ‘Gin-naissance’ has been unfolding world over for quite sometime but it wasn’t until earlier this year that the iconic combination of gin and tonic water garnered newfound popularity in India. Which is quite surprising considering how the roots of a classic gin & tonic drink can be traced back to the Indian soil itself. In fact, during the British Raj, it was used as a medicinal concoction for the British soldiers. But it isn’t just gin and tonic that’s making its presence felt, it’s craft gin in particular that has truly revolutionised the way gin is experienced by Indian connoisseurs of liquor.
But to call 2018 as the year of craft gin-making in India would be incomplete without mentioning Stranger & Sons - the second, and by far the best, Homegrown gin to have made it to our shelves this year.
Founded by Sakshi Saigal, her husband Rahul Mehra, and her relative Vidur Gupta, Stranger & Sons and Third Eye Distillery was an attempt at giving India exactly what it needed - its own unique ‘gin-aissance’. Even though it was their love for spirits that brought them together, gin just seemed like the obvious choice once they realised how the entire world looked towards India to source their botanicals and create products that would work in the world’s second-most populated country. “We take our agricultural heritage for granted most of the time, not knowing that some of the most sought after botanicals are actually found in the masala boxes of kitchens in India,” Sakshi shares with Homegrown. And after digging into this and tasting over 100 gins, the founders of Third Eye Distillery recognised the need to build a robust gin that would celebrate India’s heritage in a way no other spirit previously has.
Eventually, Sakshi and Rahul came across a few other gin enthusiasts who, like them, seemed to have a keen eye for picking up small batch local craft gins too. “We were excited to showcase and share our appreciation and collection of craft gins. After hosting a couple of casual tasting sessions and dabbling with various formats, we are now looking to create expand the Gin Motley into a more structure club,” Sakshi says when asked about their one-of-a-kind gin club.
Distilled in Goa, Stranger & Sons is made using eight locally sourced botanicals like black pepper, coriander, nutmeg and mace from a number of spice farms that are located around their distillery. Beyond just a simple, classy bottle of indigenous craft gin, Stranger & Sons is an ode to everything this country has to offer, including its people. “We have a local self-help group of women who visit our distillery on the day we’re distilling our gin to help us peel the citrus fruit,” she tells us. And since the gin-making process does not need the fleshy parts of the citrus fruits, the same is sent back with the women who make traditional jams and pickles out of them and then sell it at the local market.
But even as Sakshi, Rahul, and Vidur pour their heart and soul into the making of this unique gin, they are well aware of how craft gin is still a niche market in India. “G&T is a classic easy to drink cocktail that works best for hot tropical climate so we expect a lot more premium gin and tonic brands to enter this market in the future,” they tell Homegrown.
At the heart of Stranger & Sons is a deeply Indian philosophy and that’s perhaps what makes it even more endearing. Even the name ‘Stranger & Sons’ is a tribute to how many businesses in India are run by a single family that passes it down from one generation to another.
As people who are at the forefront of India’s craft gin revolution, the founders of Stranger & Sons are grateful for the phenomenal response they’ve received in just a few months. Some of which they owe to the overwhelming emphasis on carefully chosen, high quality ingredients. Currently available only in Mumbai and Goa, Stranger & Sons has also managed to make its presence felt in London through takeovers and a showcase at the Boutique Bar Show. In the coming year, it might even be available in Singapore and Hong Kong.
And as for the Third Eye Distillery, its bigger goal is to showcase India’s diversity by kick-starting the craft spirit culture in the country, while ensuring responsible and sustainable practices.
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