Any gin lover will agree that gin and tonic taste better together than apart.
South Africa’s craft gin scene has exploded with indigenous botanical infusions that have taken the world by storm, winning multiple local and international awards.
What we taste, and more importantly what we smell, arises from molecules inside the drink. In the case of a gin and tonic, these molecules come from botanicals, primarily juniper-infused into the gin and from quinine in the tonic, which gives the mixer its unique bitter taste.
Being an ideal country to produce gin varieties due to its abundance of unique botanicals, SA’s home-grown gins feature interesting ingredients such as fynbos, rooibos, honeybush, Kalahari truffles, buchu, marula fruit, blood oranges, elephant dung, Baobab and more.
Of course, it’s only natural that these premium gins be matched with the absolute best tonics on offer; enhanced with local garnishes that celebrate the pairings’ dominant botanicals.
So, whilst South African gin producers have been on the hunt for the perfect SA botanicals, Fever-Tree has been on the hunt for the finest ingredients from around the world to create individually crafted tonics that complement the varied flavours of the spirit.
Below are five South African botanicals making waves in the gin arena right now.
Most commonly known for its use in tea, Rooibos can now be found across the world as ‘Red Bush’. It’s light earthy and nutty flavours combine with its natural sweetness to produce a well-balanced one-of-a-kind South African gin like the New Harbour Distillery’s new Western dry style Rooibos Gin which is a smooth and flavoursome gin with a slightly sweet almond taste that evolves into orange citrus and rooibos notes that you can pair with Fever-Tree’s premium Indian tonic.
Particularly hard to uncover, Kalahari truffles are a rare delicacy that can only be found in the Kalahari desert during Autumn as the rain causes them to swell and ‘burst’ from the ground, with only one annual harvest around April. It boasts a rich, earthy taste that is quintessentially Kalahari. Try Cruxland’s London Dry gin which is a blend of nine indigenous SA botanicals, including Kalahari truffles and pair this with Fever-Tree’s refreshingly light Indian tonic.
Fynbos botanicals produce exquisitely herbaceous and somewhat spicy gins with complex aromas and flavours found nowhere else on earth. What’s more, there are numerous fynbos species to be found across the country, all of which boast a different edge. Infused with fynbos from the coastal region of the Cape Floral Kingdom, you can try Inverroche Gin Amber which is a rich and aromatic gin that combines fynbos and spice with sweet and delicate notes of sour fig to deliver a dry, woody finish with spicy winter notes. You can pair this gin with Fever-Tree’s aromatic tonic water.
A close cousin of the rooibos plant, Honeybush is another SA exclusive. It features a charming aroma with a delightfully savoury palette, followed by an understated woody and spicy aftertaste. Honeybush tea drinkers describe the taste as ‘floral and lightly roasted’. Try African Craft’s Honeybush Gin which provides a lingering aftertaste of honey complemented by spicy pepper notes and pairs well with Fever-Tree’s elderflower tonic.
Buchu may be an acquired taste but blended with the right botanicals, it makes for a deliciously noteworthy drink. Buchu is usually a subtle taste when infused in gin, providing a spicy aroma and earthy, mint-like taste. Try Monks Mysterium gin which is infused with these healing herbs and pair it with Fever-Tree’s own herbaceous Mediterranean tonic.
If you would love to get creative with gin and come up with lots of new and delicious ways to enjoy your favourite spirit but cannot get hold of Fever Tree tonics, here are other mixers that you can try.
Fitch & Leeds bitter lemon
Gin goes fantastically well with citrus. Bitter lemon is a popular alternative among those who don’t particularly enjoy the taste of tonic, and it’s handy to have in the cupboard as it goes well with most gins, particularly, of course, the citrus-led ones.
Schweppes ginger ale
Most people love the combination of gin and ginger, and it’s fast becoming one of the hottest trends in the world of gin. You can add this warming mixer to pretty much any gin, too. It’s also an ideal mixer for rhubarb and ginger gin.
Ever wondered what to mix coke with other than rum? Well, you could do a lot worse than trying the classic cola with gin. Sometimes the strong taste of the coke would overpower the delicate, subtle flavours of the gin and its lovely botanicals but it makes for a refreshing alternative to a straight gin and tonic.
Liqui Fruit 100% cranberry fruit juice
For a sour taste, dry mixer for your gin, try cranberry juice. Ideally, this should be made by blending fresh cranberries, but otherwise, shop-bought juice is fine. You can mix your gin and cranberry juice with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to give it added zing, particularly if your juice has added sweeteners