What's your association with gin? Maybe your grandparents were accustomed to a little tipple with tonic. Perhaps you remember your mum cracking a ready-to-drink G&T on the back deck. And maybe you still regret taking a swig from that yellow-labelled, cut glass bottle as a young teen "getting on the turps".

But fast forward to 2018 and what was once referred to as Mother's Ruin has become the cool kid on many a bar's top shelf and the feature of many a Saturday night Insta story.

It's a spirit which it turns out is essentially vodka with added botanicals, herbs and spices. I know ... mind blown.

For anyone who has been to London recently, news of the drink's dominance will come as no surprise. The Brits are drinking more of it than vodka, and last year 47 million bottles of gin were sold in the UK alone – enough, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), to make 1.32 billion gin and tonics.


Here in New Zealand, we now have 33 gin distilleries, a number which has grown significantly considering just five years ago there were no more than 10, according to bar consultant Mikey Ball.

So what's sparked the resurgence of this prohibition drink and why are so many people suddenly enjoying gin much more than they used to?

Some gin aficionados credit the growth to pioneer distillers from the US, UK and Australia who campaigned for changes in legislation. Meanwhile, those in the hospitality industry suggest it's the unique new varieties available coupled with bartenders' willingness to try new things.

Here's what's sparked the global gin boom and why this herby, floral sipper is so hot right now.

Law changes

A large part of gin's resurgence began with changes in licensing laws which allowed for much smaller craft distilleries to operate and produce a variety of boutique gins overseas.

The Gin Act of 1751 largely outlawed small scale gin distilleries responsible for a lot of good old-fashioned bootlegging. Boutique hopefuls were only allowed to start selling to the masses in 2008.

However, here in New Zealand, no laws were ever in place to stop crafty brewers setting up small-scale operations.

The overseas law change and the fact that gin doesn't require an ageing period made it an appealing choice for small distilleries.


So much so that according to Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, in the UK alone people are buying gin at a rate of 105 bottles per minute.

The botanical revolution

Abolishing the act allowed small-scale distillers in and they were quick to become more experimental, pushing the boundaries with flavours and botanicals.

People realised that a gin and tonic doesn't have to be limited to your traditional juniper-led gin and a standard Indian-style tonic, a combination often deemed too bitter by the average consumer.

Distillers are now offering something to cater to everyone's taste so people's perception of a gin and tonic is changing.

Take Japanese gin ROKU, made by the respected House of Suntory, for example: they've launched their own unique botanical combination of Sakura flower, Sakura leaf, Sencha tea, Kyokuro tea, sansho pepper and yuzu, which will be available for Kiwi connoisseurs this month.

As with ROKU, distilleries are now putting an emphasis on profiling a gin's locality, personality and character.

Bar tender experimentation

Mikey Ball, ex-head bartender of London's Dandelyan – voted world's best bar - has witnessed this "ginaissance" first hand.

Mikey Ball makes his version of a classic G&T.
Mikey Ball makes his version of a classic G&T.

Ball notes bartenders and consumers alike are taking on the "new world style" which is different from the classic London dry G&T your mum used to drink.

"We are looking at these different styles that are taking away from our classic London dry styles and really showcasing specific elements," Ball told the Herald.

A London Dry Gin has to have all natural ingredients, and most importantly can't have any flavourings or colourings added.

As for gin tasting very different to the stuff your parents picked up from Duty Free, Ball says it's thanks to distillers' efforts to keep refining the product.

"The way it's changed is just that refinement. People are making gins with no citrus botanicals - almost zero London dry style - but more along the lines of understanding exactly what they want to put into them."

This willingness to explore and try new things is what Ball believes has lead to a greater understanding of gin, its history and how people are choosing to enjoy it.

"Now there's that understanding of the history behind gin, there's a lot more. The market is booming. In fact, the market is almost saturated in certain places of the world, but there's so much out there to explore and so many people are doing different variations."



Legendary Japanese whisky distiller Suntory (now Beam Suntory), has launched its premium gin ROKU in New Zealand.

ROKU, meaning "six", is distilled from six distinctly Japanese botanicals, giving discerning gin drinkers a taste brimming with cherry blossom and other exotic ingredients that is both distinctly gin-like and brazenly Japanese.

Serve it with a classic tonic and fresh ginger to experience the "perfect serve".

The perfect Roku gin serve. Photo / Supplied
The perfect Roku gin serve. Photo / Supplied


New Zealand gin Scapegrace Gold was recently given the highest possible accolade in the global industry when it was named best London dry gin in the world at the prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition.

The newly rebranded gin is made up of 12 botanicals and water from the Southern Alps - all distilled in a 19th-century whisky still found in an abandoned shed.

Scapegrace gin cocktail. Photo / Scapegrace
Scapegrace gin cocktail. Photo / Scapegrace

Sacred Spring Dry Gin

Sacred Spring gin, made in Takaka, is double distilled and vapour infused with eight botanicals including manuka honey, and almonds which are each ground by hand with a mortar and pestle and then soaked.

Their unique methods deliver a classic, timeless gin with a contemporary New Zealand twist.

Try pairing this one with a yuzu flavoured tonic and fresh lime to give it a citrus pop.

Sacred Spring gin. Photo / Dancing Sands
Sacred Spring gin. Photo / Dancing Sands