Gin in Hong Kong took off in popularity around the late 2000s, when Hendricks first emerged onto the gin scene. Since then, the number of gins available in the market has been a hundred fold; bars, restaurants, retail stores, the gin craze hasn’t subsided since. Back then we were amongst the few stores that sold gins online. Over the years, gin deliveries in Hong Kong have changed dramatically, from ten years ago housing close to 100 gins, to now it’s not uncommon to have close to 300 gins.
How is gin produced?
Production wise, gin is basically no different to vodka, there are no restrictions or regulations on the raw ingredient the spirit is made from. But in order to be a gin, the spirit must be at least 40% in alcohol by volume, and has been distilled with juniper berries.
Today gins use a huge range of ingredients as its flavouring ingredients. It’s almost limitless as to what distillers come up with; some you wouldn’t imagine is even possible; lobsters??!!! The basic botanical profiles of most gins however, include herbs, fruits, and/or spices. Popular herbs used in gins include rosemary, thyme, coriander, peppermint, rose, butterfly peas, lavender, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, lemongrass, basil, lavender, and so on. To stand out, some popular “exotic” words must be used - here are a few: “wild”, “foraged”, “uniquely local”, and so on. Fruits are an essential botanical in gins too, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, berries, olive, bergamot, pear, grape.
Meanwhile, spices are quintessentially gin, aside from juniper berries, some common spices include ginger, peppercorn, cardamon, anise, Angelica root, pine needles, liquorice, cinnamon, coriander seeds, nutmeg, bark, seaweed, and of course a touch of saffron. Spoiler alert, even though animals feature heavily on their labels, think Monkey 47 gin, Elephant Gin, Mermaid Gin; no monkeys, elephants, or mermaids were harmed. The only exception is perhaps L'Homard Gin, which actually does use lobsters as part of its main “botanical” ingredient.
Looking for gin online means a little basic understanding of some simple gin categories. Below we have a little guide to help you choose a gin that’s best for you.
London Dry Gin
London Dry Gin came about from the invention of column still (or Coffey still) in 1830. Which meant that better quality alcohol was produced and consumed. “Dry gin” was designated as clear, unsweetened gin, often flavoured with more subtle botanicals. Given that by then, London has had a hundred years of gin-making culture and “experience” (Queen Anne had already cancelled the charter that had granted exclusive rights to Worshipful Company of Distillers to produce gin in London), most of this type of gins were produced in London. Hence this dry, juniper forward, clear and subtle gin was henceforth labelled as “London Dry Gin”.
Today, London Dry Gin can be produced anywhere in the world. However, to be called a London dry gin, the spirit has to have a minimum 37.5% abv, with no artificial ingredients or flavouring after distillation.
Old Tom Gin
No one knows exactly where Old Tom Gin came from, there aren’t a shortage of anecdotes from Captain Dudley Bradstreet to a tomcat falling into a vat of gin. Its popularity has made a resurgence since Hayman’s interpretation of the original recipe, followed by many others including Booth’s Gin, Secret Treasures, Jensens, Ransom, Tanqueray, and Herno. In reality, Old Tom Gin is a simple gin sweetened with liquorice or sugar, it’s been called the missing link to on the one hand, a dry subtle and slightly harsh London Dry Gin, to on the other fuller body Jenever Gin or Dutch Gin.
Navy Strength Gin
Navy Strength Gin in Hong Kong is a popular choice for drinkers who like to consume their gin neat. The origin of the term is actually quite recent, coined in 1993 by Plymouth Gin by its brilliant marketing team. But the history dates back to the 18th century when it was actually dangerous to have inflammable alcohol on board the Royal Navy ships. Why? Because if casks of alcohol spilled onto the ship interiors and somehow wet the gunpowder used in cannon balls and muskets, the gunpowder wouldn’t fire and hence, the navy would be vulnerable and defenceless. Hence, gins on board navy ships had to be tested with a gunpowder and gin mixture before it was allowed onboard. This is where the term and the alcohol level of Navy Gin came from. For gins to be flammable, it had to be 100 degrees proof, or 57% abv. Hence in order for gins to be called Navy strength, it has to be 57.7%.
Of course, the higher the alcohol in a gin, the more flavours it absorbs out of the botanicals. That’s why when you see a gin in Hong Kong with a higher alcohol, expect bigger and bolder flavours.
Sloe gins are normally a red liqueur enjoyed neat or with tonic. Technically it’s actually a liqueur at a minimum of 25% abv, but normally no more than 30%. Sloe gin is produced by macerating pricked sloe berries (around 50% of the tank) in gin, routinely turned and aged for up to three months. Normally considered a British drink, Sloe gin in Hong Kong has enjoyed amazing popularity, as it’s a sweet mixture with lower alcohol levels enjoyed by both seasoned and novice drinkers.
Jenever or Dutch Gin
Back in the 16th and 17th century when England had a juniper flavoured spirit that later on became gin, Flanders and Netherlands had their own version of a juniper spirit called Oude Geneva, distilled from malted grain similar to new-make whisky. Today there are two types of Jenever, an Oude (old Jenever) and a Jonge (young Jenever). Oude Jenever must contain at least 15% of malt wine, and no more than 20g/l sugar; while Jonge Jenever can contain no more than 15% malt wine.
Whilst there’s a readily available supply of gin online, in general there is a lack of choice for Jenever gin in Hong Kong. If you’ve never had a Jenever, it’s worth trying as Jonge Jenever has a more neutral flavour with slight juniper and malt wine. Oude Jenever on the other hand, has a smoother but much more punchy flavour, or what we would describe the gin as funky.
Gins from us
We have one of the largest selections of gin in Hong Kong. If you’re a gin and tonic fan, we’re well versed with loads of experience (ha ha) to recommend the best gin for you. Or alternatively, if you like your gin neat, let us know as we have some amazing barrel-aged gins, or gin specifically designed to be drunk without adjuncts. Next day gin delivery if you order before 3pm.