Gin is one of, if not the most popular, spirits worldwide. It’s been booming for what seems like forever now, and we just can’t seem to get enough of the complex elixir. At its heart, gin is a basic distilled spirit, but its allure lies in its botanical-infused nature. No two gins are the same, and it’s this tasty trait that keeps drinkers coming back round after round. As we roll into 2024, the gin craze shows no sign of stopping. If anything, the gin-scape is looking more interesting than ever. So, join us as we peer into the future through our rose- and cucumber-tinted lenses and see what’s in store for 2024.
Gin with a distinct sense of place or terroir was trending overseas in 2023, and we don’t see it slowing down. Gin’s flavour is determined by its unique blend of botanical infusions. Juniper is always the star of the show, and it’s usually supported by coriander seeds, angelica root, and citrus peel. These are the four most common additions, but the list of possible additions is lengthy. To make a gin stand out, distillers often look to local coastlines and hillsides for unique ingredients and flavours. South African distillers have long embraced the Western Cape’s Floral Kingdom. Local gins feature complex blends of fynbos, but with more than 9 000 plant species, we suspect that we’ve only just scratched the flavour surface.
The world has gone mad for spritz cocktails, and for good reason. They are easy, breezy, and refreshing. 2023 was all about Italian bitters, but we think gin might steal the spotlight in 2024. Gin has similar qualities in that it’s herbal, spicy, and bitter, but offers more flavour and variety through its unique infusions. When you pair that with South Africa’s ever-growing MCC and sparkling wine categories, you begin to see a world of tasty possibilities. The spritz cocktail just feels right in summer, and with a gin spritz in hand, this might be your best one yet.
Mindful or conscious drinking has become a big business in recent years. Consumers are choosing quality over quantity or opting for low- or no-alcohol drinks. As a result, we see premium gin offers continuing to grow. In conjunction with this, consumers are willing to pay more for cocktails made with premium mixers and ingredients. If you’re going to drink less, then it makes sense to get the best you can afford. On the nolo front, consumers now have a wide range of zero-alcohol spirits to choose from. The low-alcohol cocktail and mocktail categories continue to grow, and options can be found on bar menus across the country.
Leah van Deventer is one of South Africa’s leading spirits professionals. She’s a writer, educator, judge, and consultant, and we were lucky enough to get her thoughts for 2024. During her international travels, Leah noted the trend of cocktail garnishes taking a step back. A minimalist approach has been adopted, and in some cases, there is no garnish at all. This gives the liquid, ice, and glassware room to shine. It’s an interesting development, but she suspects that garnishes will return in 2024. Conversely, our local bars (except for the cutting-edge establishments) seem intent on over-garnishing gin cocktails. She hopes that 2024 will put an end to, as she puts it, the “everything in my garden” gin garnish. Leah’s prediction for 2024 is that cocktails will feature rough-cut ice instead of fancy spheres, cubes, and spears.
As we eagerly anticipate many gin-filled days ahead, it’s evident that the world’s love affair with this versatile spirit is only growing stronger. Cheers to a year of exciting and delightful sipping experiences!
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