MOVING away from traditional juniper-heavy flavours, 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.
Being an ideal country to produce gin varietals due to its abundance of unique botanicals, South Africa’s homegrown 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, and enhanced with local garnishes that celebrate the pairings dominant botanicals. It makes sense that if three quarters of your drink is the mixer, you should be mixing with the best.
So, while 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.
Here we feature five South African botanicals making waves in the gin arena:
Most commonly known for its use in tea, rooibos can now be found across the world as ‘Red Bush’. Its light earthy and nutty flavours combine with its natural sweetness to produce a well-balanced one-of-a-kind South African gin.
New Harbour Distillery’s New Western Dry style rooibos gin is a smooth and flavoursome gin with a slightly sweet almond taste that evolves into orange citrus and rooibos notes. Pair this with Fever-Tree’s premium Indian tonic, made with the softest spring water from rural England and the finest quinine from the last remaining plantation of original fever trees in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Garnish with an orange wheel, wedge or twist to highlight its citrus notes.
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. They have a rich, earthy taste that is quintessentially Kalahari.
Cruxland’s London Dry gin is a blend of nine indigenous SA botanicals, including Kalahari truffles. It is a beautifully complex flavour from start to finish, with initial top notes of juniper, underlying spice and a sweet finish. Pair this with Fever-Tree’s Refreshingly Light Indian tonic to accentuate the truffle botanical, made with the same premium ingredients as the fuller bodied Indian tonic, but by using only natural sugars it is a lighter, lower calorie tonic that allows flavours to truly shine through. Garnish with naartjie zest and a sprig of rosemary or thyme to highlight the gins robust botanicals.
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, Inverroche Gin Amber 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. Pair this with Fever-Tree’s Aromatic tonic water, a gentle blend of bitter South American angostura bark and botanicals such as cardamom, pimento berry and ginger. Garnish with sour fig to compliment the botanicals of both the gin and tonic.
A close cousin of the rooibos plant, Honeybush is another SA exclusive. It features a charming aroma with a delightfully savoury palate, followed by an understated woody and spicy aftertaste. Honeybush tea drinkers describe the taste as “floral and lightly roasted”.
African Craft’s Honeybush Gin provides a lingering aftertaste of honey complemented by spicy pepper notes. It pairs perfectly with Fever-Tree’s Elderflower tonic, crafted from handpicked elderflowers from a small Gloucestershire farm where the flavour extraction process begins almost immediately. The delicate flavour of this tonic brings out the floral and sweet notes of the Honeybush gin. Garnish with grapefruit zest and a sprig of thyme.
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.
Monks Mysterium is infused with these healing herbs. The journey begins with a sweet aroma and finishes dry with touches of buchu and citrus. Pair a buchu-infused gin with Fever-Tree’s herbaceous Mediterranean tonic, a master blend of essential oils of flowers, fruits and herbs from the shores of the Mediterranean; one of the most important components of which is lemon thyme and rosemary. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary and a few juniper berries.
South African gin producers will continue the search for exclusive SA botanicals and innovative blends while Fever-Tree will remain on its quest for the finest ingredients as it has been since its launch in 2004. Through the years, Fever-Tree has become a must-have brand for bars around the world because of the premium marker it sets. In 2020, Fever-Tree once again dominated the Drinks International Annual Brands Report mixer category survey, naming Fever-Tree the “Best Selling’”and “Top Trending” tonic brand globally.
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