Few drinks are as iconic as a gin and tonic. The cocktail was first concocted to mask the taste of quinine that British officers had to take to ward off malaria in India, but it proved so delicious and refreshing that it has become a staple on bar menus around the world. It’s, therefore, not surprising that many of the 28 bartenders serving signature drinks at the 2nd Gin Festival in Saigon offered their take on the standard.
There is plenty of room for creativity when it comes to gin and tonics. With names like Call me Summer, Highland Breeze, Invitation and Xali & Basi, the versions made on September 7th relied on an assortment of local ingredients including guava, coriander, pomelo and chocolate.
Of course at the core of many of these cocktails rested one of 14 gins including Tanqueray, Bombay and Sông Cái and a dash of Thomas Henry Tonic. Coming in a variety of flavors that include coffee, elderflower, cherryblossom and of course original, the many refreshing, subtly floral tonic varieies provide a perfect base for a variety of drinks. They were therefore featured in all the festival’s gin and tonics as well as the cocktails that strayed bit further from conventions. Amongst them was the Mad Men made with clarified tamarand and yuzu juice, The Soul of the Forest which featured rambutan and the Paramour Cocktail which feautred a soft spiciness thanks to cinnamon.
Each of the bartenders was competing to be honored as having the most popular drink at the sold-out event. By the time the final shakers went silent and the last ice cubes had melted, Hồ Thành from Envy Club and Timothy Nguyen from 2 Lam Son Bar At Park Hyatt Saigon were crowned as the winners for their respective Saigon Rain and Xali & Basil.
In addition to the opportunity to sample the full range of gins either neat or in cocktails, guests had the opportunity at the Gin Festival to attend four different masterclasses. Industry insiders and award-winning mixologists from Vietnam and abroad gave hour-long classes in partnership with Tanqueray, Sông Cái, Bombay & Four Pillars. They shared about the history of the gin brands, what elements to look for when tasting and how to create gin-based cocktails with each for any occasion.
The 700+ attendees who packed the Caravelle Hotel for the festival left with a much greater understanding for gin and the many creative ways people in the city rely on it for traditional and out-of-the-box cocktails. The successful event should convince anyone that gin is here to stay in Saigon and the future is bright.