Japanese culture is increasingly influential in Vietnamese cities as consumers are drawn to the distinct, desirable, and discerning reputation of all things Japanese. Only China and South Korea export more products to Vietnam than the Japanese who typically focus on higher-value items ranging from electrical and technical goods for manufacturing, to classy cars and cosmetics all the way through to the sushi and sake frequently devoured in Vietnam’s trendy Japanese restaurants. Leading food and beverage brands like Acecook, Nissin, Pocari, Sapporo, and Suntory also feature prominently here and who could forget the impact that has been made by Pizza 4P’s, winner at the Vietnam Restaurant & Bar Awards 2022.
Equally, the growth in cocktail culture in Vietnam has been striking with standards being elevated by competitions such as the Diageo World Class bartending competition and Vietcetera’s own Flavors Vietnam event and the inclusion of some of our best bars like Summer Experiment, Hybrid, Ne and Stir on the Asia 50 Best extended list.
Gin is growing in popularity in Vietnam with current gin consumption at around 300,000 bottles per year and this looks set to grow by 12% over the next 5 years. World Gin Day was founded by a British journalist, Emma Stokes aka the Gin Monkey, in London in 2010 and is now celebrated annually in 30 countries around the world on the second weekend of June.
So the timing was perfect for Pernod Ricard, one of the country’s leading liquor distributors, to introduce their new super-premium KI NO BI gin to Vietnam’s most curious consumers.
Pernod Ricard, as one of the world’s leading drinks companies, is synonymous with the concept of “premium” applying an exclusive and elite effect to everything they do. The Park Hyatt Saigon, known as the French Mansion by the Opera House, was the natural choice as the location for this launch at 2 Lam Son, their stylish cocktail lounge, affectionately known to locals as the Martini Bar.
KI NO BI’s aim is to create the finest gin in the world using 11 Japanese botanicals like yuzu (a citrus fruit) and sancho (pepper) infused into pure groundwater sourced from the famous sake-brewing prefecture of Fushimi. KI NO BI is owned by The Kyoto Distillery, a company created in 2014 by founders David and Noriko Croll with Marcin Miller who were inspired by the spirit and heritage of craftsmanship in Kyoto.
Mr. Toru Ariyoshi, the Head Bartender and the founder of the Bees Knees speakeasy bar in Kyoto was the perfect choice to represent both KI NO BI Gin and his hometown of Kyoto. Toru loves to travel and experience different cultures and has participated in over 130 mixology competitions in Europe and Asia and was also recently in Bangkok at Asia’s 50 Best Bar Awards where his bar was announced amongst the finest 50 Bars in all of Asia at #47.
Gin is typically enjoyed in two very different styles starting with the classic “gin & tonic” which I really enjoyed on the evening as this serving accentuated the flavors of the super-premium KI NO BI gin enabling me to really taste the complex botanicals and enjoy the warming spicy finish. The gin was perfectly complimented with Fever Tree tonic, considered one of the world’s finest tonics due to the quality and purity of the quinine ingredient used in their recipe.
Toru was able to showcase his skills, demonstrate the versatility of the gin and offer a wide choice to the guests by preparing a program of 4 unique cocktails thoughtfully named “The Beauty of the Seasons”.
Sakura Bee’s Knees (Spring)
KI NO BI Dry Gin, Honey, Fresh lemon juice, Sakura leaf tincture, Sakura petals.
Ninja Smash (Summer)
KI NO BI Dry Gin, Passion fruit syrup, Yuzu puree, Fresh Lemon Juice, Shiso leaf, Japanese Sake, Soda.
Kyoto Boulevardier (Autumn)
Bancha infused KI NO BI Dry Gin, Campari, Sweet Vermouth, Angostura Bitters, Orange peel.
Fluffy Latte (Winter)
KI NO BI Dry Gin, Kahlua, Brown sugar syrup, Espresso, Vanilla heavy cream, Japanese pepper powder, Lemon zest.
I loved the refreshing Ninja Smash and especially appreciated the sweet aromas of the Japnese Shiso leaf and also found the Fluffy Latte to be the perfect way to cap off a special evening with an excellent balance of sweetness and spice with just enough a caffeine kick.
The spirit of celebration and conviviality between Toru, the guests, and the bar team was a fitting tribute to Kyoto’s finest and the perfect way to toast World Gin Day. Cheers!