Despite all its challenges, 2021 was an exciting year for gin. Yet again, distillers around the world proved their tenacity, creativity, and community spirit. There are rumblings that the craft gin movement may have peaked – data analysis by digital marketing firm MediaVision found that internet searches for “gin” fell 14 per cent in the UK in 2021, while searches for “vodka” and “martini” increased. However, in countries such as South Africa and India, gin is overtaking other white spirits in popularity and even challenging the long-held supremacy of brown spirits, most notably whisky.
In our opinion, gin still has a long way to go – and a greater emphasis on spirit quality and the ethics of production can only be good for the category at large. Here, we’ve outlined some of the trends to keep your eyes on in the gin world in 2022.
Even readier to drink?
On-the-go gin-and-mixer drinks and cocktails (or “ready-to-drink”, as they’re know in the trade) saw a meteoric rise in popularity in 2020 as more of us gathered outside. Rather than tailing off, this trend has continued on its trajectory with tonnes more cans, bottles and pouches being released in 2021. We can only imagine that this will continue into 2022 (and beyond) as more and more brands catch on. As well giving gin fans convenient serves for private social occasions, these products are gaining increasing traction with bartenders. Whether for busy venues wanting time-saving serves, non-cocktail bars looking for an easy way to offer such drinks to patrons, or established venues looking for exciting new products to showcase, expect to see a greater “ready-to-drink” choice in your favourite cocktail joint.
When it comes to emerging gin hotbeds, Asia has been in our sights for a while. Just this year, our contributing editor sang the praises of China’s new distillers, and we’ve spoken to craft gin pioneers in India and Japan. As these countries continue to explore and establish an identity on the global gin scene, we’re hoping for more innovative products that bring local ingredients to the fore. Asia has a long history of distilling white spirits (Ginebra San Miguel in the Philippines has been going since the 1830s). As distilleries spring up in places such as Hong Kong (Perfume Tree) and Vietnam (Sông Cái), and major Asian spirits companies such as Kavalan turn their hands to gin, expect some exciting developments.
Saying no (and low)
Non-alcoholic and lower-alcohol alternatives to spirits are gaining in popularity by the week. This is clear when you look at the sheer number of drinks companies that are not only branching out into ‘no and low’, but dedicating themselves to it. The range of options is only going to get broader and more varied, so now is a great time to dive in. Big names in gin such as Tanqueray, Gordon’s and Beefeater are staking their own claims in this trend. It will be interesting to see how their ‘no and low’ product ranges develop in the coming months, and if other leviathans such as Bombay Sapphire decide to dip a toe in the water. As well as spirits, there are plenty of non-alcoholic aperitifs and liqueurs springing up, so we’d expect to see more mocktails made with these ingredients hitting bars and store shelves.
Sustainability has been a hot topic for a couple of years now and we see no sign of this slowing down. But with stark new warnings about climate change coming out of the COP26 conference in Glasgow in October, we hope to see efforts ramping up. Think: more locally sourced botanicals and neutral spirits; energy-efficient distilling equipment and methods; distilleries generating their own power; increased use of lighter bottles and recyclable packaging material; and efforts to reduce and cleverly reuse waste products such as water and spent grain. While donating to carbon offsetting schemes, using a green energy supplier and sustainably sourcing your botanicals are all commendable efforts, we’ll be keeping an eye out for the producers that are going to extra mile.
In recent years, the increasing geographical spread of distilleries means the variety of citrus fruits being employed has stretched far beyond common-or-garden lemons and oranges. Recent trendy choices include yuzu (Four Pillars in Australia, Ukiyo in Japan and Tarquin’s in England have employed it in new releases this year) and kumquat (see Kumquat Gins from Bimber in London, Looe Gin in Cornwall and Cala in Belgium). Meanwhile, fruits such as finger limes in Australia, gondhoraj limes in Indian, and bergamot in the Mediterranean have found favour with local distilleries. With the release of its Premier Cru Murcian Lemon gin, Bombay Sapphire has proved that there is still much ground to cover in the citrus arena. As well as exploring more weird and wonderful fruits, we wonder if we’ll see more distillers experimenting with herbs and spices to find complementary citrusy notes.