The gin and tonic – affectionately referred to as G&T – has been the preferred tipple for centuries. Today, mixologists are putting their modern spin on the classic drink, something that’s being celebrated at this month’s East Imperial Gin Jubilee.
When British soldiers serving in India in the early 19th century concocted a drink that staved off malaria, which was prevalent in the area, but also tasted good, and thanks to the addition of their gin rations, they must have known they were onto a winner.
With the bitter tasting quinine – found in the bark of cinchona trees – known to be a natural way to prevent and treat malaria, officers started adding water, a sprinkle of sugar, some lime and a dash of their gin rations, to make the remedy drinkable. Et voila, the G&T in its earliest form was born.
However, little did the soldiers know the beverage was to prove popular in the 21st century, being enjoyed in various forms across the globe. The traditionally quintessentially British drink – Winston Churchill once declared, “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire” – has been adopted by many countries. Spain is one country that has adopted the refreshing cocktail, pretty much replacing sangria as its national drink with its take – served in balloon glasses.
And it’s become such a hit that a series of jubilees held across five Southeast Asian countries – Phnom Penh, Singapore, Honk Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok – are celebrating the good old G&T.
Now in its fourth year, having made its debut in Singapore in 2013, the East Imperial Gin Jubilee makes its second outing in Phnom Penh this month, with a series of bars stacked up to deliver their unique take on the classic cocktail. And AsiaLIFE is delighted to be a media partner at what promises to be three days full of gin-fuelled fun, from Oct. 6 to 8.
Kevin Law-Smith, the founder of East Imperial, says, “The aim of East Imperial Gin Jubilee is to bring people together at different venues to sample the many creative variations of the classic gin and tonic, and to explore gin culture.”
Having successfully kicked off in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong in August, the jubilee is heading to Phnom Penh to work with the capital’s blooming bar scene and collaborate with Phnom Penh-based purveyor of fine spirits, La Familia.
The festival will encompass a city-wide Best Gin & Tonic competition for 19 local bars, and is set to kick off with an industry opening party Tunes & Tonic at Chinese House on Oct. 6.
Gin aficionados and impassioned imbibers in Phnom Penh can also expect a series of masterclasses, held in collaboration with gin brand ambassadors and bartenders across various venues in the city.
The Gin Lane closing party will showcase a series of pop up bars and gin brands at Street 308 and Bassac Lane, recreated to feel like the now iconic Gin Lane Street Party, which has been held annually at Keong Saik, Singapore.
At the Gin Lane street party, the “Best Ginstagram” winner will also be announced, with the person who makes the most creative Instagram post about the Phnom Penh jubilee winning a two-day trip to attend the Singapore grand finale jubilee in November.
Festivities will end with an official After Party at Elbow Room after Gin Lane.
The winner of Phnom Penh’s Best Gin & Tonic will be crowned at a G&T Recovery Brunch for participating bartenders on Oct, 9.
“We are very excited to host the second Phnom Penh Gin Jubilee this year,” says Andre Chalson, founder and managing direcotr of La Familia. “It will be great to bring the community and consumers together in celebration of the iconic gin and tonic amongst Phnom Penh’s growing choice of modern drinking.
With the local bar and nightlife scene growing rapidly over the past few years, the festival will also be an opportunity for Phnom Penh bars to flex some muscles and compare their drinks to some of the best bars in the region.”
With a wide range of gins participating, consumers will recognise internationally renowned names such as Bombay Sapphire, Citadelle and Hendrick’s.There will also be crowd-favourite boutique brands, such as Death’s Door, Sipsmith, St. George, Fords Gin, Monkey 47, The Botanist and Dodd’s Gin, to provide unique flavour profiles and new drinking experiences for participants.
For details on the events calendar, follow East Imperial Gin Jubilee on Facebook or visit asialifemagazine.com/cambodia.
THE 19 BARS AND BARTENDERS WHO WILL BE MIXING UP GIN AND TONICS FOR THE COMPETITION ARE:
1. Samros Meas from Farm to Table (Death’s Door)
2. Narin from Cicada (Monkey 47)
3. Lux from The Library (St. George)
4. Soknak from Meat& Drink (Citadelle)
5. Annemarie Sagoi from Le Boutier (St. George)
6. Choun Udom from Elephant Bar (Sipsmith V.J.O.P.)
7. Aidan Powrie from Elbow Room (Death’s Door)
8. Flo from Chez Flo (Hendrick’s)
9. James Reihl from Alchemy GastroPub (Dodd’s Gin)
10. Pheakdey Chan from Chinese House (The Botanist)