Spearheaded by Ginspiration’s Perry Chang (發琴吧), the 2018 Gin & Tonic Day came to a wrap last weekend in Old Town Taipei. Thousands of cheerful enthusiasts (and curious onlookers) filled the streets of Dadaocheng (大稻埕) for the opportunity to sample exquisite gins from all over the world—not just your everyday go-to Hendrick’s, Monkey 47, or even Tanqueray, the exhibitors made sure to feature lesser-known distilleries and gave these gins a chance to shine. Hunt down some of your favorite bartenders from Japan, Hong Kong, and the rest of Taiwan at their daytime workshops and evening guest bartending spots.
Having arrived early in the afternoon, it took us some time to understand the setup and navigate around the 7 main locations, but the crowd’s enthusiasm was almost contagious. Everyone had a smile on their face (mostly likely a direct result of the drinks handed out from each exhibitor), and the excitement was unmistakable.
With a few best-selling gins dominating the market these days, it’s refreshing to see new and rising distilleries competing for the spotlight. Some of our favorites included KI NO BI (季の美) and SEN NO SUZU (千の鈴) from The Kyoto Distillery, barreled aged Koskue gin from the Finnish distillery Kyrö, barreled and dry gin from Chicago’s KOVAL (which we couldn’t resist getting a few shots of), and the good old Monkey 47 sloe gin and some Gin Mare to start off the afternoon adventure. But honestly, when it comes to gin (and drinking in general), just trust your own palate and enjoy whatever you enjoy.
Workshops were available for those who wanted a breather from the packed venues, hosted by industry veterans such as Bar Orchard’s Sumire Miyanohara, and Tomoiki Sekine from Kyoto’s gin bar Nokishita711. Taiwan’s own infamous bar hoarder SoSo (did we say hoarder? we meant expert) also hosted his own workshop, giving participants a chance to sample some of his private gin collection. Booze and happiness were in the air. Workshops were a great way to learn about each bartender and their craft, and a great opportunity to ask them all the questions you’ve kept to yourself.
SoSo's (Sidebar) Workshop
Out of all the workshops, SoSo’s session on Mediterranean spirits made the biggest impression. The owner of Sidebar talked about what makes Mediterranean Gin special—the basil, olive, thyme, and rosemary notes differ significantly from our day-to-day London Dry Gin, despite usually having adopted similar distillation techniques.
The group got to sample 3 gins both with and without tonic water, and ultimately in a basil cocktail: Mare from Spain, MiL from Ireland, and Hope from Cape Town. The build-up in each cocktail was exquisite, and complemented each gin’s original structure wonderfully. SoSo’s workshop was clear and easy to understand, and we can’t wait to catch him in action again at Sidebar (read our Sidebar review).
It was a delightful experience seeing bars within and outside Taiwan working closely to put the event together, and it wouldn’t be a proper G&T Day without acknowledging them: from Taipei’s own Ginspiration 發琴吧, Le Zinc 洛酒館, Citynorth 小城外, Mikkeller 米凱樂, Sidebar (just to name a few), Tainan’s TCRC, Kaohsiung’s K.C. Cigar, Atman Space 三千, Double Soul, Inn Bistro, and Goodness Bistro 上善若水, to Hong Kong’s Origin and Dr. Ferns, and guest bartenders from Japan’s Nokishita711 and Bar Orchard Ginza.
There was no doubt this one-day event was a huge success—being able to get both drinkers and non-drinkers involved (and excited!) about gin is no mean feat, but G&T Day did just that. There was room for improvement regarding the area planning and crowd control, but we definitely look forward to seeing more and more organized events like these in the future, and will do our part to help remove any stigma and snobbiness usually associated with drinking.