Damn the Cool People for ruining the G&T

The artisanal gin revolution has left a bitter taste in Pearl Boshomane's mouth

26 November 2017 - 00:00
Gone are the days of the simple G&T. Today it's like a competition to see which mixologist can squeeze the most botanical into a glass.
Gone are the days of the simple G&T. Today it's like a competition to see which mixologist can squeeze the most botanical into a glass.
Image: Supplied

There's a delightful YouTube video that compares making a gin and tonic in 2005 to making one in 2015. Two barmen are each pouring a G&T. Mr 2005 adds a shot of gin to a highball glass filled with ice and then pours the tonic. He's done in 15 seconds tops, and sits down to enjoy his drink.

Meanwhile, Mr 2015 prepares his burgundy glass. He crushes fruit. Adds the ice. Painstakingly pours some gin. Pours the tonic against a bar spoon and into the glass. That takes quite a while. Then he adds celery sticks. And some herbs. He sets something alight like he's caramelising sugar for a crème brûlée. He tops it off with a giant carrot.

The entire thing is exaggerated performance art, and while it's a little ridiculous, it does remind one of what's become of gin.

I've never been an alcohol snob, but one thing I am precious about is my (and Queen Elizabeth's) drink of choice.

Amy Winehouse was my first proper introduction to gin. After years of trying and failing to enjoy it, in 2006 the greatest singer of my generation sang on her hit You Know I'm No Good, "and sniffed me out like I was Tanqueray", and my life changed: if gin was good enough for my girl Amy, it sure as hell was good enough for me.

WATCH | Making a gin and tonic in 2005 vs 2015

Gin is a perfectly refreshing drink that has never had a pretentious air about it. One of the most wonderful things about it was its simplicity: it didn't really need much added to it, just tonic and ice. If we were being fancy, it was a slice of lemon or cucumber. If we were being VIP-in-the-club fancy, it was passion fruit and/or lime syrup.

Now gin is no longer about the gin or the tonic: it's about the look of the drink, the flavouring, the garnish. And while it's great that gin is getting its moment in the sun and is no longer associated with the neighbourhood drunk who always has a quart in his pocket, it grates me that gin has become the drink of Cool People and to drink it these days feels pretentious.

In the good old days we only had to choose from four or five gins, and maybe two tonics, when ordering at a bar. The toughest decision was whether to have a single or a double - or a triple.

It grates me that gin has become the drink of Cool People and to drink it these days feels pretentious

Nowadays you have approximately 700 different gins, 250 tonics and 900 garnishes to choose from. What was once a very simple decision now feels like one that might change the course of your life. The pressure!

I'm happy that there has been a boom in local gin production, but if I have to read another article about craft gin or hear about another gin festival, I'll roll my eyes so far back no one will ever see my irises again as long as I live.

I recently tweeted about my doubts about gin drinkers who turn their noses up at Gordon's, those who only drink some fancy rooibos-, fynbos- or whatever-the-hell-else infused gins. "I don't trust gin drinkers who don't drink Gordon's. If you say you don't drink Gordon's, you're drinking gin for the hype," I tweeted.

I didn't realise that some people would take strong offence and that they would want my head on a platter.

"Pearl please man," one of my faves tweeted me. "I've been drinking gin for about 20 years and I don't drink Gordon's anymore cause there's better now."

Other responses were similar, but I wasn't claiming that there's nothing better than Gordon's (although it's definitely top three on my best-gin-ever list). I indulge in some craft gins (Hope on Hopkins is my fave) and I'm not above a pink tonic. But what I will not do is shut up while Cool People soil the good name of Gordon's because they only started drinking gin last year when they discovered Inverroche.

This rise in gin popularity also means the price has gone up, which is hurtful because it's always been a comfort to know that even on the day before payday, you can still afford a bottle of gin.

But luckily, gin is on its way out: rum is the new gin, which was the new beer, which was the new whisky (although this was seemingly spared any infusions during its surge in fashionability), which was the new wine.

Trends are cyclical. Hopefully I'll be dead by the time gin becomes a fad again.