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Did you know a sip can't legally be called gin without this key ingredient?

Our food editor takes a closer look at what goes into a G&T

08 April 2021 - 09:21
By hilary biller AND Hilary Biller
Juniper berries from Tuscany, Italy, are a quintessential ingredient in Bombay Sapphire gin.
Image: Supplied/Bombay Sapphire Juniper berries from Tuscany, Italy, are a quintessential ingredient in Bombay Sapphire gin.

If you ever need another reason to enjoy a G&T, I think I may have just found it. Bombay Sapphire has announced that eight of the 10 botanical ingredients used in their gin “are on track to be certified sustainable in 2021”.

Some of the global flavours that each sip of this well-known gin boasts include coriander from Morocco, lemon peel from Spain, cubeb berries (a spicy berry with allspice flavours) from Java, grains from Ghana, liquorice from China and juniper berries from Tuscany.

In fact, their Italian supplier of juniper berries — an ingredient so essential that by law a drink can’t be classified as gin without them — has recently been awarded ‘For Life’ certification by Ecocert, an international body of sustainable practices.  

As noble as this sounds, this isn’t only a win for the gin maker, who is guaranteed a quality supply of berries, but for the farmer, their community and the environment.

It’s interesting that the dried, russet-coloured berry, which is so pivotal in the manufacture of alcohol, is also used in cooking. Though juniper does tend to be one of those dusty bottles found at the back of the spice rack.

It works particularly well in game and pork dishes, good wintry warmers, where the piny/citrusy flavour of the dried berry cuts the richness of the dish.

The berries, which have the look of tiny blueberries when fresh, grow on low spreading bushes in the colder climes of the northern hemisphere and are drought resistant.

Surprising then that in a country with a burgeoning market of artisanal gin makers, the plant isn’t cultivated in the cooler parts of SA.