Cape Town’s second Gin and Tonic Festival took place on Sunday, 26 February in a format that’s been vastly improved since last year. If you don’t remember the fiasco that was their first attempt, check out my review here. I have to take my hats off to this year’s organizers for tackling the mammoth task of braving a second go, and attempting to right the wrongs of the event’s previous fail.
After a quick browse of their Facebook event page just prior to typing this up, it’s evident that many people were still unhappy with the R150 ticket price considering no tasters are included. And while I do agree to a certain extent, the overall experience of this year’s festival was far superior, and left me feeling a little less bitter about the ticket price. Granted, I did show up to the event a little after 2pm when the crowds had died down, allowing me fairly easy access to all the exhibitors. Overcrowding was a huge complaint from last year that seemed to be carried over somewhat to this year again.
The Neighbourgoods market at The Biscuit Mill, Woodstock was a lot more spacious than last year’s Mason’s Press, and I liked the fluidity of the layout. All exhibitors were set up around the perimeter, which allowed ample space (during the time I attended) for eyeing out everything that was on offer and homing in on what you wanted. A huge plus was that this year taster portions were available for purchase at a reduced price of R10 – R20 depending on the gin producer. This made a huge change from last year, where the only way to taste the variety of gins on offer was to purchase pretty expensive cocktails. Speaking of which, it also seemed as though this year, the cocktails were ever so slightly more affordable too, averaging out at about R50 – R60.
Arriving, my game plan was to stay away from the gins I already know, and instead try out those I had never heard about before. This led to some interesting discoveries like the Karoo distilled, Six Dogs, and the very suave and sexy Atlantic Ocean distilled A Mari. Perhaps my favourite find of the day were Ginifer and Westcliff, both distilled by co-owner Jaqueline in Jozi. And you could almost tell from it’s attitude that these gins were distilled somewhere other than zenned-out Cape Town. Jaqueline’s gins experienced the greatest queues throughout the day, thanks to her bold flavour combinations and cocktail garnishings like blow-torched marshmallow, dried apple, and cinnamon “caviar.” The chilli-infused Ginifer was a delightful surprise, and when paired with salted caramel, a lot more palatable than I had anticipated.
Fitch and Leedes’ new rose and cucumber pink tonic was a definite attraction, and didn’t disappoint in taste either. I found it had a Creme Soda like quality on immediate sip that I think came mostly from its scent, which made it feel very nostalgic to me. However when paired with Hope on Hopkins’ Mediterranean Gin, the magic disappeared for me. I’d say this tonic needs a gin that’s a little less robust in flavour.
Speaking of tonic, Socks had a pretty cool gin and tonic on tap bar where I discovered their flavoured tonic concentrates which you can purchase in nifty bottles. Simply add soda, your choice of gin and garnishes to complete your custom tipple. I’m a huge fan of their citrus tonic, which is SO refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
I really appreciated the effort the organizers made in setting up the venue and decorating it with bespoke planters, and design pieces. The same could be said for the gin producers who all took the time to deck their stands out with tons of personality. Quirky additions like Beefeater’s live picking wall didn’t go unnoticed. Going forward, perhaps one free taster would appease the masses, while something has to be done about the problem of overcrowding. Overall, this year’s event was a massive improvement, and next year may just be even better.