GIN IN SPAIN IS A PHENOMENON, says Eugeni Brotons, global marketing director for Gonzalez Byass. Before the economic crisis all the trends were heading north of premium. As soon as the downturn really bit, all of the premium spirits categories fell away, except gin.
“Gin has a very good image. It is seen as healthy,” he says. “Spain is a hot country so G&T is refreshing. The Spanish are a very social people. We like to talk and relax. A gin and tonic allows us to do this. We drink it as an aperitif and after dinner as a digestif.
“There is a lot of tradition around a G&T. There is a ritual in the bar. It was the only product that could keep being premium by meeting everyone’s needs.
“It may not be sexy to say it but gin & tonic is functional,” says Brotons.
But it was around the mid-2000s that William Grant’s Hendrick’s came on the scene along with the likes of Bombay Sapphire, very much representing the new generation of gin brands. It was quickly followed by the likes of Gonzalez Byass’s London Number One, G’Vine, Martin Miller’s and Gin Mare.
Nacho Martinez, a well known Madrid head bartender and trainer, currently stationed at the city’s Hard Rock burger restaurant, takes up the story. “In the past six or seven years there has been a fashion for gin. It used to be Larios with cola or Pomada Xoriguer gin from Menorca with Fanta lemon.”
Israel Gomez Moreno, head bartender and sommelier at Palacio de Tepa, Madrid, adds: “About 10 or 12 years ago, no one except old people and waiters drank gin and then it was not all good quality. Then there was Larios, GinMG, Gordon’s and Beefeater and Tanqueray. It was not a young person’s drink. Now it is cool to drink gin and tonic.
“But then, about 10 years ago, the Spanish Bartenders Association set about trying to come up with the perfect G&T – started to chill the glass, use the best ice cubes, garnish. We started to take care with every step of the drink.”
The oversized glass, packed with ice, garnished with lemon and running tonic down the twizzle stick – the height of sophistication. This was the drink to be seen with.
It has even come down to specifying the accompanying tonic as well. Martinez pulls out Fever-Tree, Fentimans and Pepsico’s Blue Tonic as the most requested tonics in his bar.
Asked whether cocktails, such as the gin classic Negroni, are popular in Spain, Martinez replied: “Only with Italian people but over the past three years we have been doing more and more cocktails. Mojito is the favourite and the bar does its own gin version made with Number One, called Magic Mojito.”
Brotons confirms: “Cocktails are huge in London and New York but small in Spain. There are maybe 10 bars in Madrid specialising in cocktails. Barcelona: maybe five bars.”