In the latest instalment of our Around the World in 80 Gins series, we’re travelling to the snowy peaks of Switzerland for some delicious Swiss gin …
When it comes to Switzerland’s distilling history, gin is but a recent arrival – but that doesn’t mean that the Alpine country doesn’t have its own rich tradition of spirits production.
For centuries, the Swiss have been distilling fruit brandies or eaux de vie, often house-made on individual farmsteads, using local fruits as the base for the fragrant and fiery tipples. Perhaps the best known is kirschwasser, which translates to cherry water, and is frequently shortened to kirsch. Redolent of tart cherries but clear and unsweetened, it adds a delicacy to fondue and is often savoured in small, tulip-shaped glasses at the end of a meal.
And then there’s absinthe. Though frequently associated with bohemian France, the much-mythologised spirit originates in Switzerland, where it’s been distilled for hundreds of years (during a century-long ban from 1914 to 2005, absinthe became the pride of local bootleggers). With its bitter wormwood and other local herbs and botanicals, the spirit and its recent resurgence are testament to the richness of Swiss distilling culture.
But let’s fast-forward to the present day. In addition to the absinthe ban, the 20th century also saw a ban on distilling foodstuffs, like cereals and potatoes, which lasted from WWI all the way up to 1999. As a result, the craft distilling movement has only taken off in the last 15 years – but since then, it’s come a long way. And that certainly includes Swiss gin.
…the craft distilling movement has only taken off in the last 15 years – but since then, it’s come a long way…
What do they drink
A new crop of artisanal Swiss gin distillations are drawing attention to the spirit at home – and elevating the reputation of Swiss gin worldwide. One of the local highlights is Xcellent’s Edelweiss Gin. Made using Swiss rye, Swiss glacial water, and Swiss botanicals – including edelweiss, the unofficial national flower, as well as other locally plucked ingredients like elderflower and woodruff – the spirit is thoroughly representative of the local terroir.
And then there’s the punnily named Nginious, another recent entry on the Swiss gin scene. Distilled using 18 botanicals (including, unsurprisingly, a number of Swiss-grown ingredients, from clover and hyssop to black currant leaves and bee balm), the Swiss gin is also available in a Cocchi Vermouth Cask Finish expression.
How do they drink it
The Swiss aren’t strict about their gin rituals – whether enjoyed in a frosty G&T, served in a fruit-forward concoction or used in a classic cocktail, the options are myriad.
A new crop of artisanal Swiss gin distillations are drawing attention to the spirit at home
The Lady Finger
It doesn’t get much more Swiss than the Lady Finger, a three-ingredient cocktail that mixes gin with kirsch. The addition of Cherry Heering adds an extra dose of fruit and some sweetness.
30ml Cherry Heering
Add all ingredients to an ice filled cocktail shaker, and shake well. Strain into a chilled Martini glass.