The Sipsmith Blog

Around the World in Eighty Gins: Filipino Gin

in Articles December 4, 2012
Filipino gin

Around 60 million cases of gin are sold around the world each year, but can you guess which country consumes the most?

The easy answer would be we Brits… but no, in fact we lag surprisingly behind the dark horse winner in this category – the Philippines. Read on to learn more about the world of Filipino gin.

Yes, yes, we were shocked, too, but well, honestly, we found it really rather an interesting fact and it got us thinking. Why and how did Filipino gin reach such heights?

So, in addition to giving you what might just be the winning factoid for your next pub quiz, we’ve rounded up a bit of info for our newest Sipsmith segment: Around the World in 80 Gins.

Some background…

Gin came to the Philippines in the 1830s, when the first brand was formed by a family-owned Spanish era distillery. Ginebra San Miguel was the one that started the Filipino gin trend. As the biggest gin market in the world, the Philippines market consumes some 22 million cases a year, and the Philippines in turn makes up an eye-watering 43% of the entire world market for gin – almost all of which is the local brand, Ginebra San Miguel (‘Ginebra’ is Tagalog for ‘gin’), an 80-proof ‘Dutch-type’ gin.

Cheap and cheerful

As to why gin has achieved such fame and glory – well, beyond the obvious fact that gin is the best drink on earth, it is in fact quite cheap for most Filipinos to drink – a litre of gin costs the same as a litre of beer, and goes a lot further. Drinking is deeply embedded in the Filipino culture and has strong symbolic roles, so much so that when a new bottle is opened a shot of gin is poured on the floor to share with ancestral spirits. There is a word, that translates into every Filipino dialect, ginuman, which means a gin drinking session (gin and then inuman, meaning drinking session).

The after-life aside the Filipino gin brands can spend up to 80% of the bottle’s wholesale price on advertising. Gin advertising is everywhere from magazines and soap operas to baseball games and music videos and tends to show that gin drinkers are heroic happy, athletic and attractive.

Oh, and it’s sweltering hot down there. Perfect for a nice, fresh tipple of gin.

On the street… of an evening

Typically, Filipinos drink gin as a cocktail – the most popular is the Ginpo, a mix of gin, pomelo juice and crushed ice, or a simple mix of gin and pineapple juice. An alternate drink – the Expired – is made, distressingly, of beer and gin mixed with ice and menthol sweets and so named because it tastes like gone-off beer.

Gin is especially the drink of choice among men, who can frequently be seen standing around in groups on neighbourhood streets drinking gin of an evening.

Sipsmith scoop

One of the most popular sports teams in the Philippines are the Barangay Gin Kings – a basketball team owned by San Miguel that also had previous incarnations as Gilbey’s Gin and the Gordon’s Gin Boars.

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