The Sipsmith Blog

Around the World in 80 Gins: South African Gin

in Articles May 10, 2013

Our next stop on the Around the World in 80 Gins tour brings us to South Africa.

While the country might be more famous internationally for its award-winning wineries, it’s also one of the world’s ten top gin consumers. But how did this preference for juniper make it all the way to Africa’s southern tip? And just what does South African gin taste like?


It’s said that gin first arrived to South Africa during the British colonial period. During the 19th century, the gin and tonic wasn’t just the trendy and most gloriously refreshing thing to drink – it was also one of the safest. For troops stationed in tropical or sub-tropical climes, the quinine in tonic water helped to ward off malaria, but its bitter taste made it unpleasant without a heady pour of sweet, botanical gin.

Today South Africa has a handful of large-scale distilleries as well as several independent producers, too. One is Jorgensen’s, which uses Macedonian juniper and African Grains of Paradise (a peppery spice in the ginger family) in its recipe, while another distillery, Inverroche, produces three gins flavoured with everything from native South African flowers to cardamom pods.

What do they drink?

The most consumed South African gin is Old Buck. A London dry-style gin distilled by Henry Tayler & Ries Ltd., Old Buck is distilled with traditional aromatics, and is described as having a “gorgeous release of clean juniper with cleanliness heightened by some zesty citrus,” according to the International Wine and Spirit Competition.

That preference for citrusy gin carries over to Stretton’s, another of the top consumed South African gin distillations. Produced by master distiller Derrick Stretton, the one-of-a-kind recipe uses juniper berries, coriander seeds, cassia bark (also known as Chinese cinnamon), orange peel, and angelica root. What makes Stretton’s distinctly South African is the fact that it’s distilled with local sugar cane. Drinkers can expect a gin that’s sweeter than average, with a richer mouthfeel and a definite orangey zing.

How do they drink it?

The gin and tonic has never lost its foothold here, but locals also prefer to drink gin in other sweet and citrusy incarnations – expect cocktails that skew towards the indulgent and fruit-forward.


Though it shares its name with several other cocktails, this Southern Rose uses gin as well as Van Der Hume, a South African liqueur produced in the Cape wine lands that boasts a spiced, tangerine flavour.

The Southern Rose

2 cl dry gin

2 cl passion fruit nectar

2 cl vermouth

2 cl Van Der Hum

1 egg white

Combine all ingredients and shake over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

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