The Sipsmith Blog

Around the World in 80 Gins: New Zealand Gin

in Articles October 8, 2013

Next in our globe-trotting gin tour, we’re stopping off to explore New Zealand gin.

The island nation is one of the world’s top 25 gin drinkers, and is also home to a new generation of local distillers who are bringing artisanal gin to the county for the very first time.


Given its remoteness, it’s no surprise that New Zealand was uninhabited for a long stretch of its history. Native Māori civilisations first sprang up on the North and South Islands around 700 years ago. It took a little while longer for gin to appear, though.

As with neighbouring Australia, the spirit first made its way to New Zealand thanks to British colonists. It’s rumoured that gin Gimlets were distributed on long boat crossings, as the lime juice helped stave off the effects of scurvy. The British first arrived in New Zealand around 1788 and were running a number of thriving colonies by the mid-19th century; inevitably, gin followed closely behind.

What They Drink

Despite its gin-drinking past, for a long time gin was exclusively imported to New Zealand instead of being produced by local distillers. The most widely available gins were, unsurprisingly, the mass-produced global brands: Gordon’s, Bombay Sapphire, and Greenall’s.

That all changed a decade ago. The very first New Zealand gin, South Gin, was introduced in 2003. Founded by Geoff Ross, South, also produced at the same facilities as the popular 42 Below vodka, is twice-distilled before marrying with nine different botanicals. The usual suspects are present – angelica leaf, coriander, lemon – as well as several uniquely local botanicals: crisp manuka berries (from manuka, or tea trees), as well as kawakawa leaves, a member of the pepper family, which impart piney and even vanilla flavours.

Following up on South Gin’s first inroads into local distilling, North Island-based Lighthouse Gin has also won accolades. Founded by Neil Catherall in 2005, the spirit came together over several different years of recipe testing. Using New Zealand-grown Yen Ben lemons and naval oranges, the gin boasts herbal and citrus flavours, lending it a different character than that of its European brethren.

How They Drink It

Think simple. The gin and tonic and gimlet are still popular; because local New Zealand gins offer such rich and compelling botanical profiles, anything overly complicated might hamper the spirit’s own flavours.

Cocktail Recipe

Created by South Gin, this cocktail showcases the New Zealand gin and its herbaceous quality alongside elderflower cordial, a native New Zealand ingredient.

45 ml gin

10 ml elderflower cordial (homemade or store-bought)

6 wedges of lime

Soda water

Squeeze the lime wedges over an ice-filled highball glass. Stir in the gin and elderflower cordial before topping up with soda.

Feature images © iStock, John Foxx, 2013. Used under licence from

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