22:21 PM

This Island is the World’s Most Surprising Place to Drink Gin & Tonics

Kelly Magyarics, Liquor.com


If you’re thirsty on the southern Caribbean island of Curaçao, the next Piña Colada or Blue Hawaiian is never far away. But the libation you’ll really want to sip with your toes in the sand has absolutely nothing to do with pineapple wedges or a blender. Curaçao actually has a Gin & Tonic culture that rivals Spain’s.

So just how did a British cocktail find its way to a Caribbean paradise off the coast of Venezuela? Would-be spirit scholars will remember that gin is a derivative of genever, a juniper-flavored spirit distilled from grain that was invented in the Netherlands (and tastes like a mashup of gin and unaged whiskey). Curaçao is a former Dutch colony, and the country’s influence can be seen in its cuisine, language and culture. That extends to bartenders who thoughtfully mix gin with tonic served in large wine goblets, with garnishes that match their flavor profiles.

“Indeed, the Netherlands is famous for making genever, but that was mostly popular among old Dutch men,” says Gabriëlla Hoop, a sales and PR coordinator for Avila Beach Hotel in Willemstad. She says that when Dutch dry gins like Rutte and Bobby’s Schiedam started winning awards a few years ago, bartenders began cozying up to the botanical booze. “Lots of Dutch locals who visit the Netherlands became aware of the trend, and tourists visiting the island started asking for them.

At Zest Beach Café and Zest Mediterranean, restaurants on the beach at Jan Thiel Beach in Willemstad, the G&T menu is printed on a repurposed Hendrick’s gin bottle and boasts around 32 combinations. Most eclectic are Macaronesian white gin from the Canary Islands—made with local ingredients and filtered through volcanic rocks—mixed with San Pellegrino tonic, mint and laurel; Mombasa Club dry gin (inspired by the private social club in Zanzibar), also mixed with San Pellegrino tonic and topped with star anise and orange; and Uppercut dry gin from Belgium, a heady and herbaceous spirit distilled with damiana leaf, strawberry leaf, licorice root and vervain, which partners up with Fever-Tree Indian tonic, licorice and apple.

Read the full article, originally published on April 3, 2018, on Liquor.com.