There's no denying gin's time in the sun isn't going anywhere. No longer destined for your grandma’s top shelf, this humble spirit is well and truly having a moment on the drinks scene, and local Kiwi distillers are leading the charge.
From flavoured numbers to classic craft bottles and colour-changing concoctions, here are nine New Zealand-made gins that will turn your typical G&T on its head. You can thank us later.
Exploding onto the artisanal gin list, sustainability-focused Great Barrier Island business Island Gin has just taken out the coveted Innovation Award at the New Zealand Spirits Awards 2020 despite the fact they’ve only been brewing for a year. Scooping silver and bronze for their moreish Navy Strength gin and Original gins respectively, they also scored top marks for their use of recycled NZ Visy Glass for their beaut kīna-inspired bottles filled by a solar-powered bottling machine. Using locally-sourced botanicals and suppliers, such as honey from Great Barrier Island, this little company proves that you don’t need to be on the grid to create beautiful drops.
Scapegrace Black Gin
The new kid on the block is already breaking the g-internet from day one. From award-winning Kiwi gin brand Scapegrace (formerly Rogue Society), this number boasts something so special that it sold out on the first day. The naturally black liquor offers a blend of Aronia berry, saffron, pineapple, butterfly pea and sweet potato, making it sippable straight from the bottle. But the addition of tonic water is where the magic really happens, transforming the black gin into a moody purple tone right before your eyes. Garnish with an apple slice and you’re set to sip.
The boys at Blush (yes, lads are behind this stunning pink gin) have been cooking up something special since the release of their first bottle of Rhubarb Gin back in the summer of 2017. A few years on and they’ve added to the line-up Boysenberry Gin and Hot Toddy Gin. Packaged in a particularly ‘gram-worthy bottle, this triple-distilled, handcrafted tipple is best served with premium tonic, garnished with frozen berries and rosemary.
Based out of East Tamaki in Auckland, let’s just say 1919 Distilling is proud to be Kiwi. Named after the nearly history-changing prohibition vote of 1919 in New Zealand—49.7 percent of us voted in favour of banning booze—the brand honours the slim majority of Kiwis that stood up for their right to a drink. Their sips are all about using New Zealand-grown botanicals like Manuka honey and Central Otago cherries, and they recently released a limited-edition gin that transforms colour from blue to pink with a splash of tonic—we’re so ready.
Inspired by the infamous Cape Palliser Lighthouse on the southernmost tip of the North Island, Lighthouse Gin takes influence from its surroundings in picturesque Martinborough. The sip showcases a unique blend of nine native botanicals like Yen Ben lemons and oranges, and with two options up for grabs, we recommend trying the original for a refreshing citrus taste or the Hawthorn Edition for a more intense, peppery flavour.
Broken Heart Barrel Aged Gin
Step into the realm of sipping gins with Broken Heart’s limited-edition Barrel Aged Gin. This unique bottle combines two of the brand’s core products—the original Broken Heart Gin and the more intense Navy Strength Gin—which are then aged for six months in French chardonnay oak barrels. It typically only takes two days to make gin, so this labour of love gives Broken Heart’s a unique toasted oaky finish which is best served on the rocks (or neat if you’re brave).
Hidden World Gin
If creative small-batch craft gins are your jam, keep your eyes keenly peeled on Hidden World’s ‘gram. It doesn’t get much more authentic than a bottle of booze from these guys, complete with hand-written labels. Take your pick from seasonal specials like Chocolate Orange Gin, Carolina Reaper Chilli Gin or even a cheeky Hot Cross Bun Gin—we can promise you one thing, your taste buds won’t be bored.
Dancing Sands Gin
Made with water from Te Waikaroropupu Springs—one of the purest springs in the world—it’s no surprise that Dancing Sands is New Zealand's most awarded distillery. Match this with their meticulous craftsmanship and killer flavour combinations and you have yourself a winner. We can’t choose between their Wasabi Gin, Saffron Gin or Chocolate Gin—so we’ll just have to recommend all three.
The Source Gin
You can’t round up New Zealand’s best gins without mentioning The Source from Wanaka-based Cardrona Distillery. Locally foraged botanicals and rosehip are handcrafted to make the original gold award-winning blend, or alternatively opt for their Pink Barrel Aged Gin which spends some time hanging out in Central Otago Pinot Noir seasoned oak barrels. Better yet, it’s in support of Breast Cancer Research—that’s a win-win.
Love gin? Make a plan to check out New Zealand's highest rooftop gin bar this weekend.
Image credit: Jessica S. Irvin