Filipinos have had their own version of hard liquor, like lambanog, tuba, and basi, all believed to have been influenced by liquors available from neighboring Southeast Asian countries.
These native drinks were handcrafted – from harvesting base ingredients such as coconut, rice and sugarcane; to fermentation and distillation, everything was traditionally made.
The British, in the 1700s during their brief occupation of Manila, brought the first bottle of gin to the Philippines. It would eventually become a popular dink among Spanish settlers and Filipino elite.
To meet the growing demand for the distilled spirit, the first gin distillery opened in Quiapo, Manila in 1834. Technological advancements in gin production also made the drink more affordable to the general populace. Gin became a sought-after commodity and eventually made the Philippines the world’s largest gin market.
Here are three reasons why gin turned into such a phenomenon in the Philippines:
The tagay concept of drinking is deeply embedded in Philippine culture. The designated pourer or tanggero is the one who pours the drink in a glass, and passes it around to everyone. Traditionally, the first pour is often offered to the drinkers’ ancestor as a sign of respect. Drinkers take turns drinking from one glass and expected to drink all of it in one shot.
The availability of gin made it a convenient replacement to native hard liquors. Filipinos are known to drink gin in volumes, that’s why the Philippine market alone consumes over 20 million cases a year – or about half of the world’s gin consumption – according to a 2013 report by International Wine and Spirit Research.
Gin was believed to be produced in the early 17th century by Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius and was used to treat stomach ailments, gout, and gallstones among others, because of the antiseptic properties of juniper berries – a key ingredient of gin.
Since then, the aroma and taste of juniper berries became the signature note of gin that drinkers have grown accustomed to enjoy and love. From the 20-liter demijohns or damajuana bottles, Filipinos now consume the first Philippine-made gin brand Ginebra San Miguel in Angelito, Bilog, Frasquito, and Frasco bottles. In its improved bottle label, aside from the indicated product ingredients, Ginebra San Miguel also prominently displays its iconic logo – St. Michael vanquishing Lucifer, created by no less than the first National Artist Fernando Amorsolo.
While gin can be enjoyed on its own, it is also known to be a great base for cocktails. Classic cocktails like the martini and the red snapper are made with gin because of its neutral flavor. In the Philippines, one of the most popular gin concoctions is the GinPom – a mixture of gin and pomelo flavored juice drink. With a resurgence of handcrafted cocktails, Ginebra San Miguel launched its Premium Gin Cart and the Gin Nation Roving Caravan. These mobile bar services serve unique cocktail drinks prepared on site, using fresh ingredients to add new flavors and dimensions to the gin we all know and love.
Ginebra San Miguel Inc. (GSMI), a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation, is the producer of the world’s no. 1 selling gin Ginebra San Miguel and other quality distilled spirits including Ginebra San Miguel Premium Gin, GSM Blue, GSM Blue Flavors, Antonov Vodka, Vino Kulafu and Primera Light Brandy.
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