Portugal is famous for its ancient Port production, but the country’s new wave of distillers are turning their attention to another spirit: gin. In recent years, the Portuguese passion for the juniper-based drink has increased markedly, and along with the artisan gin and tonics popping up in bars, the country’s own gin producers are now creating award-winning blends by combining traditional techniques with new ingredients. Here, we profile the names to know in Portuguese gin.
From the Bairrada region, Big Boss Gin was arguably Portugal’s first premium gin and inspired the country’s new wave of gin distillers. Big Boss was created after a year’s worth of research and development, and it’s made using a secret recipe of 11 botanicals that include cardamom and angelica root. The blend is also subject to four distillations performed according to artisan techniques and the result is a fresh and unique gin that can be garnished with pink peppercorns, juniper berries or spearmint. In addition to the traditional dry gin, Big Boss produces a pink gin, created with red fruits, which has a sweeter, fruity flavour that’s best complemented by a garnish of strawberries or pomegranate seeds.
Launched in 2013, Sharish Gin is made in the Alentejo region, which is famous for its wine production. Founded by Antonio Cuco, who had previously worked as a teacher, Sharish gin incorporates plenty of indigenous Portuguese ingredients such as Alentejo’s abundant supply of citrus fruits, picked from Antonio’s estate, and Bravo Esmolfe Apple PDO, an Alentejo delicacy, as well as juniper and vanilla. Each ingredient is distilled separately in traditional Portuguese copper stills before being combined with a spirit base that’s made from a mixture of rice and wheat. Expect a smooth gin with a pleasing fruity taste and pronounced notes of apple and citrus, best served with thin slices of apple. Antonio was inspired to launch Sharish Gin on account of his own passion for premium gins, and Sharish takes its name from the Arabic name for the charming town of Reguengos de Monsaraz, where Antonio lives. Alongside several limited edition serves, the company also produces a very popular, colour changing Blue Magic Gin. Thanks to a natural flower extract, the blue tincture transforms to pink when mixed with tonic water. You can sample it for yourself at the Tempus Lounge within Corinthia Hotel Lisbon.
Hailed as the Iberian Peninsula’s first organic gin, Templus is made in the city of Évora, in Alentejo, and named after the city’s famous Roman temple, which was built in the 1st century AD. In addition to only using organic ingredients, the manufacturing process is also painstaking, with each step (except for the filling of the bottles) performed by hand. Produced in small batches, the blend has a juniper base, but the inclusion of peppermint and pennyroyal, found locally, adds an intriguing flavour.
So called as it’s made with 13 different botanicals, Gin 13 includes tangerine, jasmine flower and black tea. The botanical ingredients are distilled in traditional stills four times over before extracts of lemon and lemongrass are added along with hops, an ingredient that’s most commonly associated with beer production. The design of the bottle references the superstition surrounding the number 13, decorated with symbols such as a four-leaf clover, black cats and skulls. Expect notes of liquorice, citrus and spicy cardamom as well a peppery flavour from the juniper. Best served with good quality tonic and a garnish of lime and cardamom.
Produced in the northernmost part of Portugal, Tinto Gin was inspired by the unspoilt natural landscape that surrounds the town of Valença. The area has a plentiful supply of fresh herbs and wildflowers, such as dill, blackberry, lemon balm, poppy and rosemary, which are all incorporated into Tinto Gin. Furthermore, the secret ingredient is perico, a locally grown variety of pear that has a deliciously sweet and sour taste. The spirit base is a mixture of rye and barley and the ingredients are slowly macerated in order to maximise their flavours. Garnish your Tinto Gin and tonic with curls of lemon zest and cardamom.