One Gin Nation: Celebrating World Gin Day in the Philippines

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On June 7, Ginebra San Miguel celebrated World Gin Day by gathering some of the country’s top mixologists, acclaimed chef Rolando Laudico, and celebrity performers into one room to experience gin in ways that are uniquely Filipino. Photo courtesy of GINEBRA SAN MIGUEL

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Each year, on the second Saturday of June, people all over the world get together to celebrate World Gin Day. The event started in 2009 as a small get-together among friends in Birmingham, and has since evolved into pocket events worldwide, and eventually a full-blown festival in London this year.

In the Philippines, gin is very much embedded in our culture, from its presence at family reunions, birthday parties, and Friday night drinking sessions, to our unique concept of “tagay” — the act of drinking gin from a common glasses and passing it around until everyone has had their share.

In fact, gin has been in the country far longer than most people realize. Ginebra San Miguel, often referred to as the country’s pioneering spirit, has been around since 1834 through a distillery called Ayala Y Cia, where it was first bottled in narrow-necked glass-blown containers called “damajuana.” These bottles were wrapped in tight rattan to protect them as they were transported via barge on the Pasig River.

Eventually, La Tondeña, a distillery owned by Carlos Palanca Sr., purchased Ginebra San Miguel, as well as modernized production with mechanized bottle washing, capping, crowning, and labeling. It was also around that time when the famous “cuatro cantos” bottle was created. To complete the signature look that we all know today, the artwork of National Artist Fernando Amorsolo featuring St. Michael the Archangel was used for the label.

It was then fitting that on June 7th, Ginebra San Miguel celebrated World Gin Day — its fourth year doing so since 2014 — by gathering some of the country’s top mixologists, acclaimed chef Rolando Laudico, and celebrity performers into one room to experience gin in ways that are uniquely Filipino.

In it to gin it.jpg Icy Mariñas’ cocktail, “In It to Gin-It” represents the flavors of Visayas, using sinamak vinegar, pineapple, crushed peanut kisses, and mango as its ingredients. Photo by CHANG CASAL

To kick things off, master mixologists Kalel Demetrio, Icy Mariñas, and Enzo Lim prepared three cocktails incorporating Ginebra San Miguel, GSM Blue Light, and GSM Premium Gin together with some of the most prominent flavors found across the country.

Kalel Demetrio’s cocktail, the “Quatro Katipunero Sour,” was a representation of the flavors of Luzon, containing ingredients like kamias, sampaguita, siling labuyo, and calamansi to create a drink that was equal parts sweet, sour, and spicy.

Icy Mariñas’ creation was a mango-based cocktail cheekily called “In It to Gin-It,” created with ingredients like sinamak vinegar, pineapple, and rimmed with crushed peanut kisses, representing the islands of Cebu, Iloilo, Leyte, and Bohol.

Finally, Enzo Lim demonstrated his “Sambal Beach Cocktail” — a fusion of Filipino flavors with Davao pomelo as its dominant taste.

sambal beach cocktail.jpg Mixologist Enzo Lim demonstrating his “Sambal Beach Cocktail.” Photo by CHANG CASAL

And, as no drinking session is complete without pulutan, Chef Rolando Laudico rolled out three dishes that were crafted to be paired with each of the drinks. The Luzon pulutan was of course sisig, but with a twist. Aptly called “Nilasing na Sisig,” the Ginebra San Miguel-infused pork sisig flambe was placed in a crispy rice basket and topped with garlic aioli and bacon bagnet.

To go with the “In It to Gin-It,” Chef Laudico prepared a “Chicken Ginasal” marinated in GSM Blue Light and wrapped in romaine lettuce, topped with pickled papaya that had also been soaked in the gin.

Lastly, a “Spicy Tuna Ginilaw” was brought out to match Lim’s “Sambal Beach Cocktail.” The dish was the classic spicy tuna kinilaw, but flavored with roasted capsicum sauce and coconut gin topped with pomelo.

mixology showdown 1.jpg At the party, five bartenders showcased their skill and creativity by concocting unique cocktails using indigenous ingredients like ampalaya, sineguelas, balimbing, and aratilis. Photo by CHANG CASAL

After the crowd had their fill of Chef Laudico’s pulutan, five of the country’s best bartenders were brought to the stage for a mixology showdown, where they were tasked to craft their own signature cocktails using GSM gin and unique and indigenous ingredients, such as the “Peak of the Dawn” which used Ginebra San Miguel together with ampalaya, the “Ballas Amore,” which incorporated GSM Premium, sineguelas, and balimbing, the “Pearl of the Orient,” which used herbs and spices commonly used in Mindanao cuisine, together with ginger and calamansi, and the “Smokey Aru-Gin,” which had flavors of arugula and aratilis.

“Gin is enjoying a wave of popularity the world over right now,” said Ginebra San Miguel Marketing Manager Ron Molina. “Owing to its versatility, gin can mix with a variety of flavors. In the Philippines, this love for gin and Ginebra San Miguel is celebrated with regional flair and flavor. Local mixes and pairing with local food take the gin experience to a whole new level.”