In 2018, gin consumption in South Africa grew by an astonishing 50%.


If the British made use of the freely available local juniper berries to bequeath the taste for gin, it is South Africa‘s young entrepreneurs who are exploiting the unique vegetation of the shrub- and heathland of the coastal Cape.

From under a dozen gin distilleries in 2015, there are now around 65 nationwide, according to the Gin Box subscription club, supplying outlets from artisan and farmers’markets in Cape Town to the gastronomic hot spots of Johannesburg. Before craft gin drinks came around, the gins that we had were all imported gins. And they only used international flavours, foreign flavours.

The distillery sits in a refashioned warehouse under Johannesburg’s busiest South Africa slings back the craft gin highway that also hosts live bands and art markets on weekends. Inside, clear liquids bubbled disconcertingly in industrial-size glass vessels
above outsize versions of science- lab Bunsen burners.

The Ginologists Citrus Gin gets all its citrus from the region up north in Mpumalanga. The Floral Gin uses hereditaranium, which is a unique South African flavour. Beer remains easily South Africans’ favourite alcoholic drink, and the higher-margin craft beers have also enjoyed a recent upswing. But analysts say the beer market, craft and commercial, has reached its ceiling, and
that South Africans are joining a global trend in shifting to whisky, brandy and gin –especially women between 18 and 35.

Gin sales in some grocery chains were growing by 40% a year. A 2018 report by market researcher Euromonitor International
found craft spirits in South Africa were set for healthy growth in coming years – even if “increasingly obscure and radical botanical
tinctures” risked overcrowding the segment. South African retailers this year surprisingly reported alcohol performing better than
grocery items in an otherwise depressed environment where consumers are spending less.

With the cheapest bottle of artisanal gin averaging around R350 ($28), annual consumption around last year’s 15.2-million litres or more should keep the distillers in business for a while.