I recently visited Hope On Hopkins, one of the craft distilleries popping up around Cape Town. There I had one of the best gin and tonics that I can remember. It turns out that olives play a big role, so I thought I would find out how it’s made and share it with you. To get the delicious result you need to use the right gin, the right tonic water and mix it in the correct ratio.
Hope on Hopkins released their Mediterranean Gin just before Christmas last year. Inspired by the flavours of the Mediterranean, it uses manzanilla olives as its dominant botanical. These are sourced from Chrisna’s Olives outside Stellenbosch. The manzanilla (a Spanish olive variety) was chosen for its briney and slightly nutty flavour: it has hints of almond, which is good for gin as almond itself is a common gin botanical. Chrisna does not grow her own olives, but the Langverwacht Farm in the Eilandia Valley grows a variety of olives for her to harvest (note that this farm is not open to the public). These are grown without hormones and chemicals and are hand-picked. Chrisna and her team cure the olives on the DelVera Farm and use salt from the little Karoo in the curing process.
The Hope Mediterranean Gin is made from a grape base, which is triple distilled and then distilled a fourth time when it is infused with the manzanilla olives as well as rosemary, thyme, basil and cardamom. Lots of orange peel is also used as well as the mandatory gin botanical, juniper. It is a savoury and aromatic gin, unlike anything else available in South Africa and a far cry from a traditional gin.
Best served in a “dirty gin and tonic” to really enhance the salty, olive savouriness this is a most unusual gin. The recommended perfect serve gin and tonic is 25ml gin to 100ml Fitch & Leedes tonic (also from Stellenbosch) with a manzanilla green olive and a dash of brine. It is also good served in a gin and tonic with basil, rosemary or thyme.
Hope on Hopkins Distillery is a small artisanal distillery in the heart of Cape Town. Set up by Leigh Lisk and Lucy Beard, two ex-lawyers who followed their hearts and turned their hands to distilling, they handcraft three gins and will be releasing a small batch vodka shortly. They offer tours and tastings at the Distillery by appointment on Wednesdays and Saturdays.