Gin and tonics while on safari go together like a horse and carriage. The age-old drink, initially distilled from juniper berries, is synonymous with safari sundowners. But why? An old wives tale leads us to believe that the quinine in the tonic water repels mosquitoes. Truth be told, you’d actually need vast quantities of quinine to repel those disease-ridden pests. Needless to say, it gave the bushveld locals a reason to throw some gin into the tonic. And boom, you have your safari drink! Africa on Foot and nThambo Tree Camp are renown for pulling out a few surprise events in the middle of the savannah. A couple of days ago the team delighted guests with a recent craft gin tasting session courtesy of Elephant gin, a handcrafted gin that contributes 15% of its profits to various elephant trusts.
South Africans are purveyors of fine gin. We most certainly aren’t the original craftsman of this fragrant spirit, but we do enjoy an excuse to celebrate. The majority of people think that it was the British who were behind the innovative gin idea, but it was actually the Dutch during the 13th century. Gin was called Genever, a hard spirit produced from malt wine. Juniper berries, herbs and other floral scents were added to the strong alcohol to make it more palatable. It was a strong spirit and armies of soldiers would enjoy a quick tipple of the magic juice before heading into battle. It is believed that this is the origin of the popular phrase “Bit of Dutch courage” .
The British popularised the drink and made it more mainstream after encountering it during the 17th century, and distilled their own version. The word was shortened and become the “gin” that we know and love. It became a British thing and up until a few years back we were limited for choice when it came to this elixir. Heavy handed pouring of Bombay Sapphire, sloe gin, Gordons, and Beefeater with mixers such as tonic water or dry lemon seemed to be the choice. We were limited and then some genius went all craft on us. And us South Africans rode the wave like Laird Hamilton back in the day. South African’s cottoned on quickly to the idea of craft gin and have used indigenous botanicals to create a few fragrant masterpieces.
The gin tasting at Africa on Foot involved the sampling of a gin called “Elephant Gin” , an award winning gin handcrafted from rare African botanicals (14 of them) and handmade in Germany. After an intrepid journey to Africa the founders felt inspired to distill their own gin and combine it with conservation. 15% of profits from each full size bottle sold goes to Big Life Foundation and Space for Elephants, while with each miniature bottle sold, 15% of profits is donated to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
This is the #TheSafariLifestyle. No time to mess around – make mine a double and ensure I have a balance of berries and pink tonic water. Thank you.