GINSTR is a small German distillery that beat 600 different gin distillers from 90 countries to win the prestigious 2018 “World’s Best Gin for a Gin & Tonic” award against at the annual International Wine and Spirit Competition in London.

Most recently, it also won a double gold medal at the China Wine and Spirits Awards.

The Stuttgart distillery started life as the hobby of Alexander Franke, and Markus Escher, who dropped by to speak to STYLE in Hong Kong.

So who won the ‘World’s best gin for a G&T’ award?

Q: What’s new with GINSTR since you won the award in London?

Alex: We’re in Hong Kong! The main update is we’ve been receiving a lot of requests from all of Asia – [especially] China and Hong Kong. Now we are getting a little bit bigger and have a distributor in Hong Kong, and the Ritz-Carlton is the first hotel giving us a chance to be in their Ozone Bar. Which is great for us, because it is the world’s highest sky bar, and one of the best in Hong Kong.

We just won the a double gold medal at the China Wine and Spirits Awards, and at the moment our product is still unknown in Asia. Maybe some people will recognise it in London, but here, it’s the first time people have come into contact with GINSTR at the award, so that’s great.

Q: Tell us about your gin – how are you different from the other brands out there? 

Markus: [Our gin is] very fruity – we’re different because GINSTR is handcrafted in small batches in a small distillery. We’re different from big companies and big brands because this has stemmed from our hobby – it’s like our baby.

Q: What’s the best way to enjoy your gin?

Alex: With tonic – we won the award for the gin and tonic. You can taste it ‘pure’ – the gin is very mild, and has lime and other citrus notes. Many bartenders tell us that it works well with lime-based cocktails such as gin fizz or gimlets.

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Q: Which tonic goes best with your gin? What’s your personal favourite tonic?

Alex: Our favourite is Fever-Tree – the Ritz-Carlton has it. You can try any tonic water, but the flavour comes out better when the tonic is not too sweet. We won the award in London with Fever-Tree, since it was the sponsor of the award; every brand was tested with Fever-Tree. You can use any tonic, though, because in the end, the gin is the star.

Q: What’s your favourite gin (besides your own)?

Markus: We love a lot of gins. I have over 100 at home.

Alex: He has 100, I have 241 now. I like the smaller ones – the small batch gins, the hand-crafted gins. Even when we go to other countries, we take different gins back with us but not the big brands from the airport, those aren’t interesting to us. I like to go to the little liquor stores and watch out for original brands. There’s one from Belgium with a lobster-infused gin, which is pretty crazy.

Markus: The topic of gin is very interesting, because there are so many different tastes.

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Q: How are you planning on expanding in Asia?

Alex: We hope that the people love it here. We don’t have exact plans, but the Ritz-Carlton is a good address to start. We now have Chinese distributors who are interested, but it’s difficult because of customs. We started very small, but quality is important to us, versus quantity. It’s important to us that bar keepers that are serving our gin know that it’s a good gin.

Q: Is this your first time in Hong Kong? What’s your favourite place in Hong Kong to drink gin?

Alex: It’s our first time in Hong Kong – and we like the Ozone bar. We also like the very small bars on street corners. We were close to Ladies’ Market in Mong Kok, and it was nice, because people invited us to have a drink with them. We’re very happy to be here.

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For those who don’t know, GINSTR is pronounced “ginster”, not “gin street” or “gin S. T. R.” The STR comes from Stuttgart’s airport code, a cute nod to the brand’s origins.

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