A decade ago, “terroir” was reserved for wine—a single word meant to capture its purpose: to taste like someplace. That word has jumped the aisle into spirits, to define the way we understand tequila and mezcal, rum, even whiskey. Before long, distillers began to realize that gin provided the perfect vehicle to translate what a place could taste like, albeit in a different way than tequila or rum might.
Specifically, the botanicals used to flavor gin tell a story about where those herbs, spices and other elements are sourced. New Western gins out of the United States. were among the first to emphasize expressing terroir through the use of local botanicals, ranging from California-grown citrus to fragrant coastal pine needles. Japanese gin has followed too, spotlighting yuzu and green tea as botanicals, as has Scotland, where bog myrtle, kelp, even local apples point to Scottish provenance.
Might gin from India be next? Newcomer Jin Jiji is a gin produced in Goa, a tiny region along the western coastline of India, using regionally sourced botanicals, even down to the Himalayan juniper. Yet, in terms of terroir, a gin from India makes perfect sense: After all, it’s an epicenter of fragrant plants that yield spices, tea leaves and a myriad of other botanicals.
For Jin Jiji, those botanicals include aromatic chamomile flowers, fragrant tulsi (a plant similar to basil used in Ayurvedic medicine), Goa’s native cashew nuts and black tea. Even classic gin flavorings coriander and angelica are sourced locally.
To better understand how to approach these flavor profiles when mixing cocktails, we challenged five bartenders to riff on classic cocktail styles using Jin Jiji.
Lauren Corriveau, of Los Angeles–based Proprietors LLC, was inspired by the “herbaceous complexity” of the gin, using it to add backbone to Round and Around, an apricot jam–laced spritz variation. “The combination of tulsi basil and local cashew nuts makes for a totally unique gin expression,” she says. Lillet Blanc added the wine component, while Indian tonic provided the effervescence. An apt pairing for a gin whose namesake is derived from the Hindi word Jijivisha, a term best used to describe a lust for life.
Meanwhile, Anu Apte-Elford, of Seattle’s Rob Roy, focused on the “light, floral and elegant” qualities of the gin to transform the Negroni into a sessionable experience, rounded out with Proteau Ludlow Red, a non-alcoholic aperitif, and plenty of Topo Chico soda water. A lavish bouquet of tulsi—sometimes called “holy basil”—adds the crowning aromatic touch. Her whimsical drink name: the Negronjiji.
Drawing on her Indian heritage, Apte-Elford also recommends a “side serve” of mukhwas to accompany the drink, particularly those made with candied fennel. “The Indian after-dinner breath freshener [is] one of my favorite things on the planet,” she says. “It’s pretty and sweet and complements the Negronjiji really well.”
Meanwhile, Death & Co.’s Javelle Taft channeled memories of traveling through India, building an adventurous curry-inspired Martinez riff, the Pearl of Krishna, that amps up the “savory, rich, nutty flavor” of the gin with splashes of coconut liqueur, carrot eau de vie, nutty sherry vermouth and a dash of curry bitters.
Umami notes in the gin also inspired Caer Maiko, co-operator of the Daijoubu Pop-Up in Austin, Texas. “Jin Jiji has a really bright front, like a classic London Dry style, but the finish [is] richer, darker, with more savory notes,” she says. To push those savory notes forward in her Chutni Gimlet, she simmered her lime cordial with a piquant mix of golden raisins, white vinegar, ginger and—wait for it—garlic.
That small amount of garlic enhances the other flavors in the syrup, similar to adding salt, Maiko notes. Further, “garlic is a lasting flavor on the palate, and gives this tart and sweet cocktail a more complex finish, just like Jiji does as a gin.”
Elsewhere, Chicago’s Richard Beltzer’s likens Jiji’s “raw, herbaceous” flavor profile and agricultural ties to one of his other favorite spirits, mezcal. Brightened with a duo of off-dry white aperitif wines, a dash of saline solution and a twist of grapefruit peel, this Gin & Tonic riff is named bhoomi, the Hindi word for “land.” The drink name makes perfect sense in the context of a terroir-focused gin.
“If it wasn’t for the land,” says Belzer, “we wouldn’t have the spirit.”
Five Jin Jiji Cocktails