TLDR? Medellin is home to some the world’s best gin and tonics, made by local spirit company Juniper!
You’re probably familiar with Colombian coffee, but what about the Colombian gin and tonic? As a gin enthusiast, it was a delicious surprise to find spots in Medellin that mixed a great gin and tonic, and even one that specialized in them.
Mixologists in Colombia have a secret weapon that makes their cocktails extra special. Thanks to the biodiversity of the country, bartenders can incorporate exotic fruits only found in this part of the world.
Even a drink as simple as the gin and tonic can be dressed up with the tangy aromas and flavors of fruity additions. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about G&Ts in Medellín.
An Award-Winning Cocktail
Thanks to a local liquor brand, the city was put on the map in a worldwide spirits competition. You see, during the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the Colombian brand Juniper received a double gold medal for the best gin and tonic in the world under the bottled cocktail category.
One of the premier competitions in the world of liquors and alcohol-based products, they competed against brands from England that have been in the business for over 200 years.
Medellin-native, Juan David Zapata, a bartender, and industrial engineering student created Juniper. With his unique blend of expertise, he started his company with the production of tonic water.
Inspired by the rich agriculture of the country Juniper gin and tonics are made with natural products (juniper, lemon, and quinine) and luxury distillates.
Zapata is not only famous for his cocktails but won the 2018 award as the best bartender in Colombia and ranked as the 10 best bartender in the world.
Brief History of the Gin and Tonic
The roots of this flirty cocktail are actually medicinal. When the British monarch took over India in the 1850s, the British officers stationed there began to suffer from mosquito-caused Malaria.
To prevent and cure malaria the troops were given quinine powder, however, it had an extremely bitter taste. To make it more tolerable, they added sugar, soda, and gin. Thus the gin and tonic was created.
In the new millennium, the gin and tonic was revamped. Originating from the culinary hub of San Sebastian, Spain, a new spin on the old recipe was born. Chefs began to mix gin in large-bowled glasses, adding lots of ice and garnishing the drink with a variety of fruits and flowers.
These flirty, floral cocktails have gained popularity and can be seen in restaurants and bars worldwide.
Where to Find the Best Gin and Tonics in Medellin
For my gin journey in the city, I sipped my way around the bars and restaurants most acclaimed for their gin and tonics. Here is the list of the top contenders.
Nestled along a busy row of restaurants in Manila is Pizzeria Olivia. This casual but classy restaurant serves quality Italian fair made from organic ingredients. And, most importantly, they make a great gin and tonic.
Like many people, the bar is a comfortable place to set up when I drink or dine solo. But you won’t find one at Olivia. Instead, there is a long wooden table in the center with tall chairs, creating the communal effect of a bar, but perhaps even more intimate.
The house cocktail menu at Olivia is short and simple, and the gin and tonic is one of their stand-outs. What makes their version of this cocktail special is that it is quintessentially Colombian. Instead of using one of the traditional British brands, the restaurant uses the Colombian brand Selva gin for its base.
Distilled in Cartagena, it’s the first Colombian gin made in the London Dry style. The masterminds behind the brand are British distiller Vincent Pollard, Colombian chef José Barbosa, and Medellin-native Juan David Zapata – the founder of Juniper spirits and tonic water.
Like all London Dry gins, Selva is made with all-natural ingredients and distilled with botanicals. Better yet, for their recipe, they source botanicals from around Colombia.
Mixed with Juniper tonic water the gin and tonic at Olivia has a nice blend of citrus and herbal flavors. If have ever wanted to taste ‘eternal spring’ order this locally influenced cocktail.
The atmosphere at Burdo is that of a trendy club. Lit by the glow of red lights, this cozy bar and restaurant is a fun spot to meet up with friends. You can find what could be best described as Americana food, with burgers, fried chicken, and mac and cheese bites on the menu, with a comprehensive drink list.
At Burdo, the gin and tonic is not merely an item on the cocktail menu. There is an entire section on the drinks page dedicated to this mixture.
Most of the gins featured are traditional British brands including, Tanqueray, Greenall’s, Fifty Pounds, Gordon’s, Hendrick’s, and The London N° 1. In addition to these old classics, you can also find Colombian distilled Selva gin.
The servers at Burdo make a solid gin and tonic, which they mix at your table. This gives you the opportunity to adjust the tonic ratio.
Now, one of my favorite parts about their drinks is the different dried botanical options. Choose from dehydrated apple, grapefruit, oranges, and even juniper berries to give your drink some added flavor.
With a name like Ammazza Pizzeria & Gin Garden, it probably comes as no surprise that this restaurant takes the top spot for gin and tonics in the city. Come for the gin, but stay for the ambiance. This restaurant is the perfect spot for a date night, special occasion, or just a weekend dinner with friends.
This swanky restaurant serves upscale Italian food on a quiet street in Laureles. Their impressive dishes draw in quite a crowd, so I recommend getting there early or making a reservation.
What’s more, the cuisine at Ammazza isn’t the only attraction. Their ‘Gin Garden’ menu invites guests to step into a floral wonderland of gin and tonics.
Even for a cocktail connossieur, their wide selection of gin drinks can overwhelm be overwhelming. Luckily, their knowledgeable staff is there to assist with any questions you might have and make suggestions.
During my visit, I went with the romantic Hendrick’s gin and tonic, which features rose petals, cucumber slices, green pepper, and ginger. The ratio was perfect and poured over four large ice cubes to avoid diluting the drink.