When it comes to gin, there are few brands in the world that are as distinct as Hendrick’s Gin. Not only does it come in a cool black bottle made to resemble an old apothecary jar, it’s also got a most unusual ingredient in it – cucumber, on top of rose petal essences and nine other botanicals.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Hendrick’s Gin – it was one of my first subjects when I first started writing this column back in 2010. At the time, I wrote about how Hendrick’s has gathered a strong following since it was first launched in 2000.
Fast forward six years, and Hendrick’s has been at the forefront of a new gin revival, with more and more gin brands currently being released, and using all sorts of different botanicals besides the distinct juniper berry that is the mainstay in every gin.
While Hendrick’s is probably not the only gin that helped kickstart this gin renaissance, it did show that there is room for unusual ingredients and flavours inside a gin, and raised the profile of the humble cucumber as an ingredient in cocktails.
As Hendrick’s brand ambassador, Tasha Lu doesn’t just help promote the gin, but also the use of cucumber in the bar as well.
“When it was launched in 2000, the cucumber in Hendrick’s set the way for people to be open to different things. And now you can see cucumbers being a staple in every bar now!” she said.
“It took a long time to convince people that it is ok to put cucumber into your drink, because they always used to see it as a vegetable.
“Sometimes we go around the bars to deliver cucumbers as well! In Asia, especially, where there are several varieties of cucumbers, it helps the bartenders to recognise which cucumber to use with Hendrick’s.”
The type of cucumber is also very important, especially since there are over 500 types of cucumbers around the world. While Lu says that the best type to use is the continental cucumber (which is most common in Europe), around Asia, the Kyuri, or Japanese cucumber, is the closest to that.
“We usually advocate the Japanese cucumber here, because it’s more similar to the British cucumber in terms of the darker skin,” she said. “But as long as there is a cucumber in it, we’re happy!”
But what makes the cucumber so distinct and enjoyable in a drink, especially in a Hendrick’s Gin cocktail?
“The cucumber has very characteristic green aromas, really fresh, almost like grass, and floral as well. So when you add a cucumber as a garnish, it enhances that freshness and the green aromas of the gin,” she said. “Cucumbers are cool as well, and also refreshing.”
An example of just how seriously Hendrick’s takes its cucumbers can be seen in its brand activation. Lu recently took a group of Malaysian bartenders and journalists on The Hendrick’s Great Cucumber Excursion – a trip to the Titi Eco Farm in Negri Sembilan to see how cucumbers are grown, and for a workshop on how to use cucumbers in drinks.
It’s these sorts of unusual activities and events that have helped establish Hendrick’s brand personality over the years. “I think it captures the attention of people who are looking for something different. The unusualness is key for the brand – it’s the bottle, the brand world, the ambassadors … we try to attract people into the world,” she said.
“It’s a gin for those who want to try something different, and get creative with their drinks.”
Michael Cheang stays cool when there’s a cucumber in his gin. Drop him a note at the Tipsy-Turvy Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mytipsyturvy) or follow him on Instagram (@mytipsy-turvy).