Happy Lunar New Year! To celebrate, we have selected a unique and delicious gin from Vietnam. In Vietnam, the lunar new year is celebrated as Tết. It is one of the most important celebrations of the year there; it is a time when families come together to share food, businesses close for several days, and the streets are filled with revelers. As with any celebration, my mind always turns to libations! I am excited to share Sông Cái Vietnam Dry Gin with you, a gin that is itself a celebration of the land from which it comes. I wish you and yours “an khang thịnh vượng” (good health and prosperity) in the new year.
Sông Cái Vietnam Dry Gin
Vietnamese-American Daniel Nguyen was born and raised in California. As an adult, he moved to Vietnam to work on an initiative aimed towards strengthening agricultural supply chains in the country, a collaboration between Oxfam and the Vietnamese government. During his time in Vietnam, he came to appreciate the vast biodiversity of the country, particularly in its mountainous northern regions. In 2018, he founded Sông Cái Distillery in Hanoi. For their flagship Dry Gin, he works with indigenous Vietnamese farmers–many from ethnic minorities including Red Dao, H’Mong and Nung–to forage native botanicals. The entire staff, from foragers to distillery workers, are from the local area, and 60% are women. In addition to employing people from the local area, Sông Cái gives back to the community by sponsoring initiatives ranging from literary programs to reforestation and re-propagation of land and building seed databases. Such initiatives exemplify the long-term investment that Sông Cái is making in the country, particularly in terms of sustainability.
Sông Cái’s Vietnam Dry Gin is the first gin to be distilled in Vietnam, and it truly embraces its origins while still appealing to a more traditional gin drinker’s palate. Distilled on a copper pot still, it is instructed by the Vietnamese culinary approach of “hot” and “cold” energies. The balance of these two opposing energies is central to Vietnamese cooking. In Sông Cái’s Dry Gin, the spice elements of cardamom and pepper are balanced by the softer, sweeter elements of citrus including Vietnamese heirloom pomelo, resulting in a gin that blends seamlessly into a variety of cocktails, while still maintaining its unique character. Try it in a gin and tonic, a Collins, or a Gimlet (recipes follow).
Founder/Distiller: Daniel Nguyen
Botanicals: 16 total including jungle pepper, black cardamom, green turmeric, licorice, and heirloom pomelo
Sweet citrus peel, fresh pine, lychee, and hint of spice
Spiced citrus, honey, lychee, and juniper berries
Black pepper and sweet licorice
Vietnamese Gin and Tonic
2 oz Sông Cái Dry Gin
4 oz tonic
A slight pinch of salt
Pour ingredients into in a Copa or Highball glass filled with ice. Give the mixture a light stir and garnish with lemongrass, lychee, and a lime wheel.
Sông Cái Collins
2 oz Sông Cái Dry Gin
1 oz lime juice (freshly squeezed)
½ oz cane syrup or sugar syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water)
2 oz soda water
Shake gin, lime juice and sugar syrup and pour into a Highball glass filled with ice. Top with soda and garnish with a wedge of lemon or lime.
Sông Cái Gimlet
2 fl oz Sông Cái Dry Gin
1 fl oz lime cordial (see below for recipe)
Dried citrus for garnish
Method 1 (Sweet & light)
SHAKE all ingredients with ice, and fine strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Method 2 (Sour & strong)
STIR all ingredients with ice until cold (approx. 15 seconds) and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
*Lime Cordial Recipe (credit: Jeffrey Morgenthaler)
8 oz/240 ml hot water
1½ oz/45 ml fresh lime juice (measured by volume)
1½ oz/45 ml freshly grated lime peel (measured by volume)
1 oz/30 ml citric acid (measured by volume)
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender.
Blend on medium speed for 30 seconds.
Strain with a fine strainer.
Bottle and refrigerate.