Gin and tonic continues to break records in Spain and has managed to become the unofficial drink in a country with more than 310 brands of gin, over 30 types of tonic and where Toque Especial´s botanicals are essential in helping to create the perfect gin and tonic
Botanicals such as cardamom, mace and hibiscus give the ‘Spanish gin and tonic’ aroma, flavour and colour. They encompass part of the “Botanicals for mixology” collection created by the brand Toque Especial.
The Toque Especial brand sells a collection of spice grinders with blends of spices inspired by cuisine from different parts of the world, which transform a dull dish into a fiesta of flavour. They also have a botanical collection which adds creativity to drinks whether made professionally using the botanicals collection for mixology or at home with the mixology and gin and tonic cases.
HashtagSpain sits down with Pepe Orts, the Master behind the craft at Toque Especial, a brand that has established itself as the market leader.
HashtagSpain: What is the reason behind the special focus on Gin & Tonic?
Pepe Orts: Obviously being focused primarily on Gin & Tonic, obeys the trends and fashion in consumption in this country. The Gin & Tonic, which arrived about 8/10 years ago is the indisputable leader at bars around Spain. The Gin & Tonic is fashion (more than just a trend) which perhaps had its origin during the real estate boom in Spain and then during the crisis took off as the leader. At the moment it is still number one and if that were to change it would be only to remain at second or third place. I personally think it will not disappear from these top positions.
H/S: Can you explain how “Botanicals for mixology” evolved and what it means for you?
P/O: I must stress that we did not invent botanicals in the mixology. Its use and influence in distillation, is something as old as the distillation process itself. What we did do at Toque Especial was realise that no other company existed in the world that commercializes botanic for mixology. In that sense we began working on our product line: First we worked with the basics for cocktails (juniper, cardamom, cinnamon, licorice, etc.), then we began to incorporate products that were more rare to find but in high demand: Tonka bean, Mace, Black Cardamom, and now are beginning to incorporate dehydrated citric fruits. We never stop to innovate, that is our slogan.
“We never stop to innovate, that is our slogan”
H/S: We understood that you are giving classes, presentation and speeches about your work. Is this your passion?
P/O: Without a doubt, acquired knowledge is worthless if it is not transmitted. To communicate ones own experiences and those of other bartenders, the ways of making, the recipes, the tricks and the new ideas make my work gratifying. The speeches and master classes timings often reveal there is not enough time, that there is so much to communicate. The auditorium also frequently remains with a desire for much more. Information and education is fundamental for the bartender to understand that botanic products are always accessible regardless of the level. There is no need to be an alchemist to make cocktails with botanic products, but if you use them, then you become an alchemist, and that every client perceives with great appreciation. To be at the origins of all of this is definitely thrilling.
H/S: What would be the next step for you in this evolving venture? Would you consider expanding in other countries?
P/O: The Spanish market is beginning to reveals signs of maturity, especially with respect to botanic products for Gin & Tonic. The export market on the other hand is beginning to reveal a significant interest abroad. For the Autumn we have plans for mixology shows with botanic products in Switzerland and Belgium, and we also have a notable interest in our products from France, Portugla, Italy and the United Kingdom. We believe that expanding into other countries is the natural evolution of our business, not only because the Spanish Gin Tonic is in fashion but also because the use of botanic products is starting to be in demand from mixologists throughout Europe. There is also an interest from the American market, so yes, exporting to other countries is definitely in our plans.
H/S: Does the ‘perfect’ Gin&Tonic exist? What would it take?
P/O: Does the perfect dish, the perfect car or the perfect partner exist? The answer is complex and at the same time easy. The perfect Gin Tonic is the one which satisfies to the maximum our expectations in a given moment. More than the perfect Gin Tonic, what exists are the perfect conditions for a Gin Tonic to be. For that there are a series of guidelines that are very simple but very important. The first is to choose a Gin that is of our taste and focused on our particular taste (dry, spicy, fruity, etc.). We combine this with a Tonic, which being the most abundant element of a Gin Tonic, should not be the protagonist but give the desired touch of bitter and freshness in the bubbles. Another vital factor is the proportion. In Spain we drink 4 parts of Tonic with 1 part of Gin (in other parts the ratio is 2 to 1). The type of glass (wide open mouth in order to enjoy the aromas), and the ice (big cubes that keep the drink cold in order to preserve the carbon gas in the Tonic). These are all essential factors. And finally the use of botanic products which will allow us to create the nuances we like. We recommend a moderate use, such as maximum three with one being citrus. We must not forget that the drink is prepared to be enjoyed, that should be the main aim.
H/S: You have started this new dedication to Mixology only in 2012, what attracted you to take this turn in your career? Where you expecting to have such success and to be recognized after only 3 years?
P/O: Like with so many other things in life, a series of “coincidences” brought me to Mixology. Basically it began with an interest in taking advantage of a sub-product of a series of citrus fruit which a brother of mine cultivates. I began experimenting with the drying of various skins and realized that the aroma remained in the dry skin. From there on I began to investigate in the world of Mixology and soon contacted Toque Especial. Together we decided to embark upon this adventure and develop a line of botanic products for Mixology. The success was so big that here we are today. No doubt that not in my biggest dreams, could I have ever imagined so much recognition after such a short career. In any case, the success doesn’t go to our head and we continue to work in the same humble manner and with the same interest to learn and improve every day. The best of all of this has been to get access to the best mixologists in Spain and the world and together work to develop new ideas and products. It is fascinating to work with the best.
H/S: How would you describe in one phrase the brand “Toque Especial”?
P/O: With Toque Especial, enjoy your creations.
H/S: Thank you, Pepe.