khao san

Khao San gin: a fiery trip back to Thailand

Khao San Gin – the spirit of South East Asia and named after a street I remember well. 
It was many years ago now when I flew to Thailand to meet my girlfriend. She’d been backpacking across Asia for 6 months.  I’d heard her saying how she had been dreaming of hot showers and clean sheets. I thought I’d surprise her with a couple of nights at a smart hotel for a bit of soul-reviving luxury. She met me at the airport with a big banner welcoming me to her world and after a giant hug, I told her my plan to whisk her off for a few days of comfort. But the look on her face was not at all what I expected. 

The street that changed my life…

Instead of a broad, happy smile, an unmistakable look of disappointment appeared.  When I asked her what was wrong, she was very clear. She didn’t see the point of coming all the way to South East Asia and then staying in a cookie-cutter American hotel.  The whole point of travelling, she said, was getting in among the people and experiencing life a bit differently.  She told me about a street called Khao San Road, where adventures were to be had.  That conversation changed my life and led to 20 years of backpacking that I still find hard to give up.

The next day, we checked out of our characterless, modern hotel and checked in to a small, Chinese B&B just off the main Khao San strip, built around a pretty courtyard.  It had the best banana pancakes in town and it was less than $10 a night.  And that was where our adventure really began. So, imagine my excitement when I discovered that Tarsier were bringing out Khao San Road gin, infused with red chili peppers, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf (three of my favourite ingredients). I just had to try it. And this is what I found.

The back (packer) story

Well, here’s the thing. It seems like the folks behind Khao San gin had a similar experience to my own. Inspired by the sights, smells and sounds of this buzzing backpacking district, they harnessed the flavours they found on the street and created an amazing gin.
They cold-distill their three prime ingredients separately in a vacuum still before blending it with an additional 10 botanicals. Everything in the gin is carefully selected to conjure up the sights, smells and sounds of Thailand. In fact, the gin has been bottled at exactly 41.2% ABV, a little nod towards the length of the street which is exactly 412 metres long. 

Virtual reality

But, not satisfied with real world senses such as taste and smell, they’ve also come up with another clever idea to take you right to the heart of this buzzing street. Point your mobile phone toward the QR code on the back label of Khao San gin and click.  You’ll immediately be transported to a fabulous collection of content that is iconic to this famous road. See photos, videos and recipes that will allow you to enjoy the sights and sounds of Bangkok without leaving the house.  Very handy in these quarantine times. 
But enough of the marketing – the real question is does it taste good. And the answer is a resounding YES!

The verdict

Khao San Gin is made by the team at Tarsier Spirits and they’ve packed a big blast of flavour into a beautiful bottle. The result is a fragrant, spicy gin with plenty of juniper up front. There’s loads of citrus in there from the Kaffir lime, which cuts through the peppery heat from the chilli peppers. There is also a subtle, fragrant lemongrass flavour that is unmistakably Thai and which is a nice counterpoint to the fire of the chilli. But running through it all, there is still an unmistakable piney juniper reminding you that this is, after all, primarily a London Dry gin.

Plus, the squat, white bottle is as beautiful as the gin it contains, with a show-stopping red label featuring a large chilli, so you will be in no doubt of what the main ingredient is here. The bottle is then finished off elegantly with a stylish wooden stopper. It is bound to enhance any gin shelf and the virtual reality label offers an extra level of fun and fascination.

The perfect serve

We think this is so good, you really won’t want to dilute it with a flavoured mixer. Instead, we say serve this tall, in a Collins glass.

  1. Fill up your Collins glass to the top with large ice cubes.
  2. Pour in the required amount of Khao San Gin.
  3. Cut a large fresh lime wedge and squeeze it directly into the glass.
  4. Rub the rim of the glass with what’s left of the lime.
  5. Fill the glass to the top with a freshly opened premium Indian tonic water such as Fentimans or Fever Tree.
  6. Then garnish it with a thin lime wheel or a spicy, dried red chilli pepper.
  7. Take a sip, turn on the VR and you could almost be back in Thailand.

This may be as close as we all get for a while.

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

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