I love gin. That much is clear. And I am fiercely proud of the collection that South Africa is constantly growing. I feel that as a country, we have some of the most diverse and unique flavours that cannot easily if at all, be found around the world.
The main portion of the local gin movement began in Cape Town with a large majority of the distillers situated down there. I believe that this means that there is still major room for Joburg to grow with heavyweight names such as Ginologist, Prohibition gin, Flivver, Flowstone and Time Anchor all being distilled on our turf.
My social media feeds are consistently filled with new up and coming distillers too and it was for this reason that Joburg was in sore need of gin dominant franchises which is exactly why Tonic Linden is hot on my radar.
How Tonic came to be
Having opened last year, I was pleased to hear that things have been very successful for this gin-oriented bar.
Run by Caitlin and Dennis Human, their story was one of pure destiny.
Caitlin was a fashion buyer for ten years and has always been an avid lover of the finer gins on the market. The duo first attended the quarterly Linden Market which was filled with wines and foods but not gin which got them thinking together with their friends Hannes and Anel, about starting a gin bar.
Four months later, they attended the market once more but this time as gin vendors. Together with Hannes and Anel, they created beautiful gin pairings with interesting flavours under the name ACDH. Their stall was highly successful which caused them to pause and think about the need for a gin bar in Joburg.
Owners Caitlin and Dennis Human
Here is where it becomes serendipitous. The Human family already owned a restaurant in Linden called A La Bouffe. There was extra space that could easily be divided and converted; they already had a liquor license as well as a great functioning restaurant. All that was required of the couple was to make a little magic happen. Which is exactly what they did.
Caitlin put her artistic eye to good use when it came to the selection of the gorgeous décor of the bar. Wood, warm and light pastels and a feature wall complete with an image of the Queen herself accompanied by a neon sign that simply states – “when life hands you lemons, make a g&t”. Together it all has to power to make me feel right at home in the cosy venue.
When life hands you lemons, make a G&T
Behind the bar is one of the most impressive gin collections I’ve ever seen. They now boast an enormous 138 gins which is a huge leap from their initial starting collection of just 30 gins (the same number as my personal collection I might add).
It is also amazing to note that the vast majority of these gin are locally made. Part of this vast display of gins is what they call the "Suitcase collection" which are an array of gins that are not available in South Africa and come to be in Tonic via friend's and family's suitcases. Due to their scarcity, these "suitcase gins"are mostly for display however do not fear because the Tonic menu itself incorporates a balance of both international and local gins for you to choose from.
One of Tonic's suitcase gins
With no bar tending background themselves, I feel that it makes the Human’s more human (excuse the pun). There is something very unpretentious about this bar that is run by people who are simply passionate about gin.
The menu features a large variety of local gins and changes often – typically with the winter and summer seasons. I love this idea because as Caitlin said – “it keeps things interesting for the locals who frequent the bar.”
With the dynamic duo personally remaining on the pulse of trends as well as all that takes place within the bar, they are able to monitor and gauge everything and very quickly fix or alter things on the menu if they do not appear to be favoured. And yes, they have to print brand new menus with every single menu change. If that isn’t dedication that I don’t know what is!
What Tonic has to offer
Tonic offers gin tastings as well as gin tastings on request and every so often and also hosts various distillers who come in to share their knowledge and gin which is a fabulous way to sample and explore new gins before buying your own bottle. They also have guest bar tenders and mixologists come in which is an idea that I completely love.
The Tonic team have some high standards to maintain and with the difficult job of maintaining an ever changing gin menu, they are constantly on the lookout for new gins, especially locally crafted.
Tonic's impressive gin selection
Personally I am a big fan of this establishment because I’ve noticed that not only did the clubbing scene sort of dissipate with my 20's but so did my desire to attend them. I am now more on the lookout for curated experiences where I can chat to knowledgeable and interesting people and I feel like Tonic provides just that.
Be sure to hit them up because their menu will be changing soon too as the warmer weather approaches!
For more info check out their website