Zanzibar - Around the World in 80 Gins
Raffles, Rick’s Café … and now Zanzibar, run by Swedish gin enthusiast Jonas Hjertquist, once the site of the legendary Huntsman Steakhouse, serving 400 steaks a day back in the 1970s, when canned bean salad and coleslaw was considered exotic. After a total refit (all that remains, a row of Tudor-ish wooden blocks whose purpose will be revealed in the fullness of time) it is well on its way to becoming a significant destination in the worldwide gin Renaissance and a portal for Hjertquist’s own distillery. Yes, that’s right, after a long colourful history involving flappers, bathtubs and ruined mothers, gin is the new craft beer, with more than 1000 distilleries around the world, a dozen in New Zealand alone.
Named after an island off the coast of Tunisia famous for the world’s shortest war: 38 minutes, after which both sides sensibly decided it was too hot for fighting and had a gin and tonic instead, Zanzibar (the bar, not the island − although you could probably get them there because, you know, globalisation) serves gin cocktails including: martini, gimlet, white lady, pink gin and a gin slap (like a mojito but gin-ier). With the biggest selection of gins in the southern hemisphere, at present 62 and aiming for 80, my favourite is Elephant from Germany, every bottle bearing the handwritten name of the African elephant being sponsored by your tippling, in this case Zorana.
Of all the gin joints in all the world, you have to walk into this one, it’s awesome. An explorers-club-at-the-edge-of-civilisation feel without the malarial side effects, Zanzibar is the kind of place Humphrey Bogart would hang out, being snide to Nazis and romancing Lauren Bacall. Lord Greystoke would dig it on days he got sicking of Tarzan-ing, came down from the trees, parked the monkeys and put on a linen suit to impress Jane. International travellers pausing at the watering hole of life can order a cocktail, a coffee and a meat skewer with a side of pizza. Here’s looking at you, kid. You look marvellous by the way.