In today’s world, it’s urged that brands think about eco-conscious alternatives when it comes to their products, but with Bombay Sapphire, sustainability is a non-negotiable expectation.
From its ethically-sourced botanicals to its distillery process which runs on 100% renewable electricity, Bombay Sapphire seems to be dedicated in its mission to be the world's most sustainable gin. And for good reason, too. In 2018, Blueland reported that nearly 15% of America’s aluminum production was due to the alcohol industry, with a similar percentage of U.S.-made glass.
To get more insight into the properties and process behind Bombay Sapphire, we spoke with mixologist and North American Brand Ambassador, Ryan Wainwright.
How did you come into mixology?
Like most bartenders my road to falling in love with the industry is a non-traditional one: I was moonlighting as an amateur DJ for a show in Big Sur and the bartender didn’t show up so my friend asked me if I knew how to bartend. Of course, I lied like any good 22 year old would and said I did. Turns out, I made a bunch of money and realized I had a blast doing it, so the next morning, I quit my job, found a gig at a local vegan café, and never looked back.
How would you describe the practice to someone who doesn’t know much about the art of mixology?
There’s mixology and then there’s bartending. I think that mixology was created to describe people who have given themselves to the career of bartending and hospitality. It is usually used to describe individuals who create elaborate drinks with many ingredients and colorful garnishes. I consider myself a bartender by trade and always will. There are many people who we call bartenders who don’t make “fancy drinks” but every day open up their bar with a smile and pour a gin and tonic or a beer for a guest with a story from their years behind the bar. Those people don’t do it for the fame or the attention...they do it for their community and because they love being a place where people can come meet their friends and enjoy being alive. I like to imagine that is me.
Which aspects of Bombay Sapphire’s flavor make it different than other gins?
We are lucky enough to have a Master of Botanicals, Ivano Tonutti, who sources all of our botanicals for Bombay Sapphire from specific places for the terroir of those regions. Terroir is well known in wine, but gin also can have terroir: juniper berries grown in Croatia go through a much different life cycle than juniper berries grown in Tuscany (where we get our juniper berries from). Ivano specifically works with a group of farmers in Tuscany to source those juniper berries because of the bright citrus and herbaceous notes. It is exactly what he is after to make Bombay Sapphire much less woody and piney, and much more citrusy and brighter.
All 10 botanicals in Bombay Sapphire are sourced with their terroir in mind but also, I am so proud to say that they are sustainably sourced from all around the world. We work hand in hand with our farmers to make sure that they have all the things that they need to continue to grow the best botanicals ever.
The other thing that makes Bombay Sapphire's flavor so different is what our Master Distiller does with those botanicals. Unlike other gins that steep and boil their botanicals in a neutral grain spirit, Bombay Sapphire steams its botanicals so that the flavors extracted from the botanicals are brighter. We call this vapor distillation and Bombay Sapphire is one of the only gins available in all of North America to 100% vapor distill all of our botanicals to unlock their true flavors. What you end up with is a bottle that showcases the story of our bright and herbaceous juniper rounded out by 9 other botanicals.
Bombay Sapphire’s dedication to environmental consciousness can’t go unnoticed. From being on track to achieve 100% sustainably sourced botanicals in 2022, to its zero-waste distillery process, how does this brand’s commitment to sustainability change the alcohol’s flavor profile?
Bombay Sapphire's dedication to the environment is a huge part of why I wanted this job. Bombay's commitment creates a full circle of passion and perfection because at every level we believe in what each of us is doing for this brand. Our Master Distiller, Dr. Anne Brock, and her team of 12 distillers are doing so much for the environment at our distillery – Laverstoke Mill – and they are an inspiration to all of us that are out there sharing the word. Ivano and his team inspire all of us daily to keep pushing because sustainably sourcing all the botanicals for Bombay Sapphire seems like an impossible feat when it’s hard to live sustainably in my own tiny kitchen for two. Their commitment gives us access to the best botanicals possible and you can taste that in every bottle thanks to Dr. Brock and her team.
Describe your process behind making a brand new drink with Bombay Sapphire. What are some go-to ingredients? What do you normally stay away from?
When making a drink with any spirit I always try the spirit by itself first. I like to taste how it starts when it first touches my lips, how it develops and what flavors I notice and love, and then how it finishes. It’s like writing a book. For Bombay there are two things that stand out when I taste it and which I love to highlight.
Bombay has a very distinct bright citrus pop upfront. Most people think that citrus is our lemon peel from Mercia, but it is actually a combination of our amazing Coriander from Morocco, our Juniper Berries from Tuscany, and our lemon peel all working together to enhance the citrusy notes. Bombay also has a distinct finish. It almost grabs the back of your throat with this spice. For cocktail making, this is very inspiring because I love a bold ending to any story. That spice is very much the cubeb berries, grains of paradise, and cassia all saying hello.
Because of this, I love to go bright and bold with cocktails. I love making spritzes, sours, and Collins on the bright side and I love making martinis and negronis on the bold side. One of the true hallmarks of Bombay is the versatility that comes from our unique distillation process. I always say if you are playing around with Bombay Sapphire try it in one of your favorite vodka cocktails. It will take that drink and liven it in a really delicious way. Go with flavors you typically like and start to play around with it. You will find all kinds of new ways to drink Bombay. I definitely recommend leaning towards citrus though. Bombay Sapphire loves citrus so you can never go wrong with some lemon, lime, grapefruit or even orange juice mixed into your cocktail.
Which aspects of being an ambassador for Bombay Sapphire do you find most rewarding?
You know I became a bartender because I loved it. Back then, there were no Tales of the Cocktail awards, no “50 Best Bars”, none of it. It was a way for me to feel like I could fit in and build a community. The part I love the most about being a Bombay Sapphire Ambassador is that I get to mentor and grow the global community of bartenders. For me, inspiring them to think about gin differently and bartending differently is everything.
What’s your favorite way to drink Bombay Sapphire?
If I had to pick one cocktail I would say a Negroni. I love how the strength of Bombay shines through and the uplifting flavors in the botanicals enhance the other two deep and dark ingredients. A three-ingredient drink like a Negroni is beautiful when you can showcase each ingredient and really highlight all the depth and character of each ingredient.