EVERY TIME someone judges me for reaching for a bottle of Ginebra San Miguel (because I’m not handling a more expensive bottle), I point out the gold seal on the label (itself a work by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo). The gold seal is a Monde Selection medal awarded by Brussels-based institution International Institute for Quality Selections. Ronald Molina, Assistant Vice-President and Marketing Manager for Ginebra San Miguel summarizes the sensation: “The only thing cheap about Ginebra San Miguel is the price.”
The gin brand has been around since 1834, which Mr. Molina points out, makes it older than the Republic of the Philippines (founded 1898). For 185 years of the brand’s history, the recipe has not changed, he said, ensuring that what your ancestors were sipping — throughout the Revolution, the American Occupation, the Second World War (I can keep going) — will be the same as what you’d be sipping now, that is, if you were so inclined to reach for a bottle of gin that costs less than P100.
Easy to turn your nose up at that, but consider this: a report from the International Wine and Spirits Research group cites that the country is the world’s biggest gin market, and Ginebra San Miguel is in large part a contributor to that. Said Mr. Molina, “A lot of the world’s gin is consumed in the Philippines, and the leading brand of that is Ginebra San Miguel.”
“We’re part of the millionaire group — liquors that are bottling 1 million cases and beyond,” he added. “The process, the care we put into distilling the gin… is at par with world standards.”
Gin has been around since the time of the Romans, with gin taking its name from ginevra, another name for the juniper berries from which gin is distilled. Ginebra San Miguel itself was distilled in Manila, and was acquired by La Tondena in the 1920s, before shifting ownership several times, finally landing in the lap of San Miguel.
“It’s been a part of history, culture, life, and flavors of celebrations of a lot of people in the Philippines,” said Mr. Molina.
The gin was celebrated in an event in Quezon City, where they launched the gin’s new home online, https://oneginebranation.com/. The website contains recipes, history, and brand events that gin enthusiasts can attend. “The role of the brand is to build bonds,” said Mr. Molina.
Ginebra San Miguel has also seen the release of the Premium Variant (costing a little less than P200), and Mr. Molina says that they plan to explore the market further. He also says that while Ginebra already exports to other countries, especially in Asian countries with large Filipino populations, he says, “I believe that the Philippines has something to contribute to the history of gin.” — Joseph L. Garcia