Down the steps and through the doors of Tibetan Café, a botanical paradise has been unleashed at Morzine’s first ever Gin Festival.
There are an impressive 30 different types of gin from all over the world available behind Tibetan’s bar, famous for its live music and Buddha-inspired deco.
“I had the idea for a gin festival one morning and my wife thought I was mad.” Tony says, who took over the family business eight years ago. “We’ve worked solidly for two months to organise it.”
As he talks, his wife, Judith, and staff member Claire, furiously shake, chop and squeeze various garnishes into deep-bowled glasses. Ginger, cinnamon sticks, kumquat and kaffir leaves are added with a flourish to each cocktail, every ingredient is a carefully thought-out enhancement of the taste and experience.
“I wanted the festival to be a place where people can try new things and experiment.” Tony says. The bar is packed with customers doing exactly that – choosing exotic combinations from an extensive menu of gin cocktails, each with its own descriptive paragraph. “We really put out heart into this.” Tony says, waving the menu at me.
The enigmatic owner invested £3,000 of his money to make the festival happen, purchasing gin from suppliers based all over the world, including Germany, Scotland, Belgium, Canada and America.
“It was a big risk,” he laughs, “but I’ll do it again next year, of course, it’s been so successful.” He already has his sights set on holding the festival in 2017 at the Palais du Sports, offering 100 different gins and creating a real buzz for the community.
“I want this festival to be bigger than just Tibetan Bar. Morzine has real character, and I want to help create something that develops and expands what it has to offer.”
It’s hard not to get swept up by Tony’s enthusiasm for gin. He inspects the Citadelle Gin I’m cradling, a French blend of 19 botanicals, including juniper, jasmine and almond milk, garnished with lemon zest and a cinnamon stick. “Try the Monkey 47 next time.” He tells me, “It’s my favourite – 47 different botanical ingredients, and every time you drink it the gin tastes different.”
It makes for a refreshing and sophisticated change to the standard drinking culture here, but be warned: after attending this festival, you’ll be scoffing at a bar’s lack of lavender to enhance an Aviation Gin’s Indian sarsaparilla, or exclaiming they don’t stock a ginger-based Elephant Gin from Germany. That’s right, I’ve officially become a botanical snob.
Discover more of Tibetan Bar’s upcoming events here.
Published April 6 2016: Morzine Source Magazine