Matinee is the coolest gin to come out of Goa
‘It’s a gin story’ could very well be the tag line of Lavanya Jayashankar and Anjali Shahi’s 18-year friendship. The two met while doing a business degree in Singapore in 2003. It’s where they discovered a liking for gin. “We spent several blurry nights drinking gin and tonic, talking about the world and bonding with each other,” says Jayashankar, 36.
It seemed fitting that the two friends would one day start their own gin brand, Matinee. Launched in Goa in March, Matinee is the latest gin to feature in the country’s gin renaissance. It follows other brands that have made their base in Goa: Greater Than, Hapusa, Stranger & Sons, Pumori, Samsara, Tickle, and Clearly Good.
The ‘citrusy-fresh and earthy’ gin features new botanicals like kagzi limes from eastern India, the delicately aromatic snake saffron (naag kesar) from Mumbai, Goan peppercorn, and white turmeric. Most of the botanicals come from a spice farm in Goa; the rest come from friends travelling across the country. Instead of relying on coriander seeds and caraway seeds to add spice and earthy flavours, they chose these botanicals, pairing them with orange for an extra bit of freshness.
Matinee is a gin that wants to be the life of the party. “Gin takes itself very seriously. Across the world, brands have focused on depicting the seriousness of the creation, depicted through dark or transparent bottles with colours like black and gold. We wanted to depict the lightheartedness of the moment you drink gin — one that is exciting and full of possibility,” adds Jayashankar.
Accordingly, Matinee’s bottle is a riot of colour: blues, maroons, yellows. The idea was to “disrupt the colour palette and design a bottle you cannot miss from the corner of the eye”.
Matinee launched in Goa with a series of cocktail takeovers at different bars, with each mixologist adding their own special touch to the gin, creating new cocktails. The founders, though, like their gin with soda and a splash of tonic, and topped with a spiced honey-soaked orange slice, which “changes the complexion of the drink”.
“Gin is really buzzing at the moment. There are over 10 craft variants in the market,” says Jayashankar. “People are feeling the renaissance is finally here.”
It was the gin renaissance abroad that urged the two friends to look deeper into creating their own label.
The friends have travelled the world together, moving home across London, Indonesia and France. Travelling around Europe introduced them to the resurgence of gin in bars across countries. The turning point came in 2017. Shahi, 35, walked into a bar in London and realised that where there were once 200 gins on the menu, that number had risen to 2000. “She called me and said, why don’t we make our own? I said, let’s do it,” says Jayashankar.
It so happened that both friends were living in the same city — Mumbai — for the first time after college. Jayashankar had started her own design-thinking agency, and Shahi had just quit her product development job. Working to their skillsets, Jayashankar focused on the branding, while Shahi spent time finalizing the product. A shopping trip to Lalbaug market armed them with interesting spices. Shahi divided them into flavour profiles and worked with a mixologist to get the right ones. She created 42 distillations, of which they shortlisted six, refining these and taking feedback. “There’s no such thing as a finished product in today’s world,” says Jayashankar. “You have to keep iterating and stay in Beta mode. We still refine our gin between batches.”
The duo chose Goa to do the distillations; both have now moved to the state. The lockdown last year brought their launch plans to a halt. They only managed to re-start work in September 2020.
Initial response to Matinee has been “promising”. The friends are planning more small-scale events to popularize the gin across the state, before setting their sights on Maharashtra.
Matinee Gin is available at Tom’s Wines, and Casa Barreto Wine Store in Panjim, Jaiswal Wine Shop in Candolim. Cost: Rs 1,490 (750 ml).