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«Gents», a rounded kind of bitterness

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Hans Georg Hildebrandt from Zurich has bridged a gap in the market with a tonic water made with swiss Gentian root. «Gents», conceived in Zurich, is mixing up the bar scene.

© Neue Zürcher Zeitung, January 4 2013, by Jeroen van Rooijen


Tonic water. A few crotchety eccentrics drink the bitter, colourless beverage straight, but most people mix is with gin or vodka – the alcohol often playing the more important role. When ordering a gin tonic in Switzerland, one is asked if it’ll be a Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphaire, or even a Monkey 47. Yet the preferred tonic water is hardly ever a subject of enquiry.

This could all change now, for «Gents», a dwarf of a tonic water, is taking on titans like Schweppes or Canada Dry. The man behind «Gents» is Hans Georg Hildebrandt, a lifestyle journalist and entrepreneur from Zurich who, upon discovering boutique or «artisan» tonics in Spain (such as Fever Tree or Fentiman’s), decided to try to create something like that himself. A friend of his, a photographer who roasts coffee, encouraged Hildebrandt in his intention to «sell products instead of services».

Subtler and more bitter

The path to a distinct, intrinsincally Swiss tonic water led Hans Georg Hildebrant to experts with whom he searched for a bitterness other than the one from commonly used quinine. He found a tincture made from Gentian root (Gentiana lutea), grown in the Jura mountains and processed in the Appenzell region. His choice fell on yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea), «because I wanted a Swiss Tonic water to contain Swiss ingredients», says Hildebrandt. The Gentiana also gave the tonic its name, «Gents».

The essence of Gentian is a very strong bitterness. Hildebrandt couples it with the aroma of Sicilian lemons and the sweetness of beet sugar, in order to create a beverage that is more subtle than the commonly available tonic waters, yet at the same time, has a more intense bitter tang. «Full-bodied and better balanced, pleasantly dense to the palate» is how the creator describes his tonic water. «We liked the combination with a characterful gin best», says the young top chef Ralph Schelling, who was one of the «guinea pigs» who tested advance samples of «Gents».


The Zurich tonic water has been on the market since the summer of this year. Plain lettering and a peculiar kind of blimp – the «Albatross» from Jule Verne’s book «Robur le Conquérant» – adorn the small bottle’s lable. The first batch, which was processed in Austria, didn’t have quite the right level of carbonation. But ever since the «Getränkerei» (beverage company) Schlör in Menziken, Aargau, started filling the drink into 2-dl bottles, the mix is spot-on, and the tonic water is conquering delicatessens and hip bars in and around Zurich – not least thanks to professional networker and culinary authority Hans Georg Hildebrandt’s excellent list of contacts.

The aforementioned is – for the moment, anyway! – having fun delivering his tasty brew himself, using a bicycle trailer. 75’000 bottles have been decanted, a next batch is planned for February 2013. Currently, he is selling around 5000 bottles a month, but of course, if all continues to go well for the inventor, the tonic should become part of a family, perhaps with a ginger ale. «It takes patience – but I’m in good spirits», says Hildebrandt happily.

Availability and contact: http://thegentsblog.wordpress.com


Written by hghildebrandt

5. Januar 2013 um 4:54 pm

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