Quebec City restaurateur dreams of producing gin on all 7 continents

The idea for his ambitious goal started to take shape after he embarked on a six-month trip along the Pan-American highway, from Vancouver to Ushuaia, Argentina.

Baptiste Gissinger is on a mission to find unique flavours for all his regional spirits

Baptiste Gissinger, originally from France, moved to Canada in 2004 and opened several restaurants in the Quebec City area. (Cécile Gladel/Radio-Canada)

The life of Baptiste Gissinger can be illustrated with pins spread out across a world map.

Born in France, the world traveller toured Europe on a motorcycle, Russia on foot and Mongolia on horseback. In China, he worked as an English teacher. In Vietnam, he designed clothing. 

But it was in Quebec City that Gissinger became interested in spirits, working behind the bar of his first restaurant, Talea. He opened the restaurant in 2011, with his brother as the chef. 

Gissinger's journey with distilling began in his basement, where he started experimenting with making his own alcohol.

The idea for his ambitious goal of making gin on all seven continents started to take shape after he embarked on a six-month trip along the Pan-American Highway, from Vancouver to Ushuaia, Argentina.

Interacting with different flavours, smells and flora as he travelled farther south, Gissinger felt inspired.

He imagined all the ways a regional flavour profile could be distilled into a single bottle of liquor and came up with the idea for Expedition Gin, a company that would produce a different bottle of gin for each of 25 countries.

"I treat gin like a perfume. Juniper is the base. Just change 10 grams of flowers or fruits in the recipe, and it tastes completely different. I also have a great love affair with cardamom," he said.

He told CBC's Daybreak that gin proved to be the obvious choice for such a project.

"The beauty of it is that I can use pretty much anything that is edible. It can come from food, flowers, plants, trees anything," he said. "It's endless actually what you can do with gin."

Baptiste Gissinger is on a mission to search out and distill unique flavours for his regional gins. (Submitted by Baptiste Gissinger)

Gissinger's plan is to partner with local distilleries in each region he visits to produce the unique gin.

His first product — his Canadian gin — was released in 2019, following travels in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Quebec. It was produced with wine makers Cassis, Monna & Filles, located on Île d'Orléans as a small batch of just over 700 bottles.

But in 2020, Gissinger's plans were interrupted by the pandemic, which made travel nearly impossible. 

He had to leave Guatamala where he was working on creating a gin flavoured with cardamom and guava.

In Mexico, he was also experimenting with creating a gin infused with crickets.

"Crickets taste a bit like hazelnuts when they are grilled," he said, adding that the crickets add a subtle flavour to the gin. 

But for now, his projects are on hold until international travel returns to normal.

Leaving South America, Gissinger returned to Quebec City in March to wait out the pandemic. But he remains optimistic about getting back to work when it's safe to do so.

Listen to Baptiste Gissinger on Daybreak:

My next guest is a former Montrealer who now lives a little all over the world. That’s because he’s behind a gin company that's trying to produce 25 different bottles of gin in 25 different countries. We speak to Baptiste Gissinger about how it's going and how the pandemic has affected his plan. 8:45

With files from CBC's Daybreak and Radio-Canada's Le goût des autres