Oscar Martin: DJ turned gin distiller

08 Feb 2024
Since the summer of 2015, Oscar Martin and his three partners have produced a handcrafted gin known as Turicum, the only spirit that’s distilled within Zurich city limits. Today they produce 2,500 bottles per month in their small distillery in Albisrieden. Zurich In Your Pocket asked Oscar about his favourite bars and restaurants in Zurich, what he loves most about the city and also what annoys him.

Oscar, before we talk about Zurich, we have one question about your company. How did you get the crazy idea of producing gin?
Well, believe it or not, it was actually a drunken idea over a few gin tonics. I worked regularly as a DJ in a bar where Merlin and Oliver, two of the other founders, worked as barkeepers. And at the end of our shifts we often sat down together and talked about everything under the sun. Soon we realised we share a passion for gin. One day they told me that they actually went to the UK recently to visit some gin distilleries and that they even did a workshop on how to distill gin. Full of enthusiasm, we decided that producing a local gin would be a cool thing and that we should sit down together soon… After a few months, we actually sat together and they showed me some gin samples they had made. I loved it and so we decided to actually realise our drunken idea. Once we started, it all went pretty quick: only half a year later, we bottled our first gin.

Wow. So Zurich is a good environment to realise such drunken ideas?
It wasn’t easy, especially with all those regulations required by the authorities. But Zurich people like local products and are also willing to pay for it, if the quality is high.

So what makes Zurich unique in your opinion? What do you miss when you’re not in Zurich?
The best thing about Zurich is its small size: it’s a culturally diverse city, but it’s tight, everything is always within reach. In Zurich I can go from one club to the next by bike within five minutes! That’s also why I think the different scenes mix better here than in other cities. You’ll see alternative people sitting at ease next to bankers. And Zurich is really safe. It’s very unlikely that you’ll face any problems, even if you walk drunk down Langstrasse at six in the morning.

And does anything annoy you about Zurich?
Many Zurich people are real know-it-alls, and they like to complain. That’s something I really don’t like. If, for example, a new bar opens, you’ll find people that diss the place from the first minute if everything isn’t perfect from the start. In other Swiss cities I find people are much more relaxed. If people would be a bit more chilled out, Zurich would be perfect.

What are your favourite restaurants then?
One of my all-time favourites is Tre Fratelli in Wipkingen. It’s a little off the beaten track but serves excellent food and has a lovely garden, a really nice place. I also like the Rosso next to Hardbrücke station for Italian cuisine. Or the recently opened Co Chin Chin, with its original Vietnamese fare. And where do you go for drinks and wild parties? One of the bars I like best is Baltho in Niederdorf. They have a good choice of spirits, drinks and cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere. But I like to go to many different places. I like, for example, the bar at Bebek for its location in the gallery above the restaurant. Or Kaufleuten Terrasse in summer. For cocktails Old Crow in the old town or Tales are a safe bet. You asked if I still go clubbing? They say I’m too old for that, but I still go anyway. At Zukunft and Frieda’s Büxe I usually like the electronic sounds and the crowd. At Plaza they also have a regular programme that attracts not only youngsters, but a crowd my age.

How do you fight a hangover after a party night?
Ha, I try not to get one in the first place. But yes, it happens, and honestly, I don’t have a recipe to fight it really. Actually it’s best to cure it at my parents. When my mother cooks a strong soup for me, that definitely helps. And when I’m really hungover, I just stay home to cure it. It’s probably the only time, when I really stay at home.

What does your typical weekend look like?
I don’t really have a prototypical weekend, but if I have time I like to relax at the river or the lake, for example, at Wipkinger Park. I’m often in District 5 around Escher Wyss Platz. I have family and friends there. Or I go with a bunch of relatives, a portable grill and some drinks, gin, of course, and some ice cubes to the meadow at the lake at Rentenanstalt (Arboretum) to enjoy the day.

Last question, Oscar. Zurich is a really expensive city, especially for foreigners. Do you have any tips on how to have a great time without spending a lot of money?
You can get one of the best deals in the city at India Street Food take away at Langstrasse 114. They sell huge portions of delicious and all-fresh kottu roti for only 12Sfr. For drinks, the cheapest is to buy your own and hang out on one of the squares or at the lake. Sechseläutenplatz at Bellevue with its metal chairs is a good choice. They also sell chilled white wine with cups at the subterranean grocery store at Globus just off the square. Get one, hunt for some chairs on the square and enjoy your day.


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