Gin is one of the most popular distillates of the western world, and was invented, Gunlike other liquors, as a medicine by Dr. Sylvius (Franz de la Böe) in the Netherlands in 1650. The good professor was trying to create a diuretic and knew about the water-extracting qualities of juniper berries and alcohol. He reasoned that if he combined both, the synergy would surpass the efficacy of each individually. Thus was created Genever (the French call it genievre) and the English, as usual, corrupted the word to gin.
In the 17th century when gin was invented, doctors prescribed it in small doses as medicine. At the time England and The Netherlands had excel- lent trade relations and the Royal navy ships paid frequent visits to Dutch harbors, where English sailors “discovered” the “power” of gin. Quantities imbibed increased in short order, and soon Genever was available in London. English entrepreneurs were quick to realize the financial opportuni- ties of the newly discovered potent beverage and thus zealous- ly embarked upon its production. In the process they decided to tone down the juniper flavour and make it smoother. At first it was q u i t e s w e e t a n d c a l e d O l d T o m ’s Gin. Over time, “London dry gin” was formulated. It was produced from barley, hops and juniper berries in sufficiently large quan- tities to reduce the cost. The low price (gin was cheaper than beer prior to 1729) and potency of gin encouraged excessive consump- tion, especially by the poor and destitute, creating huge social p r o b l e m s .
London gin is dry with barely perceptible botanicals, whereas Plymouth gin, produced only by one distiller (Coates) has more pronounced flavors. Dutch gin, still pop- ularly known as Genever, displays distinct juniper berry
flavors, and more often than not is aged, which English gins are not.
Gin can be pro- duced anywhere with alcohol and botanicals, which consist of, depending on the dis- t i l l e r, juniper berries, oris root, angelica, orange and lemon peel, coriander seeds, fennel, c a r a w a y, almond and licorice. Every distill- ery has a different for- mula that appeals to a certain market segment. Alcohol is redistilled in combination with botanicals. On occa- sion, gin is distilled twice, it is then called Double Distilled. Some distillers pass alcohol steam over botanicals claiming a smoother product, and yet others just add botanicals to alcohol thus cutting costs and also lowering qual-
i t y.
Some distillers age gin for up to six months, but usually it
is bottled immediately after distillation. English gin must con- tain at least 35 percent alcohol by volume and may go as high as 45 percent. Dutch gin, on the other hand, can go as low as 30 percent but mostly it is marketed at 40 percent strength ABV.
A well-made gin is crystal clear and displays a fine viscos- ity. It must smell pleasantly of juniper berries, and have smooth body with a clean finish.
Many gin consumers like to mix it with a little tonic water, others swear by martini cocktails, the strength of which varies according to preference. New gin cocktails are invented almost daily and marketed as novelties. Most disappear as quickly but some become classics as is the case with martini, gin gimlet, and gin and tonic.
Gin, being dry, has few unpleasant consequences such as hangovers following a night of excess. Some brands are world famous and represented well in all alcohol-consuming coun- tries. The following are old and well established brands: Beefeater (the only London Dry Gin still made in London), , Polo Club, Tanqueray, Tanqueray No. 10, Bombay Sapphire, Boodles, Borzoi, Plymouth (all from Britain), Genever (from The Netherlands). In the USA there are many popularly priced, local brands that compete with imported English products such as Gilbey’s, and Gordon’s London Dry Gin.
In Canada and the U.S., G o r d o n ’ s is d i s t i l l e d u n d e r license, H. Walker, Corby and others also market a number of brands.
Larrios, a Spanish distiller is well known in European mar- kets. Germans favor their version of gin, called schnapps, mostly used with beer as a chaser. It has a very faint juniper berry aroma and few botanicals.
Sloe gin is not gin at all, but a liqueur.