Gin has an interesting history that not a lot of people know about , and because there is not a slew of cocktails you can make from it other than your martinis , pink lady , and having it with tonic I thought perhaps a discussion on how gin got started and the different types of gin available would be insightful for a post. So here it goes…..
Credit for the discovery of gin goes to Holland and a Dutch pharmacist named Franciscus de la Boe who was a professor at the University of Leyden in Holland. Knowing that juniper berries had a diuretic value that was able to flush out someone’s urine system so that the kidneys and bladder could remain healthy , he concocted a medicinal tonic combining extract from the berry and grain spirit calling it genievere which was French for juniper. Later on the British anglicized the word and called it genever. All this took place in the mid 1600’s during which time gin became so popular it became known as Dutch courage when the 30 years’ war took place and the Brit soldiers would drink some before going into battle.
It appears it became so popular that the British were walking around in a stupor because it was cheap and plentiful. Even the pharmacists of the day would sell some terrible versions of it in medicine bottles and call it colic water or gripe water.
It became so bad the consumption of gin that finally in 1751 the Tippling Act forbade grocery stores , jailkeepers , and owners of workhouses from selling the stuff. Only people licensed could sell the gin which reduced the consumption of it significantly.
As professional distillers entered the fray and began to make great improvements in Gin there became 3 main spheres of production within England. That being Plymouth , Bristol , and London.
During the 1880’s Americans began making gin based mixed drinks. Then in the 1920’s cocktails featuring gin came into fashion.
In dry gin you may find some or all of the following ; juniper berries , cardamon , cinammon , coriander , angelica , oranges , lemons , cassia bark , orris roots , and liquorice. Each distillery has it’s own recipe which is the reason for different brand names having their own unique taste.
Dry gin is the best for making with cocktails as it has a flavour that does not overpower the other ingredients as opposed to Dutch gin which has a noticeable malty aroma and taste.
If you have ever tried De Kuyper Gin or Genever gin in that green bottle you will know what I mean. It is highly aromatic and the taste is one you have to like or hate. There is no in between. Some Dutch gin unlike dry gin is even aged in oak to make it in my opinion even more undrinkable. One thing is certain the popularity of the Dutch gin has long since passed so much so that for many years in every bar I have worked have not found a bottle of it anywhere. The last time I saw one was a private english club I worked in during the mid 80’s. But perhaps over the Atlantic in the UK there still exist many in the pubs located everywhere.
Some different gins out there include the following.
Sloe Gin – sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn steeped in gin with some sugar syrup and almonds added to it. Reminds me of a drink called a Sloe Gin Fizz which I have never made.
Fruit Gins – in the Netherlands some gins are flavoured with lemon , orange , or blackcurrant which have a certain crowd it caters to.
London Gin – this is the one that most people drink both in England and North America.
Plymouth Gin – this gin can only be made in Black Friars Distillery in Plymouth England. It is heavy with Juniper berries and is the standard gin used in the Pink Gin cocktail which is a shot of gin and a few drops of angostura bitters in it to colour it. At that club I mentioned above where I worked I served this one.
German Gin – Heavily flavoured similar to Dutch gin a brand name familiar to most is Steinhager.
Old Tom Gin – made in Scotland it is a sweetened london gin made by adding glycerine or sugar syrup to the finished product.
Dutch gin – as described above it is heavy and pungent to the taste because of the quantity of malt used in the distillation process.
My favourite gin drink of all time , you ask?
Why the Pink Lady of course.
1 oz Dry Gin
3 oz 10% Cream
Dash of Grenadine
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake it.
Strain in sour glass and garnish with a cherry.
Serve with a straw.
Until next week…… Have a safe one.