Gin has been the drink of choice for statesmen, soldiers, WASPs and even the working class. It has a colorful and dramatic history, which rivals that of any other alcohol. And that’s not to mention the fact that the spirit is once again in vogue and a favorite of mixologists around the world.
While the origins of the clear liquor are somewhat debatable, several hundred years ago someone, most likely in Holland or Belgium, began to infuse alcohol with juniper berries and a variety of other botanicals. (This spirit was arguably the first flavored vodka.) Gin is still made this way today, and each brand has its own recipe and techniques for infusing the alcohol. While all gin has some juniper flavor, the other botanicals can include a wide array of herbs, vegetables, flowers, fruits, spices and even tea.
While gin is now a good seller, it was wildly popular in England in the 18th century. By 1720, an estimated 25 percent of all London households produced or sold gin. Fast-forward to the dark days of Prohibition, and gin was once again highly sought-after. The spirit could be made easily and quickly, even in a bathtub. The botanicals also helped to make rough alcohol somewhat more palatable.
Much of the gin sold today, including Beefeater, is the so-called “London dry” style. But there are actually several other varieties, including Plymouth and old Tom, as well as the malty Dutch gin cousin genever, which has just recently been reintroduced to the American market.
HOW TO DRINK GIN:
It’s hard to imagine the world of mixology without gin. The spirit is essential for numerous classics. While there are just too many gin drinks to list here, we did have to include at least one reference to the Martini and the Gin & Tonic. Gin’s complex flavor also works very well with citrus and, of course, with both dry and sweet vermouths.
NOTEWORTHY GIN BRANDS:
Aviation, Beefeater, Bluecoat, Bols, Bombay Sapphire, Boodles, Bulldog, Death’s Door, DH Krahn, Hayman’s, Hendrick’s, Junipero, Martin Miller’s, No. 209, Plymouth, Right, Tanqueray
Learn all about even more types of liquor in our Spirits 101 stories on absinthe, bourbon, cognac, Irish whiskey, rum, rye whiskey, Scotch, tequila and vodka.