Oh hello! I will gladly start with a new series which involves some tell-all, educating, fun and light-hearted posts about some of my favourites spirits of all! One of my resolutions for this year was that want to become more fluent in the language of alcohol, however sappy or irresponsible that may sound: it’s a quest I take very seriously. I’d like to take you on this journey with me, you know… for those moments you find yourself in a bar and start wondering where it came from or what it is you’re actually drinking. Even if you don’t drink, don’t worry I won’t try to convert you, but there are some dandy tales to discover in the world of spirits and booze that I gladly like to discover and share.
“So why gin?” I hear you ask, dear reader. Well, simply put: I am a gin & tonic kind of person and I have got to start somewhere! (And sure, it’s the Royal Wedding today — hip hip!) Before we begin, I would like to give you a heads up: I am not an alcoholic! Even if they all say that, I don’t hold my liquor very well. But me, oh my! I do so thoroughly enjoy the craftsmanship, the tastes and the intriguing origins. I like a good story, while in good company, sipping on a good, heart-warming drink — and still wanting to remember the night later on. So here are a few of the facts I’ve learned about gin during my time… all of which you can find online on more reliable websites for sure! Cheers, eh!
From its earliest origins in the Middle Ages, gin has evolved from a herbal medicine to an object of commerce in the spirits industry. Gin was developed based on the older Dutch liquor called jenever. Which became popular in London when William of Orange, the then leader of the Dutch Republic, occupied the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones with his wife Mary. Jenever is the Dutch word for juniper (jeneverbes being juniper berry). A lot has changed since then. Nowadays gin is one of the broadest categories of spirits, all of various origins, styles, and flavour profiles that revolve around juniper as a common ingredient.
What is considered gin?
Now that you know this, also keep the following in mind: jenever is NOT gin. I now know there are people would disagree. Some would like to believe that it is the Dutch or Belgian version of gin, but no. I’ve learned that it is not the same. I won’t elaborate too much about the specifics, other people have done that way better. A short explanation though: jenever (or genever) is not made using the same process as gin, it does not carry the same taste of gin and it will alter the taste of your cocktail noticeably if you were to use jenever instead of gin.
But still, gin does come in various forms. Of which there are 3 main styles: London Dry Gin, Old Tom Gin and Plymouth Gin. Of which the first is the most universally known, think Bombay Sapphire, Gordon’s, Beefeater. You’ll usually have a London Dry Gin when you opt for these. But there’s also a thing called Scottish Gin, and that’s where my beloved Hendrick’s come in.
Taste & Ingredients
While all of these are called gin, contain juniper berries, and are — quite frankly — all very fine and dandy, they still are all very different. Saying you don’t like gin is basically saying you don’t like sauce in general. There are some various regulations and restrictions on gin (different in for example the European Union or the United States). But all gin uses juniper as its main ingredient. After that, however, there are very few limitations to the hundreds of ingredients a distillery can use. Some gins have as few as three or four botanical flavours, while the Scottish gin ‘Botanist’ has 31! The flavours in gin range from cucumber and rose (Hendrick’s) to lavender (Aviation) to lemongrass and black pepper (Bombay Sapphire East). No two gins are alike, making the spirit very diverse in flavour.
And here we are, at the most important part of this little session. You see, you don’t really want to drink gin straight, on the rocks or whatever. No, Gin is meant to be mixed! The botanicals come to life in cocktails and add complexity to your drink. This is why so many classic cocktails call for gin. As a matter of fact, I’ve been told there are more classic cocktails made with gin than with any other spirit! Think about the Negroni, Martini, Tom Collins, Bee’s Knees and the glorious Gin & Tonic.
My last little fun fact for you: there’s an actual difference between a gin and tonic and a gin tonic. A gin and tonic (also known as: “a cheeky lil’ G&T”) is a British thing, served in a highball or rocks glass. A gin tonic is a Spanish thing, served in a balloon glass. However, nowadays not all people seem to not be all purist about these things… so things get mixed up very easily in those hip establishments all yer hipsters frequent and all kinds of glassware is used. But oh well, I live and learn, eh?