The Generation of Gin
It was invented by the Dutch, refined by the English and standard rations for the officers of the Royal Navy. Fun facts about one of our favourite summer spirits.
Gin traces its origins to a Dutch spirit called jenever, the Dutch word for juniper. It supposedly boosted the bravery of soldiers in the 17th century Anglo-Dutch wars and became popular in England when a Dutchman, William of Orange became the English king.
The Essential Berry
Gin can’t be called gin unless its primary flavour comes from juniper berries. But modern gins get their taste from a range of other botanicals as well.
You can make your own gin by soaking juniper berries and other spices (think coriander, citrus, liquorice root, cardamom) in any neutral spirit, like vodka. That’s different from distilled gin, where the flavours are added during the distilling process.
London gin doesn’t necessarily come from London. It’s a distinctive dry style of gin that can’t contain any artificial flavours or colours and must have less than 0.1 grams of sugar per litre.
Privilege of Rank
While sailors in the Royal Navy received a daily ration of rum, officers were issued with gin. It was mixed with lime juice to prevent scurvy, the original Gimlet.
The G & T was invented during the British Raj in India, when troops took quinine powder to fight malaria. They mixed it with sugar and soda water to counteract the bitter taste and topped up this “tonic” with gin. Perhaps Winston Churchill was referring to these medicinal qualities when he said “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives and minds than all the doctors in the Empire”.
The Original Martini
For purists, a martini is gin and dry vermouth. As to the amount of vermouth, most say less is more. According to English composer and actor, Noel Coward, “A perfect martini should be made by filling a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy”.