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7 Things You Didn’t Know About Gin

Thursday, February 11 2016 3:00 PM

Last week we discussed the history of the martini so I felt it only a natural transition to discuss the spirit that made it all possible—gin. This week we are going to highlight a few interesting facts that you might not know about this classic spirit.

  1. Gin is vodka…well really, a botanical vodka. Gin starts life as a neutral grain spirit made from wheat, rye or a variety of other grains (rye being the most traditional way of making vodka) which is then distilled with anywhere from five to thirty-five different kinds of botanicals, with juniper berries as the main ingredient in most gins.

  2. Gin comes from Holland. Most people believe gin is credited to England, however, it wasn’t until the Thirty Years’ War (1618 to 1648) that the English first experienced the spirit. Furthermore, it was almost another 50 years before the English successfully constructed the spirit.

  3. There are four main expressions of gin in the world. The oldest and hardest to find is Genever, which is traditional Dutch-style gin. Genever, unlike other varieties of gin, is made from a base of malt grains, making it darker, sweeter and more similar to an herbal whiskey than a gin. The most common expression is London Dry Gin, a style that ranges from Brokers to Bombay. A third type, which has recently made a resurgence to the gin market, is Old Tom Gin. Sometimes referred to as the “missing link,” it is sweeter than a London Dry Gin but dryer than a Dutch Genever. The fourth kind is “New American” or “International Gin” which is a broad category given to gins produced with botanicals other than juniper to create its main flavor profile. Hendricks would be an example of this style; it is made from rose water and cucumber.

  4. England had a prohibition on gin. In the 1690s, gin began to rival beer in London, which had up until this point been the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage. In the 1730s, the gin craze hit, which saw a massive rise in consumption of the spirit with an equivalent to two pints of gin per Londoner per week. Shortly thereafter, the drinking of gin was regarded as the primary cause of crime by religious and political officials. In 1751, the English Parliament began passing a series of licenses and taxations on producers, vendors and consumers called the Gin Act of 1751. As a result, an underground style of gin arose and came to be known as Old Tom Gin.

  5. The Old Tom style of gin derived its name from the slang term for a black cat or a “tom cat”. During the gin prohibition, you could purchase Old Tom Gin from outside pubs with either a sign of a black cat or of a black cat’s paw. Because it was not regulated or taxed by the government, it was often made in these pubs as well. Patrons would locate the slot underneath the sign, slip in their money and wait for the Old Tom Gin to be poured through a lead tube from inside the pub.

  6. The correct way to drink a gin and tonic is with a lemon. Since most gins have lemon peel in them, the lime that we view as traditional in America tends to fight the botanicals and make the drink more astringent, whereas lemon tends to be very smooth and stay in the flavor profile of the cocktail while helping to add another level of complexity. However, arguments have been made on behalf of the lime and the orange (orange peel also being fairly common on the botanical lists of gins) in creating a good cocktail by contrasting the taste and scent of the garnish against the botanicals of the gin. If you are a gin connoisseur, you should inform your bartender of your citrus preference.

  7. Gin is and has always been the most popular spirit in cocktails. There are more classic and modern cocktails with gin than any other spirit.

I implore you to remember that saying you don’t like gin is like saying you don’t like pizza. Each one has its own unique blend of ingredients making up its own very different signature flavor. With summer just around the corner, I hope this article well inspire you to try something different.

Pierpont's Gins

Previous: The History of the Martini Next: Legend of a Mule

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