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Gin is the current drinks craze in the UK. I’m glad for this as I’ve been drinking copious amounts of the stuff for over 30 years. In the 1980’s Gin was an acquired taste then and was mainly drunk by the middle and upper classes. Hence it had an air of sophistication about it. I was introduced to it by a friend who moved in classier circles than me. I started to drink Gin as my main drink on a night out for 3 reasons 1) I liked the taste 2) I thought it did make me appear sophisticated and 3) I learned I could tolerate large amounts of the stuff without the adverse effects that wine brought on.
History of Gin
Gin was claimed by many to have been invented in the 16th century in Leiden, Holland by Dr. Sylvius de Bouve, a Doctor who specialised in the Circulation of the body and was originally prescribed as medical treatment, thought to aid circulation. It was then known as Genever. This origin is heavily disputed. It was developed through a gradual coming together of both spirit and Juniper. There appears to be no doubt that the countries of origin were Holland and Belgium. The prospering distilleries of Holland distributed it to The Dutch East India Trading Company taking it across the world. When British and Dutch soldiers fought together small bottles of it were carried by them and drank before battles, coining the term ‘Dutch Courage’. The name change from Genever to Geneva and the really shortened to what it is today, Gin. It gradually made its way to the UK and an early mention of it was in the Jacobean era in Massingers play The Duke of Milan. Due in part to its low cost, it became the drink of choice. By 1750 over 11 million gallons were being consumed by Londoners annually. Eventually, a series of laws made it less commonly found, and by the mid-19th century gin came to be considered a gentleman’s drink.
In 1857 the British Crown took over the governance of India, and more Brits began to make their way to the Indian subcontinent and other warm-weather climes. However, early immigrants struggled with the ravages of malaria in the tropical climate. It was thought that the cure to ward off this illness was the gin and tonic.
Back in the day, tonic water was infused heavily with quinine, an extract from the South American cinchona tree. Known among the indigenous population as the “fever tree” because its bark was able to stop chills, cinchona bark was first brought to Europe in the 1640s when it was shown to cure and prevent malaria. Tonic water thus became an essential part of Britain’s colonialism, although its taste in those days was bitter and harsh. Brits soon found that the addition of gin, sugar, ice, and citrus was the perfect way to temper the bitterness and make the cure palatable. The use of Tonic as a cure for Malaria has been studied scientifically in recent years and found to be untrue. To imbibe the amount of Quinine required to ward off Malaria you would need to drink 67 litres per day!
It had a terrible reputation at one time as it was cheap and widely available. It caused a crisis and was seen as serious at the time as the drugs problem of today. It was even given as wages to some. Much of the gin was drunk by women, consequently the children were neglected, daughters were sold into prostitution, and wet nurses gave gin to babies to quieten them. This worked provided they were given a large enough dose! This led to the drink being known as Mother’s Ruin.
The current boom in Gin drinking, sales and distilleries was started by Sipsmiths in 2009. It has continued to grow in popularity and show’s no sign of abating. It is thought now to be the Nations number one spirit of choice overtaking Vodka. One factor in it’s rise in popularity is the cocktail revival and Gin is a key player here because of the fact that it’s usually consumed as part of a mixed drink and because it has a long and storied history in the cocktail world. Finally, gin’s inherent variety of flavors and relatively short production time make it a natural go-to for the small distilleries that have sprung up around the globe, practically overnight. When you come right down to it, gin is basically flavored or infused vodka — an un-aged grain spirit bolstered with herbs and spices. As there’s no aging period, distillers can produce gin and get it to market very quickly.
Current Personal Favourites
I will end with my current personal favourites – I say current because this rapidly changes due to the vast amount of products available!
1 – Bombay Sapphire, this used to be an expensive, luxury brand but is now often a bar’s house gin. I love this and it is probably my go to gin
2 – Whitney Neil Quince – I have only found this whilst on holiday in Northumberland and it is delicious. It has a very strong but pleasant citrussy taste. So different to all the others I have tried.
3 – Zymurgorium Sweet Violet Liqueur – This is stocked and served in Wetherspoons, I love this pub chain, and that is another post for another day! This is sweet and the taste is reminiscent of Palma Violet sweets, one of my childhood favourites. The big plus for this in my eyes is that it is a Manchester gin. Manchester is becoming a big manufacturer and distributor of gins from small, but growing, distilleries. I have to confess that as well as drinking with tonic I have been known to commit the cardinal sin of having it mixed with Lemonade! A really sweet experience. It is however only a liqueur and has a lower alcohol volume of only 18.5%, much lower than a traditional gin spirit.
4 – Gordons Premium Pink Distilled – No list would be complete without a mention for Gordon’s or a pink gin. Gordon’s used to be the most popular Gin around and was mine until Bombay Sapphire came along. There are many pink gin’s on the market but this is my favourite. Gin mixed with the flavours of strawberries, raspberries and redcurrants. I think it tastes mainly of Strawberries and is very enjoyable at any time of the day. Again, if you find tonic too bitter this is nice with lemonade!
5 – Ophir Oriental Spiced – This has a hint of citrus with a kick of oriental and peppery spices. Influenced by the fact that Gin spread around the world via the Spice Route. It is unusual and I once enjoyed it served with a garnish of a green chilli.
So there are my 5 current favourites but I must add I always enjoy anything from Aldi’s alcohol range and they have recently held a promotion called Gin Festival.
No discussion about gin can be complete without a discussion about it’s partner in Crime – Tonic water. In this case I’m a traditionalist and like long standing brands such as Schweppes and Britvic. Keep it simple – let the gin do the talking.
Do you have a favourite gin or is there one you’re bursting to tell the world about, including me. I’d love to hear your recommendations. Comment or email me
Also if you what to know more about me read my post about 10 Random Facts about me