So what is “Gin” anyway? Bizarrely, it’s only gin because of one particular ingredient… Juniper. Without Juniper as a botanical, the spirit would just be a flavoured vodka. To be called a “Gin”, Juniper must be the predominant flavour, but a huge array of botanicals are used to give the many different brands of gin their distinct flavours.
Gin as we know it today stems from “Jenever”, a Dutch spirit made with Juniper berries and usually aged in casks. Originally it was used as a medicinal tonic, but developed over time into a recreational drink, and exploded as an industry when it was brought to Britain by the Dutch in the 17th century.
The British government allowed gin to be distilled without a licence around that time, and as a result Gin became more popular than beer with over half of all the drinking shops in London serving mostly gin.
In tropical British colonies, Gin was used to mask the flavour of quinine, which was the only effective anti-malarial at the time. Quinine is now the main flavour of Tonic water, so we can thank the colonies for the humble origins of the G&T!
The legal definition of Gin is simply a juniper-flavoured spirit made from adding natural flavourings to a neutral spirit of “agricultural origins”. “Distilled gin” is made by redistilling ethyl alcohol from agricultural origin in the presence of juniper and other botanicals. The difference between distilled gin and standard gin, is simply when the botanicals are introduced to the process.
“London Dry Gin” must contain only natural ingredients, and only a very small amount of sugar. No additional flavourings or colourings may be added after the distillation process. Other “Gins” may be flavoured after the distillation, and are often called “Compound gins” to distinguish them from others.
“Old Tom Gin” is often referred to as the missing link between Dutch style Genever (or Jenever) and London Gin. It uses a recipe including sugar in the redistillation and often different botanicals to result in a sweeter product, although Junpier must still be predominant.
Our Gin Martini/Martinez kit contains a bottle of London Dry and a bottle of Old Tom from our friends at Jensen’s Bermondsey Distillery, and they’re so popular we’ve not stopped selling them since we first released the kit in June 2014! You can buy yours here.
I think it’s time for a G&T…then maybe a Martini…