Gin Times

Gin was officially invented in the 1600’s, although Italians had been flavoring some of their simple distilled beverages with juniper berries since the 11th century. A Dutch physician, Franciscus Silvius, is said to have actually “invented” the beverage. Like so many other distilled liquors, gin was originally conceived for medicinal purposes.
Dr. Silvius brewed his curative to combat such sicknesses as gout and stomach troubles. Soon many Dutch pharmacists were mixing up batches of this “miracle” flavored with exotic spices like caraway, coriander, and anise. During the Eighty Year’s War, the English noticed the effects of this curative and investigated further. This momentous day was the start of both a very long relationship between the English and their gin and also where the phrase “Dutch courage” was born.

By the middle of the 17th century, gin was in fashion in England. Steadily growing in popularity, “The Gin Craze” during the first part of the 18th might be known as the beverage’s “heyday.” At first, the government was encouraging the outrageous consumption with heavy taxation on all imported spirits and allowing unlicensed production of gin locally. However, moral outrage over the obviously huge increase in drunkenness, especially among the poor, led to the government’s complete change of attitude towards the middle of the same century.

The original Gin Act of 1736, with high taxes on retailers, was met with anger and riots. Over the rest of the century, the government was slowly able to take back control of the gin industry and regulate it so the constituents were not basically drinking poison, albeit highly addictive poison.

As was mentioned earlier in the article, gin is a distilled alcohol. Gin is made primarily of grains. This grain is allowed to ferment for a time and then the “mash” that is produced is put into a still. Heat is applied to the still and the alcohol dissolves into a vapor. As this vapor rises, it passes through a sort of basket filled with the spices and berries that are unique to each brand’s recipe. These “flavored fumes” are not allowed to escape; instead, they are collected. As the vapor cools down, the gas condenses back into a liquid. A liquid with a much higher alcohol percentage.

While grain and juniper berries are two of the defining ingredients that make gin, every brand has its own recipe of spices and plants used to produce the particular flavor of their own gin. Coriander, anise, and cassis are very common ingredients as well. Some gins have odd flavorings such as cucumbers, rose petals, and citrus.

Today, people are not as likely to just wander into a bar to guzzle gin as they were two hundred years ago, but gin still mixes some of the most classic cocktails. The martini, the classiest of cocktails, is just a splash of vermouth and an olive to accent the gin. Another example is the gin and tonic. This is simply gin and tonic water over ice with a twist of lemon. Finally, a drink that has seen a surge in population the last few years, the gimlet, simply gin and lime juice.

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Bartender's top tip

Bitters can add depth and complexity to your cocktails, acting like the "spices" of the drink world. A few dashes can transform a simple drink into something far more sophisticated. Experiment with different brands and flavors of bitters, ranging from the classic Angostura to more exotic options like orange, chocolate, or celery bitters.

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