Gin was first created in the early 17th century.  It was known as Jenever or Genever.  It was a rough distillate used to as a medicine to treat stomach pains, gout and gallstones.  Since it didn’t taste too appetizing, it was flavored with Juniper berries.  In the 11th century, Italian Monks did almost come upon gin when they were trying to cure the bubonic plague.  They tried to use crude spirits flavored with juniper as a medicine.

As with most things, the taste for gin expanded during the 80 Years War when Dutch and English soldiers were fighting together.  The English soldiers saw the Dutch drinking gin before going into battle and they called this “Dutch Courage”.  Eventually the soldiers brought the idea of distilling gin back to England, thus sparking London Dry Gin.

King Charles I created the Worshipful Company of Distillers back in England because he loved gin so much.  By doing so, gin became more refined, both in image and quality rather than the crude spirit it originally was.  He also helped agriculture by buying the excess corn and barley from farmers to produce better gin.  Eventually gin would also be included in workers wages as part of their weekly pay.  One other way that gin really took off in England was due to Malaria.  To mask the flavor of quinine, which was the believed remedy for the disease, gin was added.  Hence the gin and tonic…..the rest is delicious history.

As the distillation goes, gin is distilled twice.  The first distillation is usually a crude form of a neutral spirit.  The second form refines the spirit and juniper berries and other botanicals are usually filtered through to add more complex flavoring.  A fun fact regarding Juniper berries, is that most distilleries, if not all use berries from Italy.

There are two styles of gin today; London Dry and Dutch.

London Dry Gin is a predominantly juniper based gin with citrus and spice notes.  Aside from juniper berry being the main ingredient there can also be angelica root, coriander seed, orange peel, lemon peel, grapefruit peel, anise, cinnamon, savory, saffron and cassia bark.  London gin is also column distilled.

Dutch Gin is also known as Genever or Jenever.  This was the first style of gin created and it evolved from malt wine spirits.  The spirit is distilled with barley malt in pot stills and are sometimes aged in wood.  When you smell both styles of gin you can immediately tell the difference which is which.

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Tom Collins

~ by myamericandram on January 29, 2011.

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