I believe this is the most misunderstood spirit of them all. People that like it love it, and the rest can’t stand it.
I feel Gin is a lot like cilantro sometimes, especially when someone looks at me with that disgusted face and asks, “you like Gin?”
But what is it really? Why is it so different from other spirits? And how is it made?
According to the Webster Dictionary:
noun \ ˈjin
1 : “a colorless alcoholic beverage made from distilled or redistilled neutral grain spirits flavored with juniper berries and aromatics (such as anise and caraway seeds)”
The “invention” of Gin, dates back to somewhere in the 1500s, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that it became famous.
A spirit originated by the distillation of “malt wine”, which is basically distilled beer. So, someone made beer and thought “you know what would make this better? More alcohol. Let’s distill it!”. But the resulting product was too harsh, you know, tasted horrible. They then thought “wow this is bad, we can’t drink this. Let’s cut it with some strong flavored berries and herbs and distill it again”. Makes sense doesn’t it? And then they got a refreshing flavored beverage that got you really drunk, really quick and thought that was perfect!
Back then it was called Jenever, a corruption of the Dutch word jeneverbes, meaning juniper berries which is also the ingredient that gives it its characteristic aroma and flavor. When it was discovered by the English, the name was shortened to Gin for ease of reference.
Although it can be enjoyed by itself, gin is really a key ingredient in cocktails and many of the classics were built around it’s refreshing taste and complexity of aromas: Gin & Tonic, Gin & Juice, Martini, Negroni, Tom Collins and many others.
At your friendly neighborhood restaurant
In Ontario the most common “well brands” (house brands) are Beefeaters, Gordon’s or Hayman’s. Your common premium brands or “upsells” are Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Hendrix and Plymouth. All dry style gins, meaning not sweet.
Keep in mind though, as it happens with a few other beverages, Gin drinkers are usually faithful to their favorite brand. Mine is Tanqueray (regular, not the Ten), what’s yours?
I’m also known to have a Negroni every now and then, with an orange twist and a tiny dash of Angostura.