Gin is a summertime favorite
Gin, that wonderful summertime drink, is a result of a varied and tumultuous history.
Over the course of a millennium, it has evolved from an herbal medicine to the delicious and unique beverage we know today.
Gin is widely distributed and produced by distilleries throughout the world, with styles and flavors that still revolve around its primary flavor-giving ingredient, juniper berry.
In the 11th century, Italian monks were flavoring distilled spirits with juniper berries. The concoction was thought to be a remedy for the Black Death.
Distillation evolved in the Renaissance Period, and juniper was very popular because of its perfume, flavor and purported medicinal properties.
In the 17th century, a Dutch physician, Dr. Sylvius, is credited with the invention of gin. It took off, and by the middle of the century, there were about 400 distillers in Amsterdam alone!
Much of what they made was sold to pharmacies to treat various ailments. But it was around that same time, during the 80 Years War, that English troops discovered gin. They noticed its calming effects before battle.
Gin also became popular in tropical British colonies, as it was used to mask the bitter flavor of quinine, then the only effective anti-malarial compound. Quinine was dissolved in carbonated water. Thus was born the classic gin and tonic! Because of the low cost, it became a favorite of the poor and started the Gin Craze in England.
The name gin is derived from either the French word genievre or the Dutch jenever. Both mean juniper.Though there are several different styles, two — London gin and Geneva gin — have gained the acceptance of the American consumer.
London gin, or simply dry gin, is obtained exclusively from alcohol of agricultural origin. The only flavoring is what can be found from re-distillation in traditional stills using only natural plant materials. It may not contain any artificial sweetening, colorants or any added ingredients other than water.
Geneva Gin — or Jenever — represents the earliest class of gin. It is evolved from malt wine spirits, and is distinctly different from later styles of gin. It is distilled at least partially from barley malt or other grains using a pot still and is sometimes aged in wood. This gives the gin a malty note and sometimes more resembles whiskey. It is typically lower in alcohol compared to dry gin.