In essence, gin is pretty much a flavoured vodka! The only real difference between the two categories is the predominant flavour and aroma of the juniper. In both, you start with a neutral spirit at 96% alcohol by volume (ABV) that has been derived from an agricultural source like grain. With the gin, you then rectify or compound this spirit with a series of flavours (botanicals), in such a way that the predominant flavour present is the juniper. Gin must, by law, then be bottled at a minimum abv of 37.5%.
Gin has a huge amount of very interesting history surrounding its development and climb to such a widely consumed and loved spirit. Gin originates from the Dutch spirit Geneve, which literally translates as Juniper. This was a distilled malt wine that had been flavoured with Juniper, amongst other herbs and spices. First references of the spirit date back to the 13th century, with the first major contact for the British with Geneve being during the 80 year war. British troops fought alongside the Dutch, who were all drinking Geneve before battle, thus giving rise to the term Dutch Courage!
Although ‘Gin’ is said to have been invented around 1650 by Dr. Franciscus Sylvius in the Netherlands, this still would have been classed as Genever not gin as we know it. The date that Genever was re-written and Gin came to be is a little hazy, but the first written reference of the actual word Gin was in 1714 in The Fable of the Bees, by Bernard Mandeville. In the book, it appears that the ‘Gin-Shops’ were already rife and that Gin had become a part of the fabric of culture at the time.
Gin has now become so popular in part due to the addition of tonic to create the British classic 'G&T'. The origins of this date back to around 1870 when British troops were stationed in India. The quinine in tonic was derived from the bark of the cinchona tree and was believed to have anti-malarial properties. The tonic was extremely bitter and rather foul-tasting so sugar was added to sweeten it and gin was added to make it more palatable. The citrus addition followed further down the line, but the G&T was here to stay! A reason for this is that the bitterness from the quinine combined with a little sugar and citrus in the tonic work incredibly well with the juniper dryness and botanical spice from a traditional gin. When served chilled with the correct garnish, it’s a really refreshing drink. It’s also very readily available and so consumers have adopted it as an easy (and delicious) serve that they can enjoy at home!
So that concludes the lesson for today! If you have any more questions on our Cotswolds Dry Gin (released this September!), how to serve it or what the final recipe will be, don't hesitate to get in touch! Follow me on Twitter @AlexJFDavies or email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Written by Cotswolds Distillery Head Distiller, Alex Davies.