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in is a spirit that has polarized the world of liquor, despite its growth as a popular beverage for many cocktail drinkers. While more and more of our customers seem to be turning to gin cocktails, or even drinking it straight over ice, gin’s biggest advocates seem to be on the other side of the bar. Here is an introduction to the world of gin; its origin, its uses and the reasons we’re so fond of the stuff.
What is Gin?
One of the most attractive liquors due to its potential for flavor variation, gin is distilled in much the same way as vodka, the key difference being the addition of other flavors. All gins use juniper berries to add a coniferous taste and smell, but many gins make use of a variety of other herbs such as ginger, clove and many other botanicals; this is always the brewers choice, which is part of what makes each gin different from others.
The care that gin makers use to add the botanicals usually separates a subtle, pleasing gin with one that is cheap and overpowering. For example, many gin makers have their own methods of adding the flavor of the botanicals during distillation.
The most popular way to infuse the spirit is a steeping process that can last from an hour to a whole day, depending on the strength of the botanicals. Another method consists of suspending the botanicals over the heating liquid so that the essence of the herbs is steamed delicately into the liquor during distillation.
To what many gin makers consider to be the worst result, some lower quality gin brands actually add the flavor essences into the spirit, making for a gin that tastes harsh and unpalatable by itself.
The Origins of Gin
Gin, in its earliest form, was an invention of the Dutch during the early 17th Century. First sold as medicine, the addition of the juniper during the distillation process was so that the spirit was more drinkable. As the English armies came into Holland during the 30 Years War, they drank a local spirit referred to as “Dutch Courage”, which we now know as gin. The armies brought the spirit back to England where it became a favorite drink among the poor, who used leftover corn and barley to distill their own gin.
As gin was made more mainstream in England by William of Orange in the late 17th Century, its popularity grew. Over time, gin became more and more refined due to national alcohol regulation, and as such, became more popular in high society.
Different Gin Styles Model After the History
Early Dutch gin was malty and thicker, and this was what was brought over to the early English gin drinker. As it became more refined, it was made drier and the bouquet more distinguished, with more flavors added than just juniper.
Eventually, it evolved into the London dry gin that dominates the market today in the form of the most popular lines: Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater and Tanqueray being the most popular.
Older gins made in the heavier Dutch style include Genever (Dutch for juniper) and Old Tom.
There are a new wave of American gins, which generally have a citrus focus, and are primarily distilled by smaller, local, craft producers.
What Are Some of the Most Popular Gin Cocktails?
The most commonly observed and ordered gin cocktail in your average bar is a gin and tonic. Garnished with lime, many gin drinkers consider these drinks to be the pinnacle of refreshment among cocktails.
Also common are gin martinis. While it has become common to call vodka drinks and vodka “martinis” by the same name, among purists a martini must be gin, dry vermouth and an olive as a garnish.
A third popular gin drink is a gimlet, often considered a summer replacement for a martini. The gimlet is fairly simple to mix, at its simplest, it is made from lime juice and dry gin to the drinker’s preferred proportion. It is more refreshing than a basic martini, which is why it is drank more during the warmest times of the year.
Finally, one of our favorites, the Negroni. It consists of gin, sweet vermouth and a substance called Campari, the bitterness of which makes the Negroni an acquired taste among cocktail drinkers.
Which Types of Gin Do You Use in Cocktails?
The most popular gins by far are dry English varieties, so you’ll see these being used in nearly all gin cocktails. You can drink gin straight, and bars with old Dutch varieties usually over those straight over ice. This is because unlike standard gins, these have a malty sweetness to them that is best enjoyed straight up.
This is why the spirit is so loved by bartenders across the country. Since gin is like vodka with a pleasant flavor, many bartenders choose to make drinks traditionally crafted with vodka with gin instead, like bloody mary or a moscow mule. Ask us about substituting gin in some of your favorite cocktails and let’s see what we can put together.
Do you want to learn more about the world of gin? The best way is to simply taste test a wide variety. Before you start ordering gin cocktails, it’s usually a good idea to sample a variety of gins, starting with classic dry gin and then moving on to herb-infused varieties to find out what you like. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’d like to learn more from the experts, come on in. We have a variety of gins in different styles and we love talking about them!