Inspiration Gin-spiration is all around us, especially June 9 for World Gin Day. The next 24 hours are filled with visions of juniper berries dancing in our heads. And while you pretty much either love or hate this herbaceously charged spirit, we’ve got a few cases to make for it.
But first, a little walk down the road of gin’s rickety history, if you will.
Imagine the Netherlands, circa middle ages – yeah, we know, doesn’t sound like a slice of paradise, but bear with us. In the midst of the bubonic plague striking Europe, treating disease with medicinal herbs, spices and spirits was all physicians at the time knew to do. They began distilling a spirit called genever from malt wine and then flavored it with juniper berries (the slight pine and delicate fruit flavor helped ease the harshness of the crude alcohol). After the plague and into the Renaissance, genever grew in popularity because of its healing properties – plus, it was cleaner than 99% of water everywhere at the time.
About 400 years later, in Antwerp, Belgium, English soldiers discovered the sip takes the edge off a long day of fighting in the 80 Years War. They brought it back to London and English distillers began making ‘gin,’ a word they shortened from the Dutch ‘genever’ for juniper berry.
The gin win for Britain was huge. From King William III adoring the funds it channeled to his beloved bloody wars to the winter gingerbread festivals on the frozen Thames River, Brits had quite a few reasons to partake in the fun of gin. Ultimately, it lead to an explosion of moral demise that triggered the Gin Act of 1751. That's right, in its 500 years of existence, gin went from healing elixir to demonized poison.
After a period of quiet popularity, the gin craze became mainstream. The early 1800s brought the gin & tonic; the late 1860s brought the gimlet; the 1880s brought the martini. Today, the classic-cocktail revival ushered in a new wave of gin adoration and we’re along for the ride.
Which leads us back to the reasons you should enjoy some gin today.
- It’s having a resurgence, which means producers are at an all-time high of quality.
- It mixes well with others.
From Pickering’s, to Dingle, to a local gin from St. Petersburg, distillers are incorporating some seriously fresh ingredients (these gins are all made with locally-farmed herbs and spices). All these nuanced methods in the gin’s production mean that the flavor isn't typical. It really shouldn't stand alone or else it would be misunderstood. Allow us to explain:
Just as you wouldn’t eat salt alone, gin really isn't meant for sipping neat. It's best served mixed with either juices, sodas, simple syrups and mixers.
There are so many amazing offerings worldwide - from Scotland to Canada, USA to Italy. Gin has a version from many more countries other than England. Find one with the botanicals that pique your palate and don't miss the tips for how to drink them.
If you think you've may have missed the gin experience the way it was designed, try these tips for maximum gin enjoyment:
- Gin goes really well with fizzy mixers and tonics. But make sure the mixer is cold. Since gin is teeming with botanicals, its easily “bruised” and must be handled with care.
- Find the dominant flavor of your gin and compliment it. A minty, piney gin doesn’t need more herbaceous character. Balance it out with some citrus and honey.
- Gin is a prime spirit to muddle. It breaks open the organic components in the liquid to release a new level of vibrancy.
Let the drinking beGIN! Ok, sorry, we had to. But seriously, cheers to gin.