Gin, the juniper-flavoured elixir, has long held a place of prominence in the world of liquor. With its aromatic botanicals and refreshing taste, it has become a favourite choice for countless cocktail enthusiasts. But have you ever wondered about the origins and evolution of this beloved beverage? It actually started out as medicine! To learn more, join us on a journey through time as we explore the fascinating history of gin and how it has transformed from a medicinal marvel to a spirited sensation.
Gin’s early days
When was gin first founded? The story of gin begins in the 17th century in the Netherlands, where Dutch chemists first experimented with distilling spirits with juniper berries.
Most historians attribute the first gin to a professor at the University of Leiden in Holland, who first distilled the berries to create medicine. At the time, juniper berries were believed to possess diuretic properties that aid in treatment of various illnesses.
The Dutch term for juniper is “jenever,” which is why we now call this spirit as gin.
The British gin craze
Okay, so gin started out in the Netherlands. But how did gin become known worldwide? Gin’s popularity soared when it made its way across the English Channel to Britain. In the 18th century, a period known as the “Gin Craze” swept through the streets of London, with gin becoming the drink of choice for all social classes.
However, this era also witnessed the darker side of gin consumption. The excessive consumption of gin lead to social problems and a decline in public order. In response to this, the government imposed regulations and taxes, sparking a wave of illicit gin production in hidden distilleries.
Reinvention: the London Dry Gin
As the 19th century rolled around, gin underwent a transformation with the rise of the London Dry Gin. this new style of gin was lighter, crisper, and less sweet than its predecessors. It showcased flavours of botanicals like coriander, angelica, and citrus peels.
With the London Dry variety, gin went from a medicinal tonic to a sophisticated drink. The invention of the Coffey still in the early 19th century also revolutionised gin production, enabling higher quality products thanks to more consistent distillation.
Prohibition and the rise of craft gin
In the early 20th century, the United States experienced a period known as the Prohibition, where the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages were banned.
You may be thinking, how did gin survive the prohibition era? Although this period of time initially led to a decline in gin consumption, it also sparked a wave of creativity. Enterprising individuals set up clandestine distilleries, producing small-batch, high-quality for a select clientele.
These craft gins are often made using traditional techniques and unique botanical combinations. They laid the foundation for the modern craft gin movement as we see today.
The gin renaissance
In recent years, gin has experienced a remarkable resurgence, with a global renaissance taking place. Gin bars and distilleries have sprung up in cities around the world, offering an array of unique and innovative creations. Craft distillers experiment with locally sourced botanicals, infusing their gins with regional flavours and giving birth to a diverse range of styles, from fruity and floral gins to barrel-aged and spiced variations.
Gin’s versatility as a cocktail ingredient has also contributed to its popularity. From the classic Martini to the refreshing Gin and Tonic, mixologists and home bartenders alike have embraced gin as a staple spirit for crafting imaginative cocktails. Its botanical complexities allows it to be paired with a wide range of flavours, resulting in an endless array of cocktail possibilities.
Today, gin stands as a symbol of craftsmanship and innovation, appealing to both traditionalists and adventurous spirits. Whether you prefer a classic London Dry Gin or enjoy exploring the world of craft gins, there’s no denying that gin’s rich history and dynamic flavours continue to captivate drinkers around the globe.