What is Gin?
Gin has been rising to mainstream popularity for the last 20 years at an alarming rate & the G&T has become almost more popular than the vodka soda(JOKE). It has become SO mainstream that a 'flavoured' Gin is considered the new 'flavoured vodka'. Whilst bartenders have moved on to other trendy spirit genres such as Mezcal, Amaro & Fermentation like hipsters in a vintage store the mighty juniper spirit that is Gin has finally reached new levels of mainstream success. In the UK, the home of modern Gin, the sales of the product reached 2 billion pounds for the first time ever. This is also considering that total UK market for spirits is 11 billion that means every 1 in 5 bottles sold is Gin!
But what is Gin? Why is it relevant & where did it come from?
AT THE BEGINNING OF TIME
Gin's core ingredient traces its root back to 70AD. At that time, a physician named Pedanius Dioscorides published a five-volume encyclopaedia about herbal medicine. “Within his papers is a detailed description of the use of juniper berries steeped in wine to combat chest ailments,” Ford says. “In 1055, the Benedictine Monks of Solerno, Italy included a recipe for tonic wine infused with juniper berries in their ‘Compendium Solernita.’”
Fast-forward to the 16th century, when the Dutch began producing a spirit called “genever.” It essentially consisted of a malt wine base and a healthy amount of juniper berries to mask its harsh flavor. It was, of course, a “medicinal” liquid like its predecessors. By the 1700s, it had taken on a new form: gin.
“The first known written use of the word ‘gin’ appears in a 1714 book called ‘The Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices, Publick Benefits’ by Bernard Mandeville,” and “He wrote: ‘The infamous liquor, the name of which deriv’d from Juniper-Berries in Dutch, is now, by frequent use… shrunk into a Monosyllable, intoxicating Gin.’
THE GIN CRAZE
The late 1600s were pivotal for the upswing of gin in England, and not in a good way. William III of England, a Dutchman originally known as William of Orange became King of England, Ireland, and Scotland in 1689. “He began his reign by implementing trade-war and protectionist-style economic tactics against France that might make some modern politicians jealous,” and “He enforced blockades and introduced heavy taxes on French wine and Cognac in an attempt to weaken their economy.”
At the same time, William III instituted The Corn Laws in England. These decrees provided tax breaks on spirits production, resulting in what Ford calls “a distilling free-for-all.”
“This led to a period in England that is often dubbed the ‘Gin Craze,’ a period where a pint of gin was cheaper than a pint of beer,” Simon Ford of Ford's Gin says. Sound like a dream? Sure. But with it came a new set of problems. England’s poorest people began drinking more gin less responsibly (a futile lack of social mobility can do that to a person). Meanwhile, royalty and high society sipped tamely as more of a fashion statement than an emotional or psychological release.