Focus On: Gin

What is Gin?

A spirit drink flavoured with juniper berries. Legally, it should be a minimum 37.5% ABV and taste predominantly of juniper.

Distilled Gin

A juniper-flavoured spirit drink produced by redistilling spirit in the presence of juniper, in a traditional gin still.

Illustration of Distilled Gin components

London Dry Gin

A distilled gin whose flavour only comes from the distillation of natural botanicals.

Illustration of London Dry Gin components
  1. 17th Century

    William of Orange relaxes laws on domestic spirits, opening the floodgates for poor-quality gins.

  2. 18th Century

    The effect of these spirits is documented in Hogath's Gin Lane, and the government introduces strict distilling laws.

  3. 19th Century

    The gin and tonic is invented, with tonic's quinine and lime used to ward off malaria and scurvy in British troops.

  4. 20th Century

    After a long period of being unfashionable, gin is given a renaissance thanks to brands such as Bombay Sapphire, Hendrick's and Sipsmith.

  5. 21st Century

    Gin is once again one of the world's most popular drinks, with an ever-increasing variety of styles and number of distilleries.

Styles of Gin

Jenever: Invented in the Netherlands and the ancestor of modern gin, a blend of malt-wine (a whisky-like liquid distilled from rye, corn and wheat), neutral spirit and botanicals. Old Tom: A style created in the 18th century when distillers sweetened gin with sugar or liquorice to hide the poor quality of the spirit. Sloe: The countryman's gin – although it's technically a liqueur. Made by steeping sloe berries and sugar in gin for several months. Plymouth: A distinctive, earthier style of gin now made only at the Plymouth Gin Distillery in the port city of the same name. Popular with the navy! London Dry: This normally has prominent juniper and citrus notes, accompanied by earthier root tones. Despite the name, it doesn't have to be made in London. Infused: Gins infused with botanicals after distillation – everything from grapefruit, rhubarb and quince to Yorkshire Tea and Christmas pudding… American: Lighter and less juniper-heavy than London Dry gins and often focusing on a wider range of botanicals. Made in the US, unsurprisingly. Grape-based: As old as grain-based gin, and now often produced by wineries. Tends to be smoother and softer, and the botanicals interact with the spirit in a different way. New Wave: An amorphous term used to encompass artisan gins that experiment with flavour – everything from Hendrick's to Nikka. Navy Strength: Gin with a high alcohol content, normally around 57% – based on the required strength, historically, for gin supplied to the British Navy. Barrel Aged: Gin aged in both new barrels and those that had previously contained other spirits, for added complexity, colour and flavour. Gin Liqueurs: Sweet drinks made with a base of gin, often by the distilleries themselves. The most common type of gin liqueur is fruit flavoured.

Common Botanicals

  • Juniper

    Bittersweet, with notes of pine, pepper and fruit. The best berries come from Tuscany or Macedonia.

  • Angelica Root

    Musky, nutty, woody and herbaceous. The root, which is often dried, is thought to be best when sourced from Saxony, Germany.

  • Citrus Peel

    Fresh, citrusy and juicy. Peels, most commonly of Spanish lemons and/or oranges, are used because they contain the flavoursome oils.

  • Orris Root

    Bitter, with powdery, earthy and perfumed notes. Orris root, the bulb of the iris plant, has to be aged at least two years before use.

  • Coriander Seeds

    Adds citrus, ginger and herbal elements. Coriander seeds are sourced from Morocco, Romania, Russia, Moldavia and Bulgaria, and vary by region.

  • Cassia Bark

    Notes of cinnamon and mint. Cassia is a relative of cinnamon (with a similar look) which is mostly sourced from Vietnam, China and Madagascar.

  • Cinnamon

    Spicy and dry. This is commonly sourced from Sri Lanka, and like cassia is a tree bark rolled into quills.

  • Cardamom

    Spicy, citrusy and minty, with hints of honey. Cardamom is a black seed derived from a plant grown in south-west India.

Tonics

  • Classic

    Pairs with most gin

  • Mediterranean

    Best with citrusy and herbal gin

  • lemon

    Gives a refreshing counterpoint to sweet gin

  • Elderflower

    Adds more depth to floral gin

  • Aromatic

    A robust match for juniper-forward gin

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