There is no limit to the resourcefulness of mankind. Anybody who could look at a juniper bush and think: "Do you
know what, I think the fruit from that tree would make a great addition to an excellent liquor" just has to be some
kind of genius. Adding the juice to distilled grains has created Gin liquor, which is a beverage popular for
Distilled in column stills to create a very pure product, the result contains a minimum of congeners - a class
of compounds that adds not only off-flavors but also is often associated with hangovers. The liquor is often
combined with other botanicals beyond juniper, such as coriander and cinnamon. The subtle differences between
brands are a result of these secret recipes.
Though gin liquor is often associated with England, owing to the popularity of a type known as London Dry Gin,
credit goes to the Dutch for its invention, who created a type now called Genever. During the seventeenth century,
it was used chiefly as medicine. That 'excuse' may be a joke in old films, but it was a reality centuries ago.
Thankfully, civilization has evolved and we can now enjoy our liquors for the sheer joy of drinking.
Gin made its way to England with the ascension of William of Orange to the British throne. Not for nothing was
his campaign called the Glorious Revolution. He had the good sense to allow unlicensed production and the
popularity of the beverage rose, even as its style changed. Dutch gin is distilled from barley and is somewhat
nearer whiskey than the London Dry style, which evolved in the 19th century.
Later, that good sense was abandoned with the imposition of a gin tax in 1736. Riots soon followed. Gin drinkers
understand politics better than parliament, clearly. The politicians came to their senses six years later and
abolished the tax.
One difference today is that the London style, since it uses column stills, rather than the pot stills preferred
by the Dutch, tends to have a higher alcohol concentration. London Dry often reaches ninety percent proof or 45%
The other difference, and it is a significant one, is that in Holland Genever is aged in oak casks for up to
three years, much the same as whiskey. The result is a more full-bodied flavor. Interestingly, the most popular
brand in the U.S., Seagram's Extra Dry, is a combination of the two styles. It is aged in oak casks for three
months, where it becomes a pale straw color and a truly mellow drink.
Because the taste of dry gin is similar to vodka, with a very pure and alcohol-like mouth feel, it is often
combined with mixers. The popular gin and tonic was invented to mask the taste of quinine used to combat malaria in
India during the British colonial period, harking back to earlier practice. Nevertheless, a good gin-based drink
today has fine qualities that go far beyond the medicinal.
Bombay Sapphire, for instance, may have hints of almonds, liquorice or even lemon. Tanqueray, a newcomer to the
scene but winner of many awards since, uses a whole array of fruits to flavor the base liquid.
As the basic ingredient of a gin martini, this fine liquor has only one peer and that is vodka. However, those
who love a good martini can readily tell the difference. No country binds this combination of gin and white
vermouth. It is enjoyed the world over.
Whether preferred straight or in a cocktail, one thing remains the same, and that is the ingenuity that has
created fine liquor for the delight of every one.