5 Things You Didn’t Know About Gin
What are some things you didn’t know about gin?
- It is the most widely used spirit for cocktails
- Gin has a ‘loose’ definition
- Gin can be considered ‘flavored vodka’
- The Netherlands made it first
- It was used for medicinal purposes
Gin is one of the most popular local liquors and spirits in the world. Ever since it was created in the 1600s, it has become a staple in all bars, giving birth to the countless cocktails and drinks that you’ve come to know and love. However, there are many things you might’ve not known about this clear colored spirit.
If you consider yourself a gin connoisseur or a liquor enthusiast in general, here are some interesting bits of information about gin that you will surely appreciate.
It is one of the most widely used spirits for cocktails
Gin and tonic might be your go-to drink on a given night out, but did you know that gin is one of the most widely used spirits for cocktails? There’s a reason why it isn’t consumed in the same manner as tequila and jaeger (shots) or whiskey and rum (neat or on the rocks).
This is primarily because of the gin’s fragrant nature. The spirit is made with many botanical components such as herbs, spices, and fruits. It’s not frowned upon to drink gin on its own, but it can be considered ‘crude’ or wasteful because you fail to take advantage of gin’s best qualities. The number of officially recognized cocktails made with gin outnumbers most other spirits.
Here are some of the most common gin-based cocktails:
- Gin & Tonic (gin + tonic water)
- Classic Martini (gin + dry vermouth, preferably “shaken not stirred”)
- The Gimlet (gin + lime juice and a little bit of simple syrup. Use lime cordial as an alternative to lime juice)
- The Negroni (gin + sweet vermouth and campari)
- Singapore Sling (gin + citrus, cherry brandy, and soda)
Gin has a ‘loose’ definition
When it comes to alcohol, specific types of hard liquor and spirits have accompanying manufacturing processes that contribute to their definition and general identity.
For example, whiskey, despite its many different subtypes and classifications, has some unifying characteristics. For liquor to be considered ‘whiskey’ it has to be: made using fermented grains (wheat, rye, corn, or barley), distilled and aged in wooden barrels (preferably oak). Then, you factor in specific locations and their own spin on the whole whiskey-making process, you have Irish whiskey, Kentucky bourbon, and so on and so forth.
Going back to the subject of gin — instead of being defined by its manufacturing process or country of origin, it is defined by its flavor. Gin has to taste ‘predominantly’ like Juniper. The only problem with that qualification is that taste is subjective. Compounded by the fact that there is no governing body that strictly regulates the ‘gin-ness’ of a given gin product, it makes the definition loose. What you consider to be gin might not be known as gin to other people.
While gin must have a somewhat strong juniper flavor, distillers and gin-makers are free to add any other botanical component to their recipe to achieve a target taste. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see citrus, spices, and nuts make their way into gin recipes.
Gin can be considered ‘flavored vodka’
Some people consider gin to be ‘flavored vodka’. While not derogatory in any way, gin is most certainly not just vodka with some flavor. Although, there are some similarities.
Both initially start out as flavorless distilled spirits made from any given fermented ingredient. This is where the similarities end as vodka continues to stay flavorless and neutral until it is bottled and sold. Gin gets an extra infusion of Juniper flavor thanks to the additional aromatics that are added to the different stages of its production, whether it’s in the distillation, re-distillation or compounding. When gin is made by compounding, a neutral base spirit is mixed with juniper berry flavoring. This is why it may come off as just some flavored vodka.
If you are a liquor enthusiast or if you want to really see the difference, try drinking actual flavored vodka and gin. Compare the feel, taste, and other qualities. That should give you a better idea of their characteristics.
The Netherlands made it first
While it is one of the most popular drinks with Filipinos and is the national spirit of the English, the Dutch were the first people to invent the clear booze. “Jenever” was invented by Franciscus Sylvius during the 16th century for medicinal purposes. The high-proof mixture was believed to improve circulation and treat other ailments. During the Dutch Independence War of the 17th century against England, Dutch soldiers drank jenever to boost morale, which is why it was referred to as “Dutch courage”.
It was at this moment in time where it was discovered by the English who then brought the spirit back to England. Only after 150 years of continuous study and refinement will the famous “London-style” gin be born.
It was used for medicinal purposes
As alluded to above, gin was used for medicinal purposes before becoming the liquor we know and love today.
Back when sailing the seas was the popular method of traveling to other countries, sailors were often worried about getting scurvy. Pirates are often labeled as ‘scurvy’ and there is a legitimate reason for that. Scurvy is a disease that results from vitamin C deficiency. Since access to nutritious food rich in vitamins is pretty much out of the question while sailing for a long period of time, sailors mixed lime juice with gin to make a drink that was not only rich in vitamin C but also improved morale and circulation. Little did those sailors know that they concocted the very first version of the gimlet cocktail.
Sailors who traveled to the tropics were also at risk of contracting malaria. Tonic water containing ‘quinine’, a medicine made to combat malaria, was often prescribed to traveling sailors. The only problem with drinking that version of tonic water was that quinine is extremely bitter which makes it rough on the palate. It is for this reason gin was mixed to make for a slightly better experience. Many people consider this to be the origins of the gin and tonic mix many people love. Who would’ve known sailors were the first gin bartenders?
As you’ve read above, there are many interesting things about gin that many people aren’t aware of. Next time you order or fix your favorite gin mix, remember to keep in mind all the historical information and facts in a bid to make your drinking experience all the more enjoyable.
Meanwhile, if you’re not too familiar with the wonderful drink and would like to explore the world of gin drinking — click here to browse for a particular brand of gin you would like to try. As always, drink responsibly!