It can be a little bit spicy, a little bit dry, a little bit citrusy — or sometimes, it’s all of the above. Gin is a widely popular liquor of choice. While it was once seen as a tonic for any or all medical ailments, it’s now a staple in most liquor cabinets and bars.
It is the essence of a Martini, a Tom Collins, and a Negroni. It is sometimes called Mother’s Ruin, Dutch Courage, or even Kill-Grief. It is a delicious type of alcohol when prepared the right way. From its history to how it’s made to how to enjoy it today, here is your ultimate guide to gin.
Are you a rum lover instead? Read our Ultimate Guide to Rum!
As with most kinds of alcohol, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when and where humans first decided to make this juniper-infused spirit. But most historians say it probably occurred either in Holland or Belgium.
However, it wasn’t always known as “gin.” Prior to this well-known name, it was called genever (or jenever), and the first known recipe made its appearance in the 16th century. By the 17th century, genever was making its way across Holland — but not in the form of Negronis or Martinis. The Dutch were actually using genever for their health, as a cure for stomach pains, gout, and gallstones.
When the Dutch invaded England in 1688, they brought genever with them, which the British began calling “gin.” A combination of deregulated distilling laws and taxes on imported spirits made the demand for domestic spirits high. As a result, anyone and everyone began making gin — but usually flavored with turpentine instead of juniper. In short, it was barely drinkable.
Not long after, Parliament passed the Gin Act of 1763, which placed heavy taxes on gin. Needless to say, people were unhappy — especially those who couldn’t afford the new price of gin. In 1751, the government passed new laws that relieved some of this gin-related financial strain. In turn, the quality of gin improved (and so did the moods of many gin drinkers).
Nowadays, gin tastes vastly different than it once did. While it used to be primarily made in pot stills, which make the gin taste rough and funky, it’s now made in column stills. This incredibly efficient distillation system actually changed liquor production across the board, besides helping us enjoy the gin we know and love today.
There are three main ways of making gin. They all produce very different flavors, despite the fact that they all end up being called gin.
Simple and efficient, the compound method is something you can do at home. It only requires a neutral spirit (like vodka), some juniper berries, and a few other botanicals (like coriander seeds, saffron, citrus peels, grains of paradise, or angelica root).
Pour your spirit in a jar, add in the botanicals, and screw the lid on very tightly. Then, leave it alone for at least a week, if not two.
After a couple of weeks, strain out the solids, and what’s left is gin! Keep in mind, the quality of your base spirit profoundly impacts the final product, so it’s worth forking over a little extra cash for a good quality vodka.
During pot distillation, neutral grain spirit is made in a pot still (a large copper apparatus that looks a bit like a genie’s lamp). Then, the liquor is distilled a second time, but this time with the juniper and other aromatics.
With pot distillation, you can expect heavier, fuller-bodied gin, which resembles the original Dutch style much more closely.
Most recreational drinkers have only experienced column-distilled gin. However, if you’re an avid gin drinker, you may enjoy this smooth, crisp, and refined gin that comes with delicate aromatic qualities.
During column distilling, aromatics are usually suspended above the liquid. This means that vapors are actually infused, not the liquid itself. Then, the gin is diluted. This is because it comes off the column still between 145 and 150 proof. Most distillers lower it to 80 to 100 before bottling it.
Not many people order gin straight-up. However, some gin enthusiasts make the argument that gin not only can, but should, be enjoyed neat or over ice. If you love gin that much, grab a Prestige Haus Classic Rocks Glass or a Diamond Shaped Rocks Glass, and get sipping.
However, gin is normally enjoyed in the form of a cocktail — even if some of those “cocktails” are really just straight gin with a garnish. Here are a few go-to gin cocktails.
This classic cocktail is the best way to enjoy the flavors of gin. It’s clean and pristine — and it’s really nothing more than gin, vermouth, and a garnish.
To make a martini, you’ll need:
It’s refreshing, it’s bubbly, and it kept soldiers going in the early 19th century. The gin and tonic is delicious in the summer during a backyard barbecue, but it’s also a great go-to year-round.
To make a gin and tonic, you’ll need:
Similar to a gin and tonic, but without the intensity of the tonic water, a Tom Collins is a simple mix that is sweet, sippable, and sensational.
To make a Tom Collins, you’ll need:
With the right cocktail — and the right gin — you’re sure to find a way to enjoy this delicious liquor. Fortunately for us, it’s developed a lot from the original version. Now, its spicy, smooth taste will leave you satisfied and refreshed.
Which gin cocktail will you try tonight?
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