The rumble in the jungle started a long time ago. But like anything else, it takes a long time to realise the beating of drums was really the clinking of ice cubes. Why is gin suddenly so cool? Well actually it’s always been cool.
That minx of a colonial cocktail, gin and tonic (or in some cultures, simply gintonic as one word), climbed to some heady heights a few years back and lifted itself off the bottom shelf at the bottle shop, to occupy entire shop fronts in some instances.
Contrary to popular belief that gin originated from Britain, the real truth is, it is the Dutch that have given us this delicious thirst-quenching tipple.
A Dutch physician, Franciscus Sylvius used it for medicinal purposes (so do we) as far back as 1550. The English first got their hands on the spirit while fighting in Holland against the Spanish in the Thirty Years War using it to calm their nerves before a battle and to warm them up (so do we). Hence the term “Dutch courage”.
The “botanicals” as they are known, are the flavours added to gin to give it such a distinctive character. The base of gin, is essentially a pure spirit – rather like vodka.
The additives were often chosen to prevent disease, such as the lime or lemon to prevent scurvy or the angostura bitters added to prevent seasickness and the tonic water has quinine in it, which is anti-malarial. At a time when water was not entirely drinkable in the 1800’s gin got the bad rap of being called “Mother’s ruin” as it was used to kill bad bugs in the water.
All gins use juniper as its main ingredient. After that there are few limits to the hundreds of ingredients a distillery can use.
These flavours can range from cucumber to rose to lavender and lemongrass.
Because no two gins are alike, the spirit is so diverse and exciting for budding bartenders and creators of cocktails at home.
It could be argued that gin comprises more nuance than any other spirit, that you can encapsulate any botanical flavour through the process of distillation. And therefore, quite simply, that gin is better than any other spirit