Gin historians have discovered that juniper-based health tonics were first mentioned in the 1269 Dutch book Der Naturen Bioemementions by Jacob van Maerlant te Damme.
In 1575, Lucas Bulsius changed his family name to Bols, moved to Amsterdam, and set up his own jenever distillery. It was a favorite drink among the British troops who were in the Netherlands for the Dutch War of Independence (1567–1609). They gave it a nickname: Dutch Courage. In 1600, Bols had earned a reputation and was a preferred supplier to the powerful Dutch East India Company. This gave him first dibs on spices and herbs to make his jenever. Jenever was mentioned in a 1623 English play called The Duke of Milan. Hundreds of small Dutch gin distilleries were in operation by the mid-1600s.
Pietr Blower, a Dutch émigré (self-exiled) made a special recipe of jenever in Barbados. He brought distillery equipment and cane seedlings from Brazil in 1637.
In 1672, William of Orange (from Holland) became the King of England. William heavily influenced the widespread manufacture of gin in England by taxing imported spirits and then allowed anyone to produce gin without a license, which led to distillers using unclean water and toxic, inferior ingredients. Gin was the cheapest drink in town and began to be blamed for a rise in crime, social issues, accidents, and many deaths. London became a slum of crime filled with drunkards. All of this led to the “Gin Craze,” “Gin Lane,” the “Gin Act of 1736,” and the “Gin Act of 1751.” In 1721, one-quarter of London is used for the production and sale of gin. Nearly two million gallons are produced.
Between 1825 and 1829, the first lavish London gin palaces opened with opulent style. Charles Dickens wrote about them in 1836, calling them “perfectly dazzling when contrasted with the darkness and dirt we have just left.”
In 1862, American bartender and author Jerry Thomas published the first known gin Martini recipe, called Martinez, in the first known cocktail book. The gin listed for the Martini was Old Tom. In 1888, New Orleans bar owner Charles Ramos created the city’s most popular gin cocktail, the Ramos Gin Fizz. It also called for Old Tom gin.
During American Prohibition (1920–1933) mobsters made a gin-like hooch by infusing bootlegged moonshine with dried juniper berries, and by the 1940s, gin was revamped into a glamorous spirit with the help of Hollywood movie stars and films.
Top Things About Gin
Holland made genever (also spelled jenever), and this is what the English tried to replicate.
Technically, one can say that gin was the first flavored vodka.
Gin was given to Dutch soldiers with the nickname “Dutch Courage.”
William of Orange brought genever from Holland to England.
Many herbs and botanicals are used in gin, but the juniper berry imparts the predominant flavor.
England’s first commercial gin was called Old Tom. It was a sweet gin much like genever.
In the 1700s, the English were allowed to make gin without a license.
Gin can be made anywhere in the world.
Gin was the original base spirit used in the Martini. The Martini glass image is the most iconic cocktail culture symbol worldwide. Other popular gin cocktails include Tom Collins, Singapore Sling, Negroni, Ramos Gin Fizz, Gimlet, and Monkey Gland.
Types of Gin
Gin can be made anywhere in the world, but the prominent countries that produce it include the United States, Japan, France, Spain, Sweden, Canada, Scotland, and Germany, as does the continent of Africa. There are four categories of gin: Genever, London Dry (or just Dry), Plymouth, and New Western.
Genever was the first invented in Holland. It has a sweet, malty taste. Genevers break down into four more categories: Oude, jonge, korenwijn, and graajenever. Oude and jonge can only be made and sold in Holland and Belgium.
Click here to view a genever presentation on SlideShare.
London Dry (Dry)
Most people think of this when gin is mentioned. Popular brands are Bombay, Beefeater, and Tanqueray. The taste is clean and dry and mixes well in cocktails.
This category is for gin produced in Plymouth, England. Today, the city only produces one gin and its name is Plymouth. It tastes aromatic, earthy, and fruity.
These new gins hit the market around the start of the New Millennium. Most of them would fall into the category of “dry,” and the juniper seems to be on the back end instead of the front end. Examples include Hendrick’s, Aviation American, and Martin Miller’s.
Fun Gin Facts
Gin is just vodka after its first distilling. The herbs and botanicals are added during the second distilling. It is fair to say that gin is flavored vodka.
Almost zero juniper is cultivated; it is mostly picked in the wild.
Today, the Philippines consumes more gin than any country in the world (25 million annual cases).
The most famous Martini quote is by American poet and writer Dorothy Parker: “I like to have a Martini, two at the very most; three, I’m under the table, four I’m under my host!”
The most expensive gin is Watenshi at $2,500 a bottle. The bottles are filled with the evaporation (Angel’s Share). It takes one hundred distillations to fill one bottle.
On February 11, 2016, the largest gin tasting event involved 796 participants, achieved by The New World Trading Company across the UK. There were nine bars that participated.
In 2018, Snoop Dog made the largest Gin & Juice for the Guinness World Record.
I put out a seasonal/winter 2019 Aviation American Gin menu at the Bourbon O Jazz Bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Photo from Aviationgin.com