A neutral spirit flavored with juniper and other “botanicals” like coriander, orris root, cassia bark, and marketing. Speaking of, my first true love was the emerald bottle of Tanqueray that sits in every bar. (ProTip: If your spirit of choice is in every bar...you can always get your drink at any location…) For cocktails, go London Dry. This is a rather dense category of spirit and also the original flavored vodka. Really quick let's break this down. The Dutch lay claim to it. The English improved it. We continue to drink it today.
Please sit tight. I have to give you some of this history. There will not be a test.
Quick and Dirty Gin History
As far back as it goes: Juniper has been used medicinally.
13th Century: Present day Northern Belgium. Jenever is being made and is basically a juniper infused brandy. Malt wine that tasted bad so they covered it with juniper.
1568-1648: Dutch War of Independence. "Dutch Courage". English catch on to the boozy juniper stuff.
1572: First liquor stores known as Strong Water Shops in England are selling a Juniper Distillate. Prof. Sylvius De Bouve is credited with creating Genever. A neutral spirit flavored with juniper malt wine.
1575: Bols Distillery established in Amsterdam making Genever with a pot still and mostly corn and rye and tons of malted barley.
1689: King William III of England bans French imports. No brandy. English are thirsty and turn to Genever and pot distilled gin.
1750: Sale of Spirits Act of 1750 bans gin distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants. Took out small gin operations and made production at home way too expensive with ridiculous taxes. Let large distillers take control. Brought tea on the scene and beer drinking in England.
1806: First written definition of a cocktail May 13 in The Balance and Columbian Repository a publication out of Hudson, New York.
1813: The Column Still or Continuous still or the Coffey still (1831) is patented. Turns out when you run Genever through a Column still you lose a lot of the maltiness and are left with clean gin.
1830: Old Tom Gin, a sweetened style, becomes popular to hide how bad the rectified spirit was out of the new stills.
1840: British in India are using 700 tons of cinchona bark to make tonic to prevent malaria because they don't drink coffee.
1850: Plymouth Gin Established. "Navy Strength" (57% abv / 114 proof)
1863: Phylloxera hits the French vineyards. Absinthe and gin take over.
1867: Gin and Citrus required on every Royal Navy ship to prevent scurvy. "Limey."
1870: Schweppes Indian Tonic Water created to hide the taste of quinine
1970: Black Tot Day bans alcoholic rations to British sailors.
2012: Scofflaw opens in Chicago.
5pm Today: I think I'll have a martini.
For consistency go with Gordons. They have been making the same gin for ages and the price can't be beat. For a fun local Chicago fling keep Letherbee around. My personal favorite go-to for a martini out or at the house is without a doubt Plymouth (not the Navy strength). I also like to keep a bottle of Beefeater as a standby and a bottle of Tanq chilled and ready if my mother in law is in town: “Luke, could you make me a gin please?”
“Nothing is more destructive, either in regard to the health or the vigilance and industry of the poor, than the infamous liquor, the name of which, derived from Juniper in Dutch…shrunk into a monosyllable, intoxicating Gin” -Bernard Mandeville
Gin is my favorite,
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