Gin is a grain spirit flavoured with juniper berries and other botanicals (herbs and spices) nevertheless, gins differs widely depending on the recipe used. The name gin comes from the older English word genever, related to the French word genièvre and the Dutch word jenever. All ultimately derive from juniperus, the Latin for juniper, which is an evergreen shrub or small tree that bears berrylike cones, widely distributed throughout Eurasia and North America.

juniper berries

The earliest known written reference to genever appears in the 13th-century (Bruges), with the earliest printed recipe for genever dating from 16th-century (Antwerp). Gin has evolved from use in herbal medicine to an object of commerce in the spirits industry. Its invention is falsely credited to the physician Franciscus Sylvius.

By the middle of 17th century, many Dutch and Flemish distillers had spread the re-distillation of the spirit with juniper, anise, caraway, coriander and also was often flavoured with turpentine to generate resinous woody notes, this was produced as a medicine and sold in chemist shops. Furthermore, it was used like elixirs to treat bubonic plague and used to treat medical problems such as kidney diseases, lumbago, stomach illnesses, gallstones, and gout.

Gin emerged and spread to England after the British troops brought the recipe back home at the time of the Restoration. When William of Orange, ruler of the Dutch Republic, occupied the British throne with his wife Mary in what has become known as the Glorious Revolution.

Consequently, gin became very popular in England after the government allowed unlicensed gin production and at the same time established a heavy-duty on all imported spirits. As a result, gin drinking rose significantly and this created a market for poor-quality grain that was unfit for brewing beer, and thousands of gin-shops appeared all over England, a period known as the Gin Craze.

Besides gin was blamed for various social problems, and it may have been a factor in the higher death rates which stabilised London’s previously growing population. In the next picture, we can appreciate the reputation of the drink, which was illustrated by William Hogarth in his engravings Gin Lane (1751).

Gin Lane by William Hogarth


The fermentable base for this spirit may be derived from grain, grapes, potatoes, sugar cane, plain sugar, or any other material of agricultural origin. The fermentation of grain mash produces neutral alcohol (similar to vodka) that is predominately tasteless. There are plenty of botanicals or flavouring agents for gin, besides the juniper, often include citrus elements, such as lemon and bitter orange peel, as well as a mix of other spices, which may include anise, angelica root, orris root, licorice root, cinnamon, almond, lime peel, grapefruit peel, dragon eye, saffron, coriander, nutmeg or others.

The different combinations and concentrations of these botanicals in the distillation process cause the differences in taste among gin products. Many techniques to produce gin have evolved since its early origins, thus this evolution can be broadly separated into three basic styles:

  • Pot distilled gin represents the earliest style of gin, and it is traditionally produced by pot distilling a fermented grain mash (malt wine) from barley or other grains, then redistilling it with flavouring botanicals to extract the aromatic compounds. 
  • Column distilled gin, with the advent of the continuous still serious improvements of the production process appeared, which was now able to delicately refine alcohols into more pure forms.
  • Compound gin is made by simply flavouring neutral spirits with essences or other “natural flavourings” without redistillation, and it is not as highly regarded as distilled gin.

Types of gin

  • Genever, Jenever: can be made in only a few areas, the Netherlands, Belgium, and parts of Germany and France. It is produced by different grains such as barley, wheat, spelt and rye. During the fermentation process, juniper berries and other botanicals are added to the mash. This beverage still immensely popular in the Netherlands today. There are two types of jenever: oude (old) and jonge (young). This is not a matter of ageing, but of distilling techniques.
  • Old Tom Gin: used to refer to a style of gin popular in England in the 18th Century. It is traditionally featured by a cat on the bottle. Old Tom Gin is sweeter and less-botanical version of most gins found on the market today. It’s hard to imagine the world of mixology without Old Tom gin. The spirit is essential for numerous classics cocktails.
  • London Dry Gin: the modern style of gin, which has dominated since the late 19th Century. London gin may not contain added sweetening, no colourants, no any added ingredients other than water. It is composed of various species of grains and generally, column distilled and it is not a region-specific product.
  • Plymouth Gin: Similar to London dry gin, although said to be slightly sweeter and the subject of protected geographical indication status, meaning it can be made only in Plymouth.
  • Sloe Gin: A liqueur made from gin and infusing sloes (the fruit of the blackthorn), although modern versions are most of the time compounded from neutral spirits and flavourings. Similar infusions are possible with other fruits.

Since 2009 the second Saturday in June has been designated as World Gin Day

Notable brands

  • Aviation American Gin
  • Beefeater
  • BOLS
  • Bombay Sapphire
  • Cork Dry Gin
  • Gilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin
  • Gordon’s
  • Hayman’s Old Tom
  • Hendrick’s Gin
  • Konig’s Westphalian Gin
  • Nicholson’s
  • Plymouth
  • Pickering’s
  • Sacred Microdistillery
  • Sipsmith
  • Smeets
  • Tanqueray

Classic gin cocktails:

  • Gibson
  • Gimlet
  • Gin and tonic
  • Gin Fizz
  • Martini
  • Negroni
  • Pimm’s Cup
  • Pink Gin
  • Singapore Sling
  • Tom Collins
  • Vesper
  • White Lady





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s