I cannot believe that it is four years since I wrote here about gin. That was an article titled DISCOVER HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR FESTIVE SEASON GIN. I thought it would be worth a re-visit and write about what you might not know about gin.
For starters, gin isn’t just juniper, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what we mightn’t know about it. I previously introduced you to our own Green Acres Gin (Green Acres Irish Gin – the Story), so I hope not to be repeating myself too much here.
Gin, as we know it, has its roots in war. Dutch soldiers were drinking genever—a more malt-forward juniper-flavoured spirit, during their fight for independence from Spain.
By the way, just because it is juniper-dominated, don’t go thinking of genever as Dutch gin, and do not use it as a substitute for gin. Although both spirits are accented by juniper, they are very different animals.
Why? Because gin is created by mixing a neutral spirit base with a blend of botanicals, predominantly juniper. There is a completely different base ingredient in genever - malt wine (distilled from rye, corn, and wheat), which is more like a bourbon or light scotch blend. It has a whiskey-like base.
Gin and London – the Origin
17th century English soldiers fighting in the Thirty Years War in the Netherlands apparently called genever ‘Dutch Courage’ because it helped to steel them before battle, amongst other things.
The soldiers who survived brought the drink back to England - and it developed into what we know as gin.
I don’t intend to go into the full history of the development of gin in England but, suffice it to say, that King William III of England and Ireland (who was Dutch), played a major role.
Now, in the 21st century, gin is an exciting and innovative drink – quality has risen, and the choice is huge. There’s only one certainty, given the incredible history of gin in the past: there will be more change ahead.
Gin and Tonic
The origin of the Gin & Tonic arose from an anti-malarial cocktail. As such, the tonic came first.
British soldiers stationed in India had to take quinine, derived from cinchona bark. Known among the indigenous population as the “fever tree” because its bark was able to stop chills etc. The cinchona bark was first brought to Europe in the 1640s when it was shown to cure and prevent malaria.
To mask the powerful flavour of the quinine, the British soldiers would add gin, lime juice, and sugar. Tonic water thus became an essential part of Britain’s colonialism.
What exactly is gin?
Here’s what the current legal definition of gin in the E.U. states - globally, the definitions are also very similar:
- Gin must be a neutral spirit distilled from something natural like wheat, barley, potatoes, or grapes.
- The flavours of a gin come from its botanicals (that’s the herbs, seeds, flowers, plants, or spices added during production), and, crucially, all gins must contain juniper; in fact, the predominant flavour must be of juniper, otherwise the drink can’t be defined as gin, by law.
- There must be at least 37.5% of pure alcohol in the total volume of liquid (that’s the ‘A.B.V’ you can see on the label).
- Within the overarching category, there are three traditional types of gin: London Dry, Plymouth Gin, and Old Tom gin. However, some modern, innovative flavoured gins no longer fall into any of these categories!
Flavoured gin, gin liqueurs and sloe gin are all different from traditional gin in a few significant ways. (The alcohol content and production process are like those of traditional gin, but the long-established, common botanicals take more of a back seat to stronger flavours of fruits, spices and berries).
These flavoured gins, due to their high sugar content, (relatively) low alcoholic volume and lack of predominantly juniper flavour, in fact, qualify as gin liqueurs, or something else entirely.
A gin liqueur will usually differ from gin in these ways:
- Has a high concentration of added sugar, leading to a much sweeter, syrupy taste and texture than gin
- Has an ABV of 20-30%
- Does not have juniper as its main flavour
- Has not been produced according to the legal definition of gin
Confusingly, sloe gin is actually a gin liqueur, despite its name!
What Food Can You Pair with Gin?
There are some dishes that work particularly well with gin - especially served simply as a G&T. The secret is in the botanicals.
G&T with afternoon tea? Especially if your tastes run more toward savoury things than sweet. Think cucumber sandwiches (look at how we all enjoy Hendrick's, because of the cucumber). Egg, crab and smoked salmon sandwiches would work too.
Fish & Chips
I would usually suggest a glass of sparkling wine as a refreshing contrast to that rich batter. But you could try gin instead, it can take a bit of garlic too if you want to serve a dollop of aioli on the side
You’ve heard of seasoning a pâté with juniper berries. Well, it stands to reason then that juniper-based gin should work too, and it does.
Same principle. Deep-fried, spicy food, refreshing botanicals. Try it!
Frequently Asked Questions About Gin
- How long does unopened gin last? Will it go off if I don’t open it? - Unopened gin has a shelf life of several years, or even longer. So long as the bottle or seal isn’t broken.
- Where can I keep my gin? – In the fridge or freezer is best. It won’t freeze in the freezer because its ABV is at least 37.5% - too high to turn into ice. Don’t keep your gin next to the oven or on top of the fridge, for example. If you can’t keep it in the fridge or freezer store it in a cool, dark cupboard or shelf out of direct sunlight, and it should be fine.
- How long can I keep the gin once the bottle is open? - It’s preferable to use up an opened bottle of gin within a year. Although it won’t go off after a year or more, opened gin won’t taste particularly nice.
- How can I tell if my gin has gone off? - It’s very unlikely that your gin will go off unless it’s been stored somewhere that has made it get too warm, the seal has been broken, or the opened bottle has been left so long between drinks that the gin has oxidised.
- Does the tonic expire or go off? - It’s rare for tonic water to go off. If you have stored an unopened bottle in a cool, dark place or the fridge, it should be safe to drink even after a year! Check the ‘best before date’ to make sure you’re using it within the recommended date range.
- Loads of ice v minimum ice in the glass. - Contrary to popular belief, using lots of ice in your gin doesn’t dilute it more than just using a little bit; that’s because when you have more ice in the glass, it keeps your drink colder for longer, meaning it’s less likely to melt into your drink and dilute it.
We have a comprehensive range of gins in Green Acres. Pop in, have a look and if you need assistance just ask any of the team.
Talk soon – James.