fundamentals of gin WRITTEN BY PAUL HUGHES, PH.D. I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y A M A N D A J O Y C H R I S T E N S E N
ust thinking of gin conjures up a range of images for most people. Some may think of balmy summer days sipping a gin with its common counterparts of tonic, ice and a citrus slice. Others may recall that it is prone to cause melancholy in those that over-refresh themselves with gin-based drinks. Yet others may have come across Hogarth’s salutary warnings about the evils of gin, compared with the benevolence of beer. All of these are facets of the convoluted history that has brought gin to where it is today. Gin was popularized in England, and specifically London, beginning in the late 17th century thanks both to the exposure of English forces to genever (“Dutch courage”) during military campaigns in mainland Europe, and to the preferences of the Dutchborn William of Orange, who acceded to the throne of England in 1688 when King James II fled to France. He happened to be married to Mary, daughter of the exiled James, so William and Mary ruled jointly (at William’s insistence) until Mary’s death in 1694.
William would have been well-versed in the positive attributes of botanical distillates since the progenitor of gin, genever, hailed from the Netherlands. Indeed, genever itself was not originally considered to be a social lubricant, but rather a convenient way of administering juniper extracts to those citizens ailing from a wide range of illnesses and diseases. The Dutch government soon discovered that its population enjoyed its medicine rather too much and set about imposing taxes on those seeking medical relief through the agency of gin. It should be pointed out here that while gin was derived from genever, the products are quite distinct. Gin is often neutral spirit flavored in some way with botanicals, whereas the alcohol base in genever is generally much more flavorful and, especially when matured, more akin to a whisky than a gin. As a final thought about genever morphing into gin, it is worth noting that gin did not diverge from genever by design, but rather because the English seemed incapable of making authentic genever-style spirits. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
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