A Global History
by Lesley Jacobs Solmonson
history of the enigmatic liquor known as gin belongs as much in a
library of herbal medicines as it does at the bar. Derived from the
juniper berry, which has been a curative for all manner of ills dating
back to the ancient Egyptians, gin (or its more potent ancestor,
genever) was being prescribed as a preventative for scurvy, headaches
and other disorders more than 400 years ago.
"Where modern gin is essentially flavoured vodka, genever is headier
stuff, having more in common with fine whisky than the clear-coloured
aromatics of English gin," food writer Lesley Jacobs Solmonson explains.
get out of these wet clothes and into a dry
in The Edible Series of Reaktion Books,
of the liquor cabinet staple is full of surprises and insights,
covering the beverage's medicinal origins, the gin craze that hit
Britain in the 18th century, its decline in popularity in the 20th
century, and its recent renaissance.
The types of gin are compared and described, from London
juniper-forward Tanqueray or Beefeater to the more citrus-forward gins
such as Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray 10 and the new craft gins like
Hendrick’s and Aviation. A dozen or so classic cocktail
recipes are included along with a brief directory of today's available
classic London Dry
or dry gins are defined by botanical focus on juniper, modern day gins
- while still employing juniper - playfully break the rules, both
botanically and in terms of distillation.
(USA): Released back in
1998 by Anchor Distilling, this was the first of the new crop of gins.
While still relying on juniper as the predominant botanical, Junipero
has a subtle spiciness that comes from various proprietary ingredients.
London Dry (UK): This gin,
named after its wealthy and famous
founder, is made in England with traditional botanicals. It is then
shipped to Ireland, where the soft, glac ier-fed water of Selyri
Springs reduces the spirit's proof, producing a smoother taste.
Also known as jenever, junever, genièvre, Holland gin,
square gin and many other nomens, this is the juniper-flavored liquor
from which gin evolved and where gin cocktails began.
Its origins as a distilled juniper-flavored distillate date
to 16th century Holland, a world power at the time. A maker of
juniper-laced tonics, Dr. Franciscus Sylvius, has been erroneously
identified as "the Father of Dutch Gin," according to author Lesley
"While he was indeed serving up genever as a medicine for kidney
complaints and for the tropical fever attacking Dutch settlers in the
East Indies, a true inventor he was not... In 1623, when Sylvius was
just a lad of nine, we find what is thought to be the first printed
reference to genever as a recreational drink."
Whatever its origins, genever spread across the globe with Dutch
trading ships and consumption in the Netherlands and Belgium was
prodigious. From there, it spread to Great Britain and America.
Distilled in pot stills from malted barley, genever was
derived from a rich distillate much like unaged Scotch whiskey. This
distillate was then flavored with juniper and spices to produce a
liquor sometimes referred to as korenwijn (corn wine).
styles of genever emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
as the more efficient column stills replaced many pot stills,
wartime rationing limited the availability of barley. The modern
genever was referred to as Jonge (young) genever and the traditional
was known as Oude (old). The Oude style of genever is malty
with a high percentage of korenwijn, cut with neutral grains. The Jonge
style is lighter and drier, with more of neutral alcohol in its mix and
Traditional genever remains popular in the Netherlands and Belgium,
where European Union regulations specify that only liquor
these two countries, two French provinces and two German federal states
can use the name.
"The growing American interest has led the Dutch company Bols and the
American producer Anchor Distilling to cater to the US market," Gin
A Global History
reports. Available genever and genever-style gins include:
- Genevieve Gin (USA). The
first modern American-made genever.
- Bols Genever
(Holland). In the model of an old-style genever, this newer product is
distinctly whisky-like with a pronounced malt wine character.
- Filliers Genever
(Belgium). Uses a traditional corn, rye and barley mixture.
- Old Schiedam Genever
(Holland). Uses 100% malt wine and is 40% alcohol with the judicious
use of juniper as the only botanical.
- Zuidam Genever
(Holland): A triple-distilled enever whose base grains are
equal parts malted barley, corn and rye. The botanicals include
juniper, liquorice root, whole vanilla beans and marjoram.
ad for Gordon's Gin Martini
|There is no official date
recorded for the first dry marini, nor is there any record of what dry
gin was used. The 1880s, bartender William Mulhall of the famed Hoffman
House in New York noted that both sweet and dry Martinis were popular,
suggesting that some sort of dry gin was indeed available.
Crystal Gin and Tonic Glasses