For those that may have been asleep for the last half decade, gin is a big thing! Last year, 47 million bottles were sold in the UK and brought in £1.2 billion revenue to the the marketplace. That’s a lot of gin!
Whilst many will be amazed to know that figure, what is even more spectacular is that the drink was the fastest growing market in the UK in the last decade. Yes, homemade distilleries were popping up weekly and in the last decade we have seen a doubling of the market in real terms.
All of this is great, but for many, a lot of people still don’t know what gin actually is, and for many others, like ourselves everyday is a learning day. What we want to do is take a basic look at this really popular drink and give you a brief guide so you know what your tipple really is all about.
It is dutch, not English
Gin is the English translation for the dutch word, jenever and the phrase ‘dutch courage’ comes from drinking gin as well.
It is not vodka
A lot of people think that Gin is the same as Vodka. Not quite. Here’s what happens, gin is created by distilling lots of botanicals, without juniper, the main flavour, all you have left is a flavoured vodka.
Juniper creates the “aromatic canvas” for all the other botanicals to stand out.
What are botanicals?
Botanicals are flavours. Some with a specific purpose, others are just general ideas to give the gin a unique twist. Botanical flavours can include; lemon peel, almonds, cucumber, chamomile, angelica root, apple, coriander, cassia, licorice, orris, spices, leaves, fruits, flowers and lots more.
What is base alcohol?
Base alcohol is basically made from wheat and is generally flavourless. Other base alcohol flavours include barley, grape, sugar and others.
How is gin made?
There are a few ways to make gin, but before you go out there distilling your own variety, remember it is illegal to distill your own alcohol in the UK. You need licenses and permissions so, be careful!
“The typical way to make gin is by distilling fermented grains. These are then re-distilled with juniper and other botanicals to give the spirit its flavour.”
Another way to do it to distill the grain and then infuse the base spirit with the botanicals.
How many types of gin are there?
When it comes to flavours and varieties there are hundreds. But when it comes to distilling methodology there are only just a handful.
London dry gin: the alcohol must be low on ethanol with no sugar added. It also has to be predominantly flavoured with juniper berries and be 140 proof after distillation.
Bathtub gin: Made by infusing the base alcohol with spices. A popular drink during prohibition when bathtubs were used to made alcohol. It’s also where the idea for bootlegging alcohol started in the united states which also saw the birth of Nascar racing.
Genever: As mentioned at the start, this is where gin comes from. Made by distilling malt wine and then redistilling with botanicals, this dutch homage to sweet juniper flavours is what makes genever stand out as a true original.
Old Tom: “This historically came after genever and was made sweeter and spicier than Genever to cover up the taste of poor quality alcohol.” It’s name has a history that is rather unique. You could buy Old Tom from a machine outside bars where you would put in a coin and pull the paw, the reason why it was served outside is, it was to stop drunks going in into the bars to get their tipple.