Has anyone else seen gin spots popping up literally all over Dublin, or is it just me? It seems like all the normal pubs are turning into special gin bars, with fancy new Gins coming from all over the country. But look, you won’t see us complaining about it. We love that fact that G&Ts are back in fashion. Very Delish, what a great spirit. This blog is all about learning about gin, tonic and their complex history as a duo.
It all started in the 15th century in Holland by a physician called Dr. Sylvious de Boive using the oil from juniper berries and was sold in pharmacies as a treatment for a variety of ailments. Gin only reached British soil in 1688 when Dutch-born William of Orange took the throne in England and brought the spirit with him, and it took off. By 1750, due to the fact that the government was allowing unlicensed production of gin, Londoners were consuming over 11 million gallons of gin annually in a period known as the Gin Craze. Gin shops were popping up on every street (sound familiar?) and consumption soared, bringing with it increased crime and higher death rates. Historic UK cities that Londoners drank around 14 gallons of the spirit a year (bet that makes you feel a little better about your last Saturday night binge!).
So in 1751 the government imposed the Gin Act, enforcing licensing of retailers, reducing consumption but simultaneously encouraging the illegal sale of a sweeter style of gin called Old Tom Gin. This style of gin is sweeter due to the use of simple or sugar syrup, giving it citrus undertones. However, by the 1830s gin distilleries became more sophisticated, leading to a higher quality, cleaner spirit which was named “London Dry Gin”. As the gin became more refined, so did its drinker and gin became known as a Gentlemen’s drink.
The history of tonic began in another area of the world entirely, beginning in 1857 when the British Crown took over the Indian subcontinent. Around this time, many Brits also relocated to India; however, they greatly struggled with malaria or ‘fever’ (now we have fever tree tonic!) as it used to be called. The antimalarial drug of choice around that time was quinine, an extract from the bark of the cinchona, originally found in South America. So in order to prevent and treat malaria quinine was mixed with sugar and water, creating the drink we know today as tonic water. In order to hide and improve its bitter taste, gin was added to tonic water, and the rest is history. The addition of limes or other citrus fruits is thought to have been initially introduced to prevent scurvy on the long journey across the ocean from England to India, all combining to create the glorious gin and tonic drink we know and love today.
And today we see the further development of the once humble gin and tonic. In 2016, it was revealed that the UK exported €550 million worth of gin, smashing last year’s record, with the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) estimating that exports will hit the €580m mark before the end of 2017. With over 100 different irish gin brands, its becoming such a large market in ireland, and everywhere else.
Let go through the process of how gin is made. Gin is flavoured with botanicals. All gin has a unique flavour which can be traced back to the botanicals that were infused in the gin process. All gins include juniper as an ingredient: other botanicals used are coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom, cinnamon, grains of paradise, cubeb berries and nutmeg. Typically a fine gin contains six to ten botanicals. The spirit is diluted by adding pure water to reach the required strength of about 45% ABV. This is pumped into a still, normally made of copper and the flavouring ingredients are added to it and it is then left to steep. Some producers place the botanicals in a tray over the spirit.
The still is heated, using a steam coil or jacket, to remove from the botanicals the essential oils (less than 5% of the weight) which give the flavouring to the spirit. The first distillate ‘runnings’ are re-circulated until an appropriate standard and strength is reached. The lower quality early part of the run and end of the run as judged by the skill and experience of the ‘Stillman’ are run off to be redistilled. Only the ‘middle run’ is used to produce high quality gin; this is run off at about 80-85% ABV. The product then goes through a quality control and may also be analysed by gas chromatography to ensure that it meets the required specification. This ensures product consistency. Only further neutral alcohol, water and minute amount of sugar can be added after distillation. by the addition of pure demineralised water. It is now ready for bottling as it does not require any period of maturation. The last method is a cheaper method of producing gin. Essential oils are either extracted from botanicals by distillation or pressed out. These are added to the appropriate water. And so it is bottled and the gin is ready to be mixed with its mate, tonic. You can also add some garnishes to the party such as citrus fruits, strawberries, herbs, berries, cinnamon and lots more. It all depends on the type of gin your drinking. For example if you drink a hendricks gin the best garnish to complement the gin would be cucumber.Hendrick’s botanical list includes both cucumber and Bulgarian rose petals, so to use a cucumber as a garnish simply highlights the flavour profile. Blackwater gin is best served with fresh limes and flavourful juniper berries to highlight all the incredible flavours that can be found in this gin. Its essentially an art, the art of the gin and tonic.
We serve delicious gin and tonics, by the way. If you’re lucky we might have some special gin cocktails the night your in as well. Keep a close eye on The Riddler, We’ll supply you with the gin you need!