f
l
TAGS
H

Gin-spirational

How we've all gone mad for it

Here we go then: our first non-wine blog.

It seems apt, though, that if we're going to talk about anything that isn't produced from a grape, we should talk about a product whose sales seems to show no signs of abating. Now the UK's second-most exported beverage, this quintessentially English spirit is really worth exploring further. Is it just clever marketing, riding a wave as Vodka did before it? Is interest therefore due to plateau and then wane whilst the next craze (rum?) takes off?

Whilst we are in the midst of such a boom, though, it seems right to look into it a little further and understand where it came from, how it's made and just how varied it can be.

How do you say "gin" in Dutch?

I said it was quintessentially English, but of course, in this mongrel country of ours, nothing is quite that straight forward. Jenever is the drink that originally inspired what we know of as gin today. Originally a drink made from malt wine to which juniper berries (jeneverbes in Dutch) were added to hide the rather horrible flavour, like many such concoctions, it had a medicinal purpose, and was often used to treat kidney or stomach ailments in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Some say the expression "Dutch courage" comes from the idea that many English soldiers who were fighting the Dutch in Antwerp in 1585 were consuming jenever prior to battle for its calming effects.

But it wasn't really until William of Orange occupied the English throne during the Glorious Revolution that the popularity of gin took off. The government of the time allowed unlicensed gin production, at the same time imposing heavy tariffs on imported liquor, meaning there was a vast market for the stuff, often desperately poor in quality. Of the 15,000 drinking establishments in London at the time, over half were dedicated to gin.

Over the years, many different styles of gin were developed, including a refinement of the original Dutch jenever; Old Tom Gin, which was a softer, sweeter style; and, due to the invention of the column still in the early 19th century, today's most common London Dry gin.

How do you drink yours?

Naturally, anything quite so potent, relatively easy to produce and darned drinkable became popular with the Navy. The added bonus was its strong flavours which were able to better mask the bitterness of the quinine in their anti-malarial tonic waters, and, hey presto, the G&T was born.

But it would be a shame not to mention that other all-time gin cocktail, the Martini. Probably the only way we Brits have tolerated another country interfering with our beloved spirit, the Martini became massively popular in the US during the Roaring Twenties, where write E.B. White described the drink as "the elixir of quietude".

The blend of gin and dry vermouth is the well-known recipe, but this ratio has altered significantly over the years from 3:1 (gin to Vermouth) to a method Noel Coward later described as "filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy". These days, it is truly an international drink, despite our 007 attempts to reclaim it as our own

How much did you say..?!

Finally, just a few facts and figures for you to really appreciate how important gin is in today's economy:
  • Gin sales for 2016 reached £1.04bn in the UK, the first time the £1bn mark has been breached, and an increase of 68% since 2012.
  • We consumed the equivalent of 1.12bn G&Ts last year
  • 3/4 of the world's gin exports come from the UK
  • 96 new distilleries were opened in 2015 and 2016, meaning there are now over 300 in the UK
  • On a less positive note, 76% of the cost of your bottle of gin goes straight to the Treasury - one of the highest rates in the EU.
Did you know Gin had quite such an interesting history? Or that your friendly wine merchant is an avid supporter of locally-produced gins? We have 6 different gins all from Devon and Cornwall currently on our shelves, and they are all excellent.