Gin guide: everything you need to know about this fascinating distillate
What is gin? Gin is a distillate of fermented cereal must, usually corn, wheat, and barley. It is flavored with juniper, spices, citrus fruits, flowers, berries, and other ingredients chosen by the master distiller. These ingredients are called “botanicals.”
In recent years, we have been experiencing the Renaissance of gin. It is the spirit of the moment. There is an incredible ferment. We keep getting a flood of new gins, each of which is different and made with even stranger botanicals.
But in reality, they are not “weird gins”; instead, the gin is bound to many territories and to the imagination of the most gifted distillers, who manage to find exciting combinations. And this leads us to think that gin is an alchemical masterpiece.
This is the most iridescent distillate, which can be manipulated and sculpted by the creativity of those who make it. And its stateless nature makes it perfect for enhancing some unique botanicals: think of some great gins like the Death’s Door, renowned for the absolute quality of the grain with which it is made; the Aviation, which is an aromatic garden; but also Italian gins like the Roby Marton’s gin, made with licorice; or the Primo gin, flavored with Cervia salt.
Gin has been the most used and cheap distillate for hundreds of years. Since the 1700s, it has fed the dreams of whole generations of poor people, but now it is a shining swan.
One of the most dynamic and elegant distillates, so much so that you can drink it straight, without mixing it with anything else.
History and origin of gin
And with the return of gin, we talk a lot about his story, the origin of gin, and how and where he was born. Everything starts with the monks, as they always did to preserve ancient knowledge and make the first distillation tests with alcohol and juniper. In fact, the goal of their experiments was not to make alcohol, but to make a healing oil out of juniper, which has been used as a pain reliever for thousands of years. And it seems the monks of the Amalfi Coast have done the first experiments, but this case of serendipity does not start the rise of gin as a distillate; it is only thanks to their fervid curiosity that culture and the arts have been preserved.
We have to wait a long time, until 1600, when Dr. Silvius made Genever, a distillate of alcohol and juniper essential oils. It was an instant hit as a tonic and medicine, so much so that Dutch sailors were told to take it.
However, the Netherlands was a world crossroads at the time, and as soon as the British met Genever, they fell in love with the first sip and adopted it, which became Geneva and then Gin. From a miraculous cure to one of the most popular drinks in history, gin became so popular that it was taxed in 1751 to limit fraud and alcohol abuse.
Birth of the London Dry Gin
From that moment on, the first distilleries arose, and a precise style of gin emerged, which later became London Dry Gin. The raw distillate made only with juniper was too raw and pungent, so, thanks to the abundance of Indian spices, other botanicals were added, such as cardamom, pepper, citrus fruits, and coriander.
It is curious to note that English inventiveness and curiosity (thirst? ), which often trigger the great moments in the history of spirits, are often to blame. Think of Port wine, Marsala wine, gin, whiskey, bourbon whiskey, Bordeaux wine, and Champagne. There are always English customers and traders behind these small alcohol revolutions. So, God bless England, we can say! And are you ready to visit a gin distillery?
How is gin made?
Let’s see how gin is produced. Formerly, the first cereal wash was distilled and then distilled again. But during the second distillation, the vapors passed through “baskets,” in which there were the botanicals, so the spirit was impregnated with essential oils.
Instead, it is now preferred to macerate the botanicals directly in alcohol before the second distillation occurs. This flavored alcoholic mass is heated and distilled a second time; the head and tail are discarded, and the vapors condense in the refrigerator. At this point, we have our beloved distillate. The gin is ready to be put into bottles, unless the master distiller thinks it needs more time to age in wood. Rarely is gin aged in barrels, but more and more distillates are doing it now to make them more complex and interesting.
The distillation of gin
The distillation takes place in copper stills that can be discontinuous for smaller and more valuable productions or continuous, like the Coffey still, proving very valid and efficient, especially when high quantities of product are at stake.
What does gin taste like?
Gin is a resinous distillate, intense and peppery, with a solid ethereal charge. Spices, ginger, cardamom, flowers, and citrus fruits come in later to round out and soften gin’s strong, sharp masculinity. Even the most refined and elegant gins are never soft or redundant. It is a distillate that has not lost its soul of steel. The mouth is sharp, spicy, and has aromatic tones that push on the palate. Indeed, it is no longer the turpentine water of the past, and everyone tries to make a more velvety product, but do not expect softness or roundness.
The botanicals: the DNA of gin
As mentioned, the botanicals vary according to the needs and preferences of the producer; however, there are some recurring ingredients that you will often find and that are responsible for the classic fragrance and flavor of the gin. Among the most popular aromatics in London Dry Gin, we can find juniper, cardamom, coriander, lemon and orange peel, pepper, angelica, grapefruit, and lavender. Flowers, roses, wild berries such as rowan, licorice, anise, (Cervia) salt, Salicornia, black tea, and who knows how many more are on the rise.
10 great gin cocktails you have to try
Gin is the king of cocktails: many of the most iconic cocktails are gin-based. Just think of some excellent aperitifs like Gin Tonic, Paradise, Tom Collins, Heidi, Bramble, Negroni, Gin Fizz, French 75, Tuxedo, Dry Martini, Bronx, and White Lady.