Understanding Gin Styles and the Evolution of a Spirit
Gin enjoys a reputation as the sophisticated spirit – the foundation for the gin and tonic, the gin martini and other posh libations from the Golden Age of cocktail culture. However, the history of this venerable spirit reveals a humble beginning and an ongoing pattern of evolving gin styles.
The earliest versions of gin are thought to have been medicinal concoctions produced by medieval monks in Italy using grape wine and juniper berries distilled in Persian alembic pot stills. By the mid-17th century, Dutch distillers were distilling barley spirits with juniper and other botanicals to create the first actual proto-gins – Jenever. These gins were often sweetened with sugar to mask the harshness of these raw spirits.
When Dutch-born William of Orange and Queen Mary assumed the English throne in 1689, they brought with them a taste for this new spirit. Jenever became Genever in England, finally morphing into just Gin and the association of gin with England began.
In 18th century England, steep import duties on French brandy and abundant barley supplies fueled a Gin Craze that saw gin become extremely popular, especially among the urban poor. Overconsumption coupled with unregulated production led to gin being viewed as a danger to society and the scourge of the under-class.
During this period, Old Tom Gin became popular in England. Old Tom Gin was a sweeter version of the Dutch-style genever. It is notable today largely for its contribution to the Tom Collins cocktail.
While better regulation eventually improved the quality and reputation of English gins, it was the invention of the column still around 1830 that opened the door for modern forms of gin. These stills enabled the production of neutral spirits. Think vodka versus moonshine. These cleaner spirits redistilled with juniper and other botanics resulted in London Dry Gin. It was dry because it no longer needed sugar to make it palatable.
As Victorian Britain expanded its empire around the globe, its gin proved a valuable asset in many of the new colonies. Gin helped mask the bitter taste of quinine, the only effective anti-malarial treatment at the time. The G&T was born, and London Dry Gin became the global standard.
Craft distillers in the US and elsewhere have recently begun experimenting with new gin styles. This emerging style is often called New American Gin. This array of new gins push or even violate the traditional standards for gin identity. For example, these new gins often significantly reduce juniper’s presence or eliminate it completely. They may also include a number of new botanical ingredients that have not been traditionally used.
Award-winning Gate 11 Dry Gin is firmly in the London Dry Gin category. We spent three years developing our botanical blend to create a superb gin with a fragrant balance. Ask for Gate 11 Dry Gin at your favorite restaurant, bar or retail store. For the full experience, stop by Gate 11 Distillery for a tour and a cocktail!