The simple joys of a G&T belie Gin’s complexity

The quintessential cocktail spirit, Gin’s history is as complex as its spicy botanical flavours. 

Quick Guide

Gin

What is it?

One of the world’s most popular drinks, Gin is made from spirit flavoured with juniper berries. It is used primarily as a mixer in cocktails such as Gin & Tonic and Martinis.

Where's it from?

Holland, where it was originally developed as a tonic based on the juniper berry’s medicinal properties.

What does it taste like?

Gin has a unique palate of juniper flavour with subtle undertones of different spices added to the redistilling process. Gins vary widely in flavour depending on the spices used.

Tip

All Gin is considered dry, although Plymouth Gin is considered the driest. Dutch Genever is quite a different flavour altogether, being based on a malted spirit, and is usually drunk neat.

Gin History

One of Australia’s most popular and widely consumed spirits, Gin was first referenced in the Middle Ages when the British were said to have drunk ‘genever’ prior to battle with the Dutch during the Eighty Years’ War, allegedly giving rise to the expression Dutch courage.

 
It was popularised by the Dutch in the 17th Century, when hundreds of distilleries – over 400 in Amsterdam alone – produced a clear spirit which was then redistilled with the addition of juniper berries and other spices for flavouring. The liquor was originally sold through pharmacies as a herbal ‘tonic’ to cure ailments such as lumbago, gout and stomach upsets but soon became popular in the UK when Government legislation and other factors led to an open market for Gin production. Its relative cost meant that Gin was easily available to even the poorest patron, and the rough liquor soon gained a negative reputation as a cause of social issues and ill health. Quite a contrast from the liquor’s original intent as a health tonic, clearly.
 
Today Gin enjoys enormous popularity around the world, with (arguably) its most common consumption being with the addition of Indian tonic water (made from quinine, to which gin was originally added to mask the quinine’s unpleasant bitter taste) to form the ubiquitous G&T.

Popular Australian Gin Brands

Many of Australia’s most popular Gin brands are those that began life in the ‘Gin Craze’ of 1700s Britain. They’re predominantly of the ‘London Dry’ school of distilling and their flavours differ depending on the type of botanical that has been added.

 
Gordon’s London Dry Gin, Tanqueray London Dry Gin, Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin, Bulldog London Dry Gin, Seagrams London Dry Gin, Beefeater London Dry Gin, Hendrick’s Gin and Vickers London Dry Gin are all very popular brands available at very different price points. 
 
Every Gin has its own unique flavour profile so it’s worth researching which brand appeals to you most. Tanqueray for example has predominant juniper and cassia bark flavours, but not so much citrus. Gordon’s is spicy, with minty undertones. Bombay Sapphire has pungent liquorice and almond notes. Beefeater is crisp, with noticeable orange citrus and liquorice flavours, whilst Hendrick’s is quite soft, with rose petal and cucumber botanicals. As an ingredient in the classic Gin & Tonic, try adding a slice of cucumber rather than lemon or lime to a Hendrick’s version.
 
There are no Australian Gin-producing regions as such, but one new entry to the Gin landscape is that produced by Four Pillars in the Yarra Valley. Just two years young, the Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, launched in 2013, has already won double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2014. Try it in your , try adding a slice of cucumber rather than lemon or lime to a Hendrick’s version.
 
There are no Australian Gin-producing regions as such, but one new entry to the Gin landscape is that produced by Four Pillars in the Yarra Valley. Just two years young, the Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, launched in 2013, has already won double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2014. Try it in your G&T soon.

Gin Flavour

Unlike other alcoholic beverages where the core flavour ingredient is, say, the fruit (wine) or grain (whiskey) from which the beverage is made, Gin starts life as a flavourless spirit. From this ethanol alcohol base, natural flavours and/or essences (botanicals) are added to the second distillation process to produce a number of Gin varieties. The most common is ‘London Gin’ which is also the most pure, requiring 100% natural botanical additives.

 
The most predominant flavour of Gin is, of course, juniper. Since juniper isn’t often used in Australia (although the Europeans, particularly Scandinavians, use juniper berries frequently in cooking), we’re not overly familiar with what it tastes like. Some believe it’s reminiscent of pine cones (a close relative of the juniper tree), others suggest hints of aniseed or liquorice. It does of course depend on the brand and what botanical flavours and other spices (such as cinnamon, lemon and coriander) have been added along with the juniper during the redistillation process.
 
Having said all of that, it’s unlikely you’re going to be drinking your Gin straight (unless you’re in The Netherlands – see Tip below). In fact Gin is the ingredient for more classic cocktails than any other spirit, its botanical flavours adding complexity to even the most basic of partners.

Gin Food Matching

The spicy, aromatic flavours of juniper-infused Gin lend themselves well to dishes incorporating pork, rabbit, venison, beef and duck. Hearty flavours to complement the heavy, pine notes of the spirit.

 
Seafood is also well matched with Gin; salmon gravlax, crab cakes, oysters and scallops all share a subtle sweetness with the earthy spirit. Try different brands with different dishes to bring out their varying nuances.
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