Gin, a magic drink from the past and present
Gin spirit which derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries(Juniperus communis). From its earliest beginnings in the Middle Ages, gin has evolved over the course of a millennium from a herbal medicine to a fantastic and trendy drink.
Today, the gin category is one of the most popular and widely distributed range of spirits, and is represented by products of various origins, styles, and flavor profiles that all revolve around juniper as a common ingredient.
What flavours can you recognize in Gin
There are a large number of different brands in the market these days but all have a base of key botanicals. These key botanicals are:
I have packed these botanicals so you can order them through Amazon
Next to these, each distiller creates his own variation, by adding additional botanicals such as star anise, cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and sometimes even cloves.
Making your own signature Gin
Making gin is not that difficult and very fun to do due to the large variation possible with the botanicals.
The alcohol basis
You need to start with neutral alcohol (or can use a cheap vodka).
For the neutral alcohol: preferably use a grain based wash, generally based on based on:
16 parts Corn grain
3 parts malt
1 part Rye
Alternatively you can use a 100% Rye based mash which will generate a more sweet gin.
Distill the wash (2x) in a (pot)still untill you have a clean alcohol of about 80% ABV. Blend it down to less than 50% alcohol ABV.
Bring the flavor of the botanicals to the alcohol
There are several ways of doing this.
- You can put the botanicals simply in the boiler (floating in a cloth back), or
- Put the botanicalst in a tight wire mesh "ball" which you put in the top if the boiler, or
- Put the botanicals in the thumper, or
- Put the botanicals in a special Gin head, i.e. a small chamber mounted between the boiler and the column of the still..
In order to make the basic Gin, you can add the following into the boiler of your still:
- The neutral alcohol as outlined, diluted back to <50% ABV alcohol content
- Juniper berries
27g angelica, cassia, liquorice, grains of paradise, cubeb, 50g orange and lemon peel, ginger, orris root, cardamon, nutmeg 5g.
Distill one more time as it will extract the flavors from the botanicals.
Once distilled, dilute it back to 40% and let it rest for about 2-3 weeks. The resting period allows the different flavors to "marry" and will definitely improve the flavour balance..
I prefer to put the herbs into the bags and maceration in the alcohol, by leaving it up to a week before distillation, but that is a personal choice.
Every distillery has it's secret mix of botanicals. Most gin's contain next to Juniper berry and citrus botanicals such as lemon and bitter orange peel, anise, angelica root and seed, orris root, licorice root, cinnamon, cubeb, savory, lime peel, grapefruit peel, dragon eye, saffron, baobab, frankincense, coriander, nutmeg and cassia bark.
Gin, the basics
Although several different styles of gin have existed since its origins, gin is broadly differentiated into two basic legal categories.
- Distilled gin is crafted in the traditional manner, by re-distilling neutral spirit of agricultural origin with juniper berries and other botanicals.
- Compound gin is made by simply flavoring neutral spirit with essences and/or other 'natural flavorings' without re-distillation, and is not as highly regarded.
The minimum bottled alcoholic strength for gin is 37.5% ABV in the E.U., 40% ABV in the U.S.
There are several distinct styles of gin, with the most common style today being London dry gin, a type of distilled gin. In addition to the predominant juniper content, London dry gin is usually distilled in the presence of accenting citrus botanicals such as lemon and bitter orange peel, as well as a subtle combination of other spices, including any of anise, angelica root and seed, orris root, licorice root, cinnamon, cubeb, savory, lime peel, grapefruit peel, dragon eye, saffron, baobab, frankincense, coriander, nutmeg and cassia bark. London dry gin may not contain added sugar or colorants, water being the only permitted additive.
Gin, a historical perspective
The Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius is credited with the invention of a grain based drink which he called genièvre or genova (gin). By the mid 17th century, numerous small Dutch distillers (some 400 in Amsterdam alone by 1663) had popularized the re-distillation of malt spirit with juniper, anise, caraway, coriander, etc., which were sold in pharmacies and used to treat such medical problems as kidneyailments, lumbago, stomach ailments, gallstones, and gout.
It was found in Holland by English troops who were fighting against the Spanish in the Eighty Years War who noticed its calming effects before battle, which is where the term Dutch courage came from. Gin became popular in England after the government allowed unlicensed gin production and at the same time imposed a heavy duty on all imported spirits.
Gin, great ways to enjoy it
Gin Basil Smash
1 bunch basil
2/3 oz simple syrup
3 oz gin
Stuff the basil into a cocktail shaker, followed by the lemon. Muddle the lemon and the basil, smashing the ingredients and squeezing the lemon.
Add simple syrup, mix.
Fill shaker with ice, top with gin. Shake vigorously until very cold — about 30 or so seconds. A good rule of thumb is to stop when the shaker begins to frost over and it’s almost too painfully cold to hold. Double-strain into a rocks glass filled with ice, squeezing every bit if liquid through a fine mesh strainer with a bar spoon.
Give the glass a stir and add more ice if necessary. Garnish with another basil leaf.
Gin & Tonic, the classic
2 oz gin
5 oz tonic water
1 lime wedge
Pour the gin and the tonic water into a highball glass almost filled with ice cubes. Stir well and garnish with the lime wedge.