Yesterday was International Gin and Tonic Day so I thought I would mark this occasion in the week with sharing some fun facts about gin, so here are the 7 things I have learned since I started drinking gin. Little did I know back then that one day I would have a whole category on my blog dedicated to gin.
Since starting to drink a few years ago I have learned more and more about it, as a wine buff might learn about vineyards, I have been learning about distilleries. And the history of gin, so I felt it was about time I shared some of this new found knowledge.
Genever / Old Tom / Plymouth / London Gin
Genever or Dutch gin is the gin on which all others are ultimately based. To be called Genever though it must be made in either the Netherlands or Belgium and in two very specific areas of France and Germany. Its origins can be traced back to the 13th century when it was used for medicinal purposes.
Old Tom gin is possibly my favourite gin story. According to Wikipedia:
The name Old Tom Gin purportedly came from wooden plaques shaped like a black cat (an “Old Tom”) mounted on the outside wall of some pubs above a public walkway in 18th century England. Owing to the Gin Craze, the British government tried to stem the flow of gin with prohibitive taxes and licensing, which drove the scene underground. Under the cat’s paw sign was a slot to put money in and a lead tube. From the tube would come a shot of gin, poured by the bartender inside the pub
Where Plymouth gin must be made in Plymouth, the same is not true of London gin. In fact London gin refers to the process by which it is made, not where it is made.
London Dry Gins must be distilled to at least 70% ABV, must not contain any artificial ingredients, can not have any flavours or colourings added after the distillation process
And of course it is those flavourings and colourings, or to give them their correct name: botanicals, that give us the multitude of gins on sale today.
All* gin starts life as vodka
*Well not ALL gin starts life as vodka but gin starts life as a distilled alcohol made from grain, the same as vodka. The difference then is that all gin has juniper added. If you don’t add juniper you still just have distilled alcohol made from grain no matter what else you add to it. So gin manufacturers need that distilled alcohol to begin their production, and vodka is a damn good place to start.
The Gin Act of 1736 imposed a fee of £50 annually (today that would be around £20,000) on distillers of the base spirits. So it became traditional for London gin distillers to buy their base spirit rather than producing it in the distillery, hence using vodka.
All Bombay Sapphire gin is made in Hampshire
Just down the road from Barrow Towers in fact. All the ingredients are shipped to the distillery, the gin is made and then shipped in unmarked lorries to be finally mixed with water (shipping water is prohibitively expensive, think concentrated orange juice) and bottled up in Warrington. For many years Warrington was the heart of Bombay Sapphire’s gin production, close to the merchant ships bringing the botanicals from around the world into Liverpool’s docks, and close to chemists and academics able to advise on how the distillation process.
It can be used to fight malaria
If you drink gin with tonic (which I sadly don’t on account of the fact I hate tonic) you are getting a daily dose of quinine which is known for it’s anti-malarial properties. You might need to drink a lot of tonic water to get the required dose these days as a lot of tonic waters now don’t contain too much of it. Thankfully as quinine actually tastes revolting and it is thought the only way to make it palatable is to dilute the tonic water with…… gin. Which is how the famous G&T was born.
60 Million cases of gin are sold every year
And, surprisingly, well for me anyway, the country that consumes the most is the Phillipines!
37.5% to 60%
According to the rules the minimum alcohol strength for gin is 37.5% but there are lots between that and the highest, Blackwoods 120 proof gin.
Drinking gin can make you have vivid dreams
I have found this to be very much the case recently. Incredibly vivid dreams just before I wake up, having fallen asleep and not moved (and I am talking about two gins the evening before, not drinking so much I pass out) until the alarm goes off or the dream gets so vivid it wakes me up. So I did a bit of research on Google and it seems there is a scientific link to alcohol supressing REM and as the alcohol passes through your system and REM returns it does so with avengeance
Do you have any other facts about gin? I might do a volume 2 with them!
All photos courtesy of Shutterstock