From Bristol to Brisbane, and Manila to Madrid, gin has become one of the trendiest drinks at cocktail bars around the world. Long considered a drink for ‘mature drinkers’, while vodka was the trendy cocktail spirit of choice, gin has experienced a rebirth, going through a contemporary makeover and winning over young drinkers who are showing increasing interest in the wide variety of different flavours being produced by new gin distilleries and top-end brands. Even a small town like Bruges has its own Gin Club, the “Brugse Gin Club”.
Gin clubs have popped up in cities around the globe where gin lovers are spoilt for choice: the London Gin Club offers over 130 types of gin and has bi-weekly tasting sessions. The Milk Thistle in Bristol is another popular pub with a dedicated club for gin aficionados, while in Brisbane, Australia, a new gin-focussed bar called Dutch Courage Officers’ Mess is attracting a young generation of ‘ginthusiasts’. Gin has become so popular worldwide that in 2009, June 13th was baptised World Gin Day and is now celebrated every year since.
Often considered to be the quintessential ‘English’ drink, many people mistakenly assume gin originated in the British Isles, but it actually has its origins in Holland. Made with an infusion of Juniper berries and Genever spirit, gin was concocted by the Dutch in the 17th century.
Meanwhile gin drinking in England has a somewhat dark history. When it was first introduced in the mid-17th century, it sparked a ‘gin craze’ and was quickly blamed as the source of many social ills as a drink which was cheap to produce and readily available, earning the moniker ‘mothers ruin’. During the Eighty Years’ War, English soldiers drank it before battle for its calming effects, nicknaming it ‘Dutch Courage’, another name which has stuck today.
The famous ‘gin and tonic’ was first introduced during the British Raj when the army of the East India Company mixed bitter-tasting quinine in tonic water with gin, sugar and lime to keep the deadly malaria virus at bay. Gin was also once believed to have medicinal properties which were beneficial to the treatment of ailments like stomach, liver and kidney problems, gallstones and gout.
While the UK is the biggest exporter of gin, the largest selling gin in the world is Ginebra San Miguel, locally produced in the Philippines, one of the biggest gin-drinking markets. Spain is another huge market for gin per head of population, where drinking gin and tonic served in a huge balloon-shaped stemmed glass has become a huge trend in recent years.
Today the classic ‘G&T’ has moved on to exciting new gin-inspired concoctions. Gin can be found on cocktail menus mixed with a variety of fruits and botanicals: mint, ginger, coriander, lavender, raspberry, cinnamon, pomegranate, apple, cherry blossom, gooseberry, or even infused with jasmine green tea. The possibilities are endless and these are just a few ways that this classic and versatile spirit has been given a trendy, new twist.
Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande is Director of Passepartout Homes Ltd.