Call yourself a gin lover? A ginthusiast? A ginius? Hmm, we bet you aren’t quite as gintelligent as you think you are. Here are some fun facts about gin that will help you become an expert. A true gintellectual, one might say.
It all started in London, and it’s been a rollercoaster of a ride for the industry since the very beGINning.
1. Between 1720-1751, London went rather crazy for gin (crazier than now, can you believe it?). So crazy that they literally named the period ‘the Gin Craze’. But it wasn’t enjoyed by hip millennials with great taste like it is now, it was actually the poorest of society who drank it. Gallons and gallons of it.
2. The gin Londoners were drinking at this time was very different to what we’d call gin nowadays. There was little to no quality control so it always ended up tasting a bit… well… shit.
3. The Gin Craze was so bad that it is now compared to the modern day drug epidemic. People were drinking gin to curb their hunger, and to distract them from the drudgery of the slums. It was so cheap and easy to get hold of but, ultimately, bad things happened, and both crime and death rates rose rather significantly.
4. The craze affected women more than men, so gin was often dubbed ‘Mother’s Ruin’, ‘Madame Geneva’ and ‘Lady’s Delight’. The name “Madame Geneva” is actually a misspelling of gin’s Dutch ancestor (sort of), genever.
5. On that note, and contrary to popular belief, gin is in fact English not Dutch. It is often confused with the malted spirit, genever, which is often thought to have inspired the creation of gin. But actually, although it also contains juniper, genever is more of a light whisky drink. Gin was first made in London and is a totally unique and much purer spirit.
6. The gin craze was mostly brought to a halt by the Gin Act of 1751, which meant distillers were no longer allowed to sell to unlicensed merchants (which was apparently rather a lot of them).
7. This led to a decline in gin consumption, which eventually led to Londoners throwing a pretend funeral for “Madame Geneva”. Londoners have always been imaginative.
8. The ban was lifted again in 1760, but gin was then subject to extortionate taxes and it legally had to taste good (or at least pass the quality controls). This meant that distillers had to make their gin taste better so they could charge more money for it.
9. Setting the bar for great tasting gin, Gordon’s Gin was founded in 1769. From that day on, their gin has been triple distilled and the recipe has never ever changed. It’s distilled with juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica root, liquorice, orris root, orange and lemon peel. But the full recipe remains top secret, and is only known by 12 people in the entire world.
10. The 1830s saw the rise of London’s gin palaces — glamorous places where you could drink this new, better quality gin. The Viaduct Tavern near St Paul’s is the capital’s last surviving Victorian gin palace. At the rear of the bar, you’ll find an old booth where drinkers used to buy gin tokens from the landlady!
11. Gin and tonic was once used as a cure for malaria. It was actually the quinine in tonic water that had medicinal properties but, to make it taste less bitter, it was mixed with gin. Apparently this is where the original G&T came from. Nowadays, tonic waters use very little-to-no quinine as too much of the stuff can have the opposite affect on your health, causing various health conditions.
12. Think of a Bloody Mary as the classic Hair of the Dog? Well actually, in 1928 New York, waaaay before the vodka-based version came about, it was gin and tomato juice that the Americans drank when they were nursing a hangover.
13. Although us Brits are famed for our love of gin, it is actually the Philippines that has the largest gin market worldwide. Philippine gin accounts for almost half of the world’s gin market.
14. Juniper berries aren’t actually berries. They are actually highly evolved pinecones with fleshy and merged scales that disguise them as berries. Sneaky junipers.
15. At one point, gin was being produced in every fourth habitable structure in London. It was the crappy Old Tom stuff, but 1 IN EVERY 4 BUILDINGS.
16. London Dry Gin, made popular by Gordon’s, doesn’t have to be made in London by law. It does however need to stick to a certain guideline in order to be considered ‘London Dry’.
17. Legally, gin must contain juniper, but you can basically add whatever else you like. For example, Hoxton Gin has 6 main botanicals; coconut, grapefruit, ginger, tarragon, juniper and iris.
18. Although James Bond goes on about liking his martinis “shaken, not stirred”, most martini experts disagree and would say that they are better off stirred.
19. And finally, last year, thirsty Brits drank a massive 19 million litres of gin.
We got the inspiration for this post from a recent (and extraordinarily tipsy) trip to the Ginstitute on Portobello Road. To learn more about gin’s fascinating history, and to blend your very own bottle of gin, why not consider one of their amazing experiences led by top class ginstructors?
Feature Image: Kate Hopkins