Within the drinking world, gin may be one of the most durable but controversial liquors. Over the course of the last 400 years, it’s gone through swings of wild popularity and years of vilification. Since it’s picked up a bit of a reputation, we’ve put together a list of things you should know about gin.
1. GENEVER IS NOT GIN.
Though some gin tastes only like juniper, it’s only one of several different types. Historically, three main styles of gin have been popular: Old Tom, London dry, and Plymouth. Old Tom is the oldest of the three, and was the first commercially popular style of gin. It’s thought to be the missing link between genever (the Dutch spirit that likely inspired British gin, but is not gin itself) and London dry. Old Tom gin tends to be light, floral, and subtly sweet. It went out of style in the late 19th century, and wasn’t revived until very recently.
London dry gin is more familiar: it’s the more juniper-heavy style that’s been recently popular. By law, London dry gin must contain no artificial flavors or colors, but can be produced anywhere. In contrast, Plymouth is quite similar to London dry, but must be made in Plymouth, England. Right now, Plymouth brand gin is the only company that produces this style.
These days, yet another style of gin is emerging. Usually made by small craft distillers, the gins in this category range from delicate, floral hooch to juniper-forward dry gins. Although the trend is making its way back to England, these gins are often labeled as New Western, New American, or American Dry Gin.
2. THE GIN & TONICS YOU DRINK AT THE BAR WILL NOT CURE MALARIA.
In the 1600s, Spanish explorers discovered that native Peruvians used cinchona tree bark to effectively treat fevers, and brought it back to Europe. To preserve it for long journeys—and to make it more palatable—it was mixed with sugar and water to make a highly concentrated syrup, which was used to treat malaria. Carbonated water was added to cut the taste and, at some point, a hero mixed in gin to make it tastier and create the first gin & tonic.
Nowadays, the amount of quinine (the compound that prevents malaria) in commercially available tonic water has been significantly decreased to make it more palatable. In fact, you’d have to drink 20 liters of modern tonic water to be protected. We love gin and tonics, but not that much.
3. GIN IS BELOVED IN THE PHILIPPINES.
The world’s most prolific gin drinkers are Filipinos. Not only does the Philippines account for 43 percent of the world’s gin consumption, they’re also drinking a brand you probably haven’t heard of: Ginebra San Miguel.
4. GIN IS VERSATILE.
Vodka’s characteristic lack of color and flavor (not to mention its popularity) has recently positioned it to be a blank slate for bartenders. Historically, more classic cocktails have been created with gin than with any other liquor. These include the Aviation, Bee’s Knees, French 75, Gimlet, Gin Rickey, Hanky Panky, Martini, Martinez, Negroni, Red Snapper, Ramos Gin Fizz, Southside, and Tom Collins, to name a few, but the list goes on for quite a while.