The history of gin differs from many other popular spirits, as it was originally intended to be ingested for medicinal purposes. Dating back to 16th century Europe, gin is a clear liquor distilled from grain, similar to vodka. However, it obtains a distinct taste from the “natural botanicals” used for flavoring. Primary among these is juniper, but many other herbs and spices may also be used, including rosemary, sage, nutmeg, coriander, caraway, cassia, and angelica root. Each brand uses a unique blend of botanicals, meaning every gin will have its own unique flavor and fragrance. The alcohol content is always between 80 and 94 proof.
The most common type of gin found on the market today is London dry, which often utilizes citrus elements such as bitter orange or lemon peel in the botanical mix. Most other styles of gin take their name from the area of origination (Plymouth gin), though some have more esoteric origins (Old Tom gin is purportedly named after 18th century cat plaque liquor dispensers).
While gin might not be as popular in some bars as other spirits like rum or vodka, it is the base for several classic cocktails, the most well-known being the martini (traditionally containing dry gin and dry vermouth). Other classic gin cocktails include the gimlet and the obviously-named gin and tonic.