The name "gin" comes from the word juniper translated in Dutch "jenever" and the French "genievre." Though gin was England's first national spirit, most sources agree that it was first made by the Dutch. The development of this spirit has often been credited as having been developed by Franciscus Sylvius, a Dutch physician. The popularity of this drink moved to England, when the British were abroad fighting the Thirty Year's War in Holland. Dutch soldiers would have a drought of gin before battle, to warm the cold and damp days, and to relax before fighting. This is where the saying "Dutch courage" or "liquid courage" originated. King William III of England (of Dutch heritage) encouraged the distillation of the spirits through a series of permits, thereby increasing the drink's popularity. The oldest (active) distillery in the world is in the UK, in Plymouth. Situated in what was a 15th century monastery, Plymouth Gin has been distilling this alcohol since 1793. The availability of gin increased, inspiring painter William Hogarth to depict the effects of gin-drinking in his "Gin Lane" as a journey of ruination and idleness among the poor. In the 1830's, establishments known as "gin palaces" became popular lounges in England, which were lavishly furnished for men as an escape from home. Charles Dickens described these places (of which there were thousands in London alone), as "perfectly dazzling when contrasted with the darkness and dirt" of the city. Gin's popularity continued into the Prohibition of the 1920's, because it did not require aging, and was easier to produce without detection. "Bathtub gin" was the most common, and referred to the poor taste and low-quality gin that people mixed it with honey and juices to mask the bitter taste.
Gin contains around 40% alcohol. It is considered a "clean" of drink, as it is distilled from juniper berries, which are conifers (similar to pinecones) but with grow like berries, staying distinctly fresh. Gin is not bound to certain regions to receive its name (unlike Cognac, Champagne, etc), although several brands of gin are named for their location, such as Plymouth Gin, which has existed since 1793. Gin is most commonly consumed in cocktails, and rarely on its own. As it is distilled from juniper berries, the belief is that the botanical aspects bring out specific flavors that are the most vibrant when mixed in cocktails; this explains why many archaic cocktail recipes demand the use of gin. Believed to help with digestion, gin is often served as an aperitif before meals.
Gin has been considered a natural remedy for arthritis. The best method of consuming gin for this purpose is to soak raisins in gin, and then consume several of them per day. This is believed to help with arthritis because of the anti-inflammatory elements of juniper, and the sulfur dioxide used in raisins, both relieve the agitation. In past centuries, the British Royal Navy was known for mixing gin with lime cordial to stop scurvy, and tonic water with quinine was reputed for fighting malaria, so British colonialists in India would often drink gin and tonic in the hopes that it would help them ward off the disease. Aside from internal health benefits, many believe that gin is also useful for certain things such as mouthwash (mixed with thyme oil), foot deodorizer (cleansing and bacteria-killing foot-wash or hand soap), etc. Gin is also used with essential oils as air freshener spray, because of the cleansing quality of alcohol and the light scent of juniper.
Gin has been a popular addition to dessert crusts, used in pies and pastries. The crust is light and flakey when mixed with gin, due to the alcohol content. The flavor of juniper is also a savory compliment to pot-pie or shepherd's pie dishes. Gin also can be combined as a infusion sauce for prawns made with Marini Aioli, or as a seasoning with juniper berries for chicken/pork/salmon, and also flavors the occasional fruity dessert mousse.
Perhaps the most well known cocktails with gin are the classic Martini, and Gin & Tonic. However, other popular options include: Red Snapper, Negroni, Tom Collins, White Lady, Hanky Panky, Clover Club, Alexander, French 75, Gimlet, Vesper, Singapore Sling, Silver Bronx, Pegu Club, Bee's Knees, Southside.
Gin can have hints of different botanical flavors, such as lavender (by Aviation), cucumber and rose ( by Hendricks), and lemongrass or pepper ( Bombay Sapphire East.) Recently, Desmond Payne has worked as master distiller for some time, having developed a version called Beefeater 24, which contains elements of tea in the ingredients.
The pricing of gin has always varied based on quality of the product. At popular beverage stores such as BevMo, prices for bottle of gin can range from $10-60 roughly. For a good classic gin, the Aviation Gin (USA) is well recommended, as a clean distillation. Other good brands are Bombay Dry Gin (England) and Beefeater Gin (England). For a Dutch gin that is closest to the original method of distillation, Damrak Gin (Holland) is distilled 5 times and has a spicy fresh taste. However, the worlds most expensive gin is Nolet's Reserve Gin, at $700 a bottle.
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