Originating in Western Europe, the gin we know today is a distilled alcohol flavoured with juniper berries. Coming in all kinds of flavours and styles, such as our Blackberry and Elderflower Gin Liqueur or Damson Gin Liqueur, it’s taken hundreds of years to reach its modern form.
What’s In A Name?
First referenced in the 13th century, what is today known as gin was, in Old English, called genever. This name came from the Dutch word jenever, a drink that was an ancestor of modern gin. We know this as jenever comes from the Latin for juniper. Juniperus, jenever, genever, gin!
Gin was used for its medicinal properties. In Europe, the drink was developed by monks in France, Holland and Belgium. It formed what was then known as aqua vita - an early type of ethanol solution. While the drink grew in popularity throughout the centuries, it was still used as a medicine well into the 20th century.
Enter, gin and tonic.
Today’s tonics are diluted and often flavoured with sweeteners and citrus, but was once simply quinine dissolved in water. Quinine can be found in the bark of the cinchona tree, and has long been used as a way to treat malaria and other diseases. Hence, the name tonic. In colonial British India, members of the British army were encouraged to have gin and tonic to avoid becoming sick. From this originated the first commercial tonic, which was sold 1858.
In England during the early 18th century, after the revolution, gin rose in popularity. This, in part, was due to conflicts between Britain and France. Britain imposed heavy restrictions on the import of French brandy, so many turned gin. This fuelled what became known as the Gin Craze. Licenses were not needed to produce spirits, so brewing workshops became smaller and more common.
The government saw gin’s popularity as a rising problem, and introduced five parliamentary acts to reduce its consumption. Many phrases still in use today come from this period, including “gin-soaked” to refer to anyone who is drunk, regardless of what alcohol they have consumed.
The Gin Craze Returns
Gin sales reached £2 billion in the UK during 2019, and its popularity continues to soar. Gin bars line highstreets and there are more options available than ever before. Whether it’s straight, with tonic, in cocktails and liqueurs, gin is here to stay.