Gin is a widely popular spirit known for its distinct flavor, which it derives from juniper berries. With a long and fascinating history, gin is so much more than just ‘flavored vodka.’
Gin is England’s national drink and Winston Churchill once famously said, “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”
While gin has been a crowd favorite since the 17th Century, it experienced a surge in popularity as the base spirit in many of the classic Prohibition-era cocktails. Today it is enjoying the limelight once more as craft distillers experiment with new botanical combinations and give this timeless drink a breath of new life!
How Gin is made
Gin is made by distilling fermented grain mash, in a process similar to the production of whiskey and vodka. Barley tends to be the main grain used to create the mash, but wheat, grape, sugar, molasses or essentially anything of agricultural origin can be used as the base for the spirit.
Gin derives its distinct flavor from juniper berries which are added after distillation, most often during a second distillation process.
As distillation and flavoring techniques modernized, gin production methods became more sophisticated.
In the earlier method (which is still used in some regions today), fermented grain mash is pot-distilled to create a neutral alcohol with an alcohol content of around 68%, then re-distilled with botanicals to add flavor.
In the much more efficient column-distilled method which is primarily used today, the resultant neutral alcohol is higher in alcohol content. It is then re-distilled with botanicals which are suspended in a basket at the head of the still, allowing the hot vapours to extract the flavors.
While juniper is an essential ingredient in gin, the other botanicals can vary. Coriander, cucumber, anise, licorice, cardamom, ginger and citrus peel are all common ingredients.