The Gin Renaissance
Premium and Craft Gins Define the Rebirth
The Gin Renaissance
Take a front row seat as I tell the tale of the history of gin, its renaissance, and the story of two premium gins: How did they arrive on the scene? How are they made? I’m featuring No. 3 Gin and Junipero Gin complete with Brand Ambassadors and Gin Master interviews. But first, let’s look at gin’s colorful history.
The Early History of Gin
Gin has enjoyed a colorful history. The ancient Greeks and Romans are thought to have distilled juniper berries first, but earliest documented history of its distillation came from the 7th and 8th centuries. During the Black Death era, 1346-53, Italian monks ineffectively gave a juniper-infused spirit concoction to patients as a Bubonic Plague remedy. The recognized “Father of Gin,” however, is Franciscus Sylvius, a physician and scientist, University of Leyden, Netherlands. In the mid-1700’s he created a spirit to harness the “medicinal properties” of juniper, supposedly a cure for bladder and kidney ailments. It contained a neutral grain spirit and was sold in pharmacies. The root of the name gin comes from geniver/jeniver, meaning juniper in Dutch. Juniper masked the roughness of the raw spirit of that time.
The term “Dutch Courage” came from the practice of Dutch sailors taking a sip of gin before battle. Some said it was hard to find a cabin boy sober enough to climb a mast.
Gin Blamed for England’s Social Ills
Gin became widely adopted in England where it is credited with creating major social ills. A surge in gin’s popularity occurred when England’s King William III, ruler of the Dutch Republic, banned imports of French spirits while fighting the French in the Nine Years War. Old Tom Gin was heavily consumed at 14 gallons per each adult male. The English gin distillate was crude and made in unlicensed back-alley stills. A famous painting, “Gin Lane” by William Hogarth, depicted the depravity and socially destructive drunkenness which some called “liquid madness” linked to lower-class status.
In the mid 1800’s British sailors spread gin to the rest of the world. The British East India Company promoted the world’s best tasting anti-malarial medicine made with the tonic/quinine water and London Dry Gin. The cocktail was used to mask quinine’s bitter taste. The G&T, the Gin & Tonic was thus born.
Bathtub Gin Defines the Roaring 20’s- Presidents and Prime Ministers Prefer Gin
The Roaring 20’s and US Prohibition (1920-33) brought us sexy flappers. They drank “Bathtub gin,” named after a New York City speakeasy, where the gin was crudely and illegally made. Bartenders argued about garnishes, and vermouth strength crafting the perfect Martini. Some famous avid gin drinkers of the 30’s and 40’s: Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Wolff, UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and US President Franklin Roosevelt. Churchill liked his Martini extra dry and was said to “whisper” the word vermouth over his gin cocktail.
Winston Churchill once said, “Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.”
The New Cocktail Culture and Farm-to-Bottle Movement
Although Ian Fleming’s James Bond made us love the sophistication of the martini, “shaken, not stirred,” the true renaissance of gin did not occur until the late 1990’s. Drinkers sought the retro-cool authenticity of a spirit with real intrinsic flavors. The1996 movie Swingers, starring Vince Vaughn, glamorized cocktail-lounge culture. Martinis once again made gin the spirit of today. The 2007 Emmy-award winning Mad Men TV show brought back the Madison Avenue two-Martini lunch.
The Spirit of Gin: A Stirring Miscellany of the New Gin Revival: Author Matt Teacher believes the major factor in the revival of gin is the farm-to-bottle movement. He interviewed Gin Masters who emphasized the quality of every ingredient: “the water source, the grain or source fermenter, everything.”
Gin Production and Premium Gin Crafters
Gin is produced from a neutral spirit distilled from mash cereals but can come from sugarcane, potatoes, sugar beets, or other agricultural products. The gin process calls for double distilling of that neutral spirit with a mix of botanicals sitting inside in a “Gin basket” infusing the gin with their flavors and aromas. Historically the dominant botanical used was juniper. Botanicals in six categories are used in the production of gin: seeds, herbs, bark, citrus peel, and others such as almond and clove. For instance, Junipero Gin uses 12 botanicals: juniper berries, coriander, cubeb black pepper, grains of paradise, lemon peel, orange peel, orris root, cassia bark, cardamom, bitter orange peel, aniseed, and angelica root. On the nose, a strong juniper core is accompanied by a crisp and clean aroma with bright citrus notes and herbal complexity. Both Junipero and No. 3 Gin express the best of these botanicals.
Junipero Gin: America’s Original Craft Gin
The first of its kind, Junipero Gin fearlessly led the birth of American craft gin in 1996. Driven to elevate juniper and citrus flavors, the San Francisco-based distilling team at the Hotaling & Co. distillery forged a new path by crafting each batch of Junipero in a small copper pot still, scouring the globe for the most expressive botanicals. In 1996, Junipero Gin, known as America’s Original Craft Gin, this gin quickly git the market with those bold, expressive botanicals bottled at an unfiltered 98.6 proof.
Twenty-five years later, Junipero is still made by hand in San Francisco and celebrates those who break with convention to pursue an original path.
Bruce Joseph, Master Distiller, Junipero Gin -- favorite quote about gin: A famous chemist once said, “Gin IS the solution.”
No. 3 Gin – “World’s Best Gin” Honors
See clip at start of newsletter for my interview with Ross Bryant, Brand Ambassador
When Berry Bros. & Rudd, London’s oldest wine and spirit merchant, pictured the perfect gin, they pictured a true classic: a pure, crisp and refreshing London Dry Gin, drawing together the perfect balance of juniper, citrus and spice. It was a gin made the traditional way and expertly crafted for a classic dry martini. Created by an expert team including Dr. David Clutton, the only person in the world with a PhD in Gin, the recipe for No.3 was painstakingly scrutinized and altered 12 times over a two-year period before finally landing on the final recipe, which has remained unchanged since the debut of No.3 London Dry Gin in 2010. No.3 has remained steadfast in its commitment to mastering the art of the perfect gin. No.3 is produced in Holland, the birthplace of gin. Notably, No.3 Gin has received World’s Best Gin honors FOUR times by the International Spirits Challenge (ISC).
Ross Bryant, Brand Ambassador, No. 3 Gin -- His favorite quote about gin: Ada Coleman, famous mixologist at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel, London, spent some time perfecting a Gin Cocktail. One day one of her customers tried it and shouted, “That’s the real Hanky Panky!” Thus, the cocktail got its name.
The Economics of Gin and Its International Appeal
The economics of distilling gin are sound. Whiskey and Bourbon distillers have jumped into the gin market. Gin has quicker cash flow than many of the brown spirits (Whiskey, Scotch, Bourbon) with no need to tie up capital for years with barrel aging.
“It takes eight hours to make a batch of Gin then it’s on the shelves in a week,” says Simon Buley, Master Distiller, Balmenach Distillery.
Premium gin, like Junipero and No.3 Gin, now have gained a cult following like that of single malt Scotch. Today’s ambitious and skilled bartenders admire the complex flavors and bouquets of gin. Its perceived sophistication is a step up from more mainstream spirits. Since craft gin represents only 2% of the gin market, gin has room to grow. Local foods with local craft gin derived of authentic ingredients insure gin’s continued growth. The cocktail culture is expanding. This is the “Golden Age” for Gin, and its future looks bright.
Wine Wanderings Editorial Calendar
Premier Wine Photographer and Author, Janis Miglavs Talks about Oregon, China, and More
An Interview with A Cal-Ital Winemaker: Pietro Burritta of Prima Mateira Winery
Sonoma’s Russian River Valley- Single Vineyard Expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
An interview with the Brother/Sister Team at Summit Lake Winery, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
Tour Tuscany Like a Pro
Wine Castles of Sonoma County
Visual Journeys in Wine Regions – A Interview with Premier Vineyard Photographer Janis Miglavs
An Interview with Dr. Liz Thach, Author: Ten Hot Wine Trends for 2021 in the US Market
An Interview with Dominic Chappellet
America’s Exceptional Wine Country Adventures