In England – NOW!
There has never been such a wealth of choice of artisan gin for discerning consumers. Seren Charrington-hollins meets English producers and tries a little do-it-yourself.
WHILST a G&T on a warm summer evening may seem terribly civilised, in the past gin had a rather seedy reputation. The term “mother’s ruin” is still used to describe this spirit which is now enjoying a huge resurgence in popularity.
The first confirmed date for the production of gin is in the early 17th century in Holland, although claims have been made that it was produced prior to this in Italy.
One thing is for certain by the mid-1 th century the effects of gin-drinking on English society made the effects of binge drinking today seem benign Gin started out as a medicine indeed, with its blend of botanicals it was originally thought that it could be a cure for gout and indigestion and it was cheap. In the 1730s, notices could be seen all over London “Drunk for a penny, Dead drunk for tuppence, Straw for nothing” In London alone, there were more than 7,000 “dram shops”, and 10 million gallons of gin were being distilled annually in the capital. Gin was soaked up in an earthy fashion, leading to it being associated with deprivation and depravity.
The favourite tipple of the poor, gin rendered men impotent, women sterile, and was a contributory factor in the birth rate in London during this period being exceeded by the death rate. Shocked by the nation’s insatiable thirst for gin, the government decided that the tax on it must be raised, but this merely drove gin underground and on to the black market, doing nothing to stop the supply or demand.
In 1736 a Gin Act was passed which forbade anyone to sell “Distilled spirituous liquor” without first taking out a licence costing 50. In the seven years following 1736, only three 50 licences were taken out, yet the gallons of gin kept on flowing.
Gin has now cast off its infamy and is the bartenders’ darling. The world of gin has changed dramatically over the last decade. There are now around 200 different gins to choose from in the .
Gin must be made from alcohol of agricultural origin, usually cereals, be flavoured with a noticeable amount of juniper and have an ABV (alcohol by volume) of at least 37.5 , but in terms of
other ingredients there’s scope for experimentation.
Gin producers now flavour their gin with anything from citrus peels, coriander seeds, milk thistle and tarragon through to ginger, orris root (made from the root of the iris and bringing floral flavours to gin), saffron and spicy cinnamon.
When choosing your tipple, it’s well worth checking out the botanicals, and finding out a little about styles. For example, London Dry doesn’t have to be made in London, but its botanicals can only be added during distillation and it contains barely any sugar, whereas Plymouth Gin is similar, but can only be made in Plymouth.
If a bottle doesn’t mention a style then botanicals may have been added after distillation along with sugar or sweeteners. This type of gin and Old Tom style (historically made with liquorice) is likely to suit you more if you have a sweet tooth.
On a uest to find out more about artisan gin, I caught up with the founders of the Brighton Gin Company to ask what makes gin such a special drink.
The styling of the bottle and colour scheme adopted for Brighton Gin reminded me of an eau de cologne, and I must say it wouldn’t look out of place on a 1920s stage dressing table, but its good looks are surpassed by its taste.
Brighton Gin is made with 100 British organic wheat spirit and it’s free from pesky additives they then re-distil with juniper, fresh orange and lime peel, locally grown coriander seed and milk thistle, which is indigenous to the South Downs.
I spoke to ane eating at Brighton Gin, who explained that it’s a small-batch-distilled, super-premium gin, handmade from beginning to end, down to each bottle being hand-labelled and waxed in the colour of Brighton’s iconic seafront railings. The gin flavouring was several years in the making, with the founders athy Caton and Helen Chesshire spending a long time developing recipes.
After much experimentation they opted for a classic juniper berry, which used to grow wild on the South Downs, though sadly is now hard to find fresh orange peel coriander seeds, which come from a farm near Ringer and milk thistle, which grows on the South Downs and is known for its liver-cleansing properties.
It’s nice to see that gin is experiencing a commercial revival at the hands of exciting new artisan companies.
Whilst I don’t have the ability to produce gin from scratch, I really enjoy making a variety of gin infusions, such as cranberry or even Turkish delight gin.
But how are alcohol infusions made Well, let me talk you through each stage of the infusion process so that you can start experimenting, but I take no responsibility for sore heads.