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History of Gin: Know the Insane History of Gin From its Medical Beginnings to Smooth Spirit



Coming from a person who has never tasted this curious drink called "Gin" before, this writing comes as an answer. Now through this research, I can obviously brag about all that I know about the drink in all its recipes, before I take my very first sip. Surely you will too at the end of the article, know about it all and also can possibly make a few recipes home.


So, let us start to have a rather intoxicating historical journey talking and knowing about breweries and berries. Yes, you will know what I mean soon, when I say "berries". And here we go…


Who made the first sip possible?

For years together, without digging deep into the makers of the drink, the world believed that it was a physician who made that drink. They thought that it was in the 17th century, after the 1650s to be precise. And hilariously, a play written by an English writer named Phillip Massinger clarified the assumption. There was a mention of the drink in his 0play "The Duke of Milan", dated 1623. So, people started digging deeper into the origin.


The first Gin to be ever made consisted of Juniper berries. Yes, like most of the alcoholic drinks. Wine from grapes, vodka from potatoes, sake, a Japanese drink from rice and so on. Next time someone enquires about our drink we can say "it's just berry juice distilled".


Talking about who made it first, then we have a long reverse walk into history to the beginning of the 13th century. Italian and Belgian monks distilled Juniper berries and some food grains for medicinal purposes. The end-product became famous by the name Gin. They tried to replicate their celebrated drink named "Aqua Vita".


It is an alcoholic spirit and water-based version of ethanol. The Greco-Roman monks pressed the berries with other combinations and made the famous gin of their times. Firstly named as Jenever.


The drink Jenever, the modern-day Gin was mixed with spices like anise, coriander, cinnamon and so on to treat medical ailments. We do still consider soda to relieve occasional gas. So, that distilled drink treated kidney problems, stomach issues as part of its consumption. And as a topical skin treatment for lower back pain and swollen red joints to relieve pain.


Deep into history and the drinking habits

Netherlander's mass migrated to Belgium and other cities of England during the Dutch War of Independence. There they brought with them their interest and skills of Gin making. Their soldiers were already using this drink as a refreshment apart from its supposed medical uses. There are verified proofs that state that people at war drank this to have a calming effect in the chaos.


By the early 1700's the word Jenever or genever became popularly known as "Gin" by the influence of the English speaking majority. These were the times of Glorious Revolutions of the kings and kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland. During which the drink became popular next to 'Brandy'.


With its gaining popularity even among the royals, the England government took some important decisions. They wanted to cash on this demand, and so they opened up the country for making Gin even without a licence. We know how they do their business, we are familiar with the 'Demand and Supply' technique of that land.


The move the government made, resulted in a period that was also called the period of "Gin Craze". Distilled and made unlicensed at a 37 to 45% of alcohol weight by volume, this drink was a strong one.


The regular malt-based beer was in no way a competition to this. So, Gin created a household want and also caused many unwanted things. There was a theory that attributed many deaths around 1700-1735 in England to the consumption of Gin.


William Hogarth actually summed up the comparison in one single poster named "Beer Street and Gin Lane''. That one poster depicts the effects the drinks had on the society then, which may also hold true today.


British influenced the word Gin and were the reason for its origin. Pun intended. They have also played with the words. They called drunkards "gin-soaked people, irrespective of their intoxicating beverage choices.


Many bars by small budget people are often named as "gin-mills" with an American alternative, "gin-joints''. Degrading the poor's way of cashing the demand of the drink. One last mean thing they could have said about the drink, on the whole, was the phrase, "mother's ruin". And it isn't meaner than the wars they created and the lives these wars ruined.


As a famous comedian in our times, Steve Hofstetter has said, "do not blame alcohol for your bad behaviour". Suits best to bad decisions, bad wars etc. as well. The gin craze led to so many immoral practices and deaths among the poor that the government of England had to do something. They enacted laws and passed acts to control the uncontrolled spread. The government was too late to figure all out in the first Gin Act of 1736.


Their sudden extreme restrictions led to riots and agitations by both the sellers and the consumers. This resulted in a series of amendments of those acts in the next years. The final one, the Gin Act of 1751, was successful in calming the agitations and applying some legal restrictions to gin making.


It is after this act, the government started licencing the gin making and selling places. This forced the home distillers to sell it to licensed persons only and reduce the imposed taxes. The local jurisdiction charged the licensees for any violations and adulterations.


Read more: History of Tandoori Chicken: Know The Origin that Dates Back to the Harappan Civilization!


Flavours of those times

Due to so few restrictions at first, there arose many combinations and flavours of gin. The London Gin was dry with a strong taste of the plain alcohol rather than any flavour or sweetness. Laws restricted weight-volume percentage of sweeteners.


Double distilled gin also became popular with no added condiments the second time. There was a special turpentine tree resin flavoured gin which also sought popularity. The Netherlands-dutch and Belgium combination gin was a malt-based wine spirit which became a different gin altogether in those times.


Legendary sweet gin was the Old Tom Gin which had beetroot juice as it's a sweetener as the basic strong plain gin was very bitter. This Old Tom Gin became more popular in the 20th century. The Sloe Gin was the sweet dominated light drink alternative to the strong gin which got popular along with the other ones. The sloes are the fruits of blackthorn plants.


I would have taken my medications very well if they came with some gin. Quinine, an anti-malarial drug to treat malaria was mixed with gin added through plain soda. This, in time, became the famous mixture, "gin and tonic". Later the lightly sweetened and the non-sweetened clear gin became useful as base drinks too many gin combinations.


First comes the infamous wild martinis and then the fruit-infused gin. I wish our fitness and nutrition experts suggest this type of fruit infusion, I would carry it around all day and complete it.


Damson Plum infusion was the famous one among the fruits. It shows that not all fruits go with the bitter drink. With time, people started experimenting with colours too. Pink gin, violet gin and bloody orange gin like our renowned Bloody-Mary drink and so on were the colourful outcomes.


How did they make it?

In a differentiated process of making this drink Jenever, the predominant juniper berries are not supposed to ferment. They needed the fresh mash of the ingredients. Plain berry and alcohol mix was the way of the peasants.


While the multi-flavoured one with cardamom and spices was for the aristocrats or the lords. Anyway, the ingredients were marinated in unflavoured alcohol for longer times. Then they boiled them altogether. The boiling liquid is then allowed to slowly percolate down the apparatus, or the evaporated flavours cool down to drink. Either way, this was how the "One-Shot Gin" came into function.


Apart from infusion and distillation, there are two other processes of making gin. The concentrate method is like our Rasna and Roohafza fruit concentrates mixed with water. Huge quantities of berries are boiled down to their thick pulp which are later added to plain tasteless alcohol and water. The pulp making process is the same as making fragrance oils. This helped the commercialisation of gin by retailers.


The cheapest way to make gin, one way that normal people can do it at their home is the cold-compound process. Taking a considerate quantity of plain alcohol, dumping all the berries and spices in, closing the lid and leaving it to marinate. Then filtering the solids and the foam and transferring the filtered drink into another container, usually does the work.


Read more: Origin of Kebabs - Know How it Developed from Lack of Vegetation Option to World Tastiest delicacy

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