“Gin and tonic… it’s a very British drink, isn’t it?” commented a Spanish visitor to one of our gin tastings at Judith’s recently. And with over 800 gin distilleries in the UK, you would have to agree that gin is incredibly popular here. But its origins are anything but British.
So, where does Gin come from? In the early 19th century, Europeans living and working in India took quinine to prevent malaria. The quinine was drunk in tonic water but was very bitter so people took to mixing it with some water, sugar, lemon or lime and London Dry gin to make it easier (and more pleasant!) to drink. The gin and tonic was born.
Gin itself is even older than that. We have the Dutch to thank for creating a very herbal drink, heavily flavoured with juniper (a key ingredient of gin) and other herbs. They called this drink ‘genever’. It was more often than not barrel-aged – so a bit closer to whisky – but still the precursor of the gin that we enjoy today.
‘Genever’ comes from juniperus, the Latin word for juniper. Juniper berries have been around for a very long time and were popular as a medicine. We know that the Ancient Egyptians used juniper to cure jaundice and the Romans for purification.
So the history of gin is a long one and one that looks set to continue if we have anything to do about it. Fifty or sixty years ago, gin and tonic may have had a whiff of the retired colonel in Eastbourne about it but it’s long since thrown off its frumpy image and burst into the 21st century with a fresh look, all singing and dancing ingredients and a great emphasis on quality thanks to the many artisan gin distillers – ourselves included – that now operate in the UK.
We take our inspiration from the Tudor period, particularly Tudor knot gardens which were used to flavour things so were full of glorious botanicals and herbs. We definitely acknowledge the past but have our sights set firmly on the future. With exciting new combinations (welcome to our summery Kaffir Lime and Orange Gin and King’s Coronation Gin), the story of gin will continue.
Find out more about the weird and wonderful world of gin on one of our distillery tours here in Stratford upon Avon!