Forget mother’s ruin. Gin can be quite the tonic when it comes to getting in the party spirit. Take a look at our guide to our favourite gins, along with a quick history and tasting notes.
One of the drink’s strengths is its versatility; there are variations to suit every palate. So, while juniper must always be the main ingredient, distillers are free to add almost any number and flavour of other botanicals to their decoctions, and still classify them as gin.
Some gins have as few as three or four botanical flavours other than juniper, while the Scottish gin Botanist has a whopping 31. Flavours range from the cucumber and rose of Hendricks to the lavender of Aviation and the lemongrass and black pepper of Bombay Sapphire East.
No two gins are alike, making the spirit wide and exciting territory to explore – for the novice taster and more experienced imbiber alike.
With that in mind, why not try a Gin jaunt at the Scarlet Bar? Spend an evening exploring the depth and breadth of the gins we have on offer, including:
Portobello Gin 42%
This is a small batch gin, made from nine botanicals and is best served with tonic and a grapefruit twist.
Tarquin’s, Handcrafted Cornish Dry Gin 24%
A contemporary take on a classic London Dry, distilled by hand in tiny batches. Alongside 10 traditional gin botanicals, Tarquin’s uses fragrant Devon violets and fresh orange zest to create an aromatic experience unlike any other.
Curio, Rock Samphire Gin 41%
Hand foraged from the Cornish clifftops, the rock samphire is blended with fragrant botanicals and distilled in small batches for exceptional quality and a delicately smooth gin. We recommend trying it neat with just ice and a garnish. Delicious!
Caspyn Midsummer Gin 40%
A dry gin infused with cucumber and other local summer flora resulting in a punchy and refreshing spirit. A great Cornish alternative to Hendricks.
Citadelle Reserve Gin 44%
Citadelle is made from 19 different botanicals, giving the gin a unique, complex and well-balanced flavour. The secret recipe is known only by the master distiller, Alexandre Gabriel. What flavours can you pick out?
Chase, Slow & Mulberry Gin 30%
The finest botanicals are selected to create Williams Chase Gin, which are then blended with hand-picked Herefordshire sloe berries and – the ultimate forgotten fruit – mulberries.
The name gin is a shortened form of the old English word ‘genever’, related to the French word ‘genièvre’ and the Dutch word ‘jenever’. All ultimately derive from the word ‘juniperus’, the Latin for juniper.
Gin gets its predominant flavour from juniper berries. The drink developed in the Middle Ages as a herbal medicine and is now a lynchpin of the spirits industry.
There are three categories of gin. London Dry gins do not have to be made in London, but they do have to have all natural ingredients, and, most importantly, can’t have any flavourings or colourings added (except for a minuscule amount of sugar) after the distillation process.
Distilled gin is made essentially the same way as London Dry, with one big difference—flavouring can be added after distillation.
Plain gin can mostly be found—when it’s found at all—on the bottom shelves at your local liquor store, and for good reason. There are no real laws governing how compound gin must be made, or what can or can’t be added after distillation. Most compound gins have juniper flavouring infused after distillation, which makes it essentially a glorified flavoured vodka. It’s cheap, but you get what you pay for.
In 1269, the first major mention of juniper-based health-related tonics appeared in a Dutch publication. Ever since, gin has had a history of being used “for medicinal purposes.” The Royal Navy mixed gin with lime cordial to stop scurvy, and angostura settled the stomach at sea. Tonic water with quinine was anti-malarial, giving them a great excuse to drink more gin and tonics.
The first confirmed date for the production of gin is the early 17th century in Holland, although claims have been made that it was produced prior to this in Italy. In Holland, it was produced as a medicine and sold in chemist shops to treat stomach complaints, gout and gallstones. To make it more palatable, the Dutch started to flavour it with juniper, which had medicinal properties of its own.
British troops fighting in the Low Countries during the Thirty Years’ War were given ‘Dutch Courage’ during the long campaigns in the damp weather, owing to the warming properties of gin. Eventually they started bringing it back home with them, where already it was often sold in chemists’ shops. Distillation was taking place in a small way in England, but it now began on a greater scale, though the quality was often very dubious. Nevertheless, the new drink became a firm favourite with the poor.
The formation by King Charles I of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, where members had the sole right to distil spirits in London and Westminster and up to 21 miles beyond improved both the quality of gin and its image; it also helped English agriculture by using surplus corn and barley.
When King William III – better known as William of Orange – came to the English throne in 1689, he made a series of statutes encouraging the distillation of English spirits. Anyone could now distil by simply posting a notice in public and just waiting ten days. Sometimes gin was distributed to workers as part of their wages and soon the volume sold daily exceeded that of beer and ale, which was more expensive anyway.