Where Does Gin Come From Anyway?
Gin as we know it today, is a distilled alcohol that by definition must include the characteristic aroma and flavour of the juniper berry. Even the name itself is derived from the Dutch word for juniper ‘genever’, or the French ‘genièvre’. The quality of the berry and the way the gin is crafted, all play a part in determining the character of fine gins. There are many stories about the origins of gin and how it was created. It is rumoured that the origins of this classic beverage can be traced back as far as the 11th century where it was used as medicine. The Benedictine monks of Salerno, Italy distilled spirits using juniper berries (growing in abundance in the nearby hills) as a cure for a wide range of ailments including indigestion, and for treating conditions of the stomach, kidneys and liver.
As of today, Gin is a flavorful distilled alcohol that revolves largely around the juniper berry. In fact, the word Gin is derived from the dutch word for juniper or ‘genever’. In short, the juniper berry is the base on which most gin is distilled. Naturally, the quality and maturation of the berry plays a key role in determining the characteristics of a given gin.
But where did our favorite summer spirit come from anyway? Well, there are many rumors that describe where gin originated. It can be said that the classic form of the beverage can be traced back as far as the 11th century where it featured as a medicine. For example, the Benedictine monks in Italy distilled various versions of spirits using juniper berries as a cure for everything from indigestion to conditions of the kidneys.
With this in mind, when the Bubonic Plague, or Black Death came to Europe, many people across europe drank a form of the aforementioned juniper tonic as a cure for the disease. As such, by the middle of the century, production levels of jenever in The Netherlands (and Amsterdam in particular) was simply off the charts. This mass production came into play later, in the 17th century. During the struggles for The Neatherland’s independence from spain, the English were sent to war to assist the Dutch in their efforts. It is said that many English soldiers got their first taste of gin while at war. Naturally, they quite liked the taste, and so gin migrated over to England shortly thereafter.
Still, it wasn’t until the late 1600’s when gin began to take off in London. This was simply because William of Orange took the throne and became King of England in 1689. He attempted to bolster the British economy by adding heavy taxes onto any imported spirit. These new laws landed the country into what has since been called the Gin Craze. Huge amounts of gin shops were opened across London and a glass of gin became cheaper than a pint of beer. To this day, people across Europe are still going nuts for gin!
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