Gin must be made from ethyl alcohol flavoured with juniper berries and other botanicals. It must always have juniper as its predominant flavour and it must be bottled at no less than 37.5% ABV.
Gin flavours derive from the essential oils in its botanicals. For example, Juniper which is the only essential botanical in gin, is made up of a small portion of larger elements and a large amount of smaller parts which contribute to its overall effect. Juniper contains citrus and rose together with pine and camphor. Gin is one of the broadest categories of spirits, all of various origins, styles, and flavour profiles that revolve around juniper as a common ingredient.
During the distillation process these aromas vaporise combining themselves with the alcohol vapours, creating a powerful aromatic steam. Each of the different botanicals used in the distilling process will release its properties at different times due to some being softer than others.
From its earliest origins in the Middle Ages, the drink has evolved from a herbal medicine to an object of commerce in the spirits industry. Gin was developed based on the older Dutch liquor, jenever, and became popular in Great Britain (particularly in London) when William Orange, leader of the Dutch Republic, occupied the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones with his wife Mary between 1689 and 1702.
Gin drinking in England rose significantly after the government allowed unlicensed gin production, and at the same time imposed a heavy duty on all imported spirits such as French brandy. This created a larger market for poor-quality barley that was unfit for brewing beer, and in 1695 to 1735 thousands of gin-shops sprang up throughout England, a period known as the Gin Craze. Because of the low price of gin, when compared with other drinks available at the same time, and in the same geographic location, gin began to be consumed regularly by the poor. Of the 15,000 drinking establishments in London, not including coffee shops and drinking chocolate shops, over half were gin shops.
The 18th century gave rise to a style of gin referred to as Old Tom gin, which is a softer, sweeter style of gin, often containing sugar. Old Tom gin faded in popularity by the early 20th century.
With the invention and development of the column still between 1826 and 1831 it made the distillation of neutral spirits practical, enabling the creation of the ‘London Dry’ style gin that evolved more in the 19th century.
Gin today is a common base spirit for many mixed drinks, including the martini and lots of other popular cocktails.