10 oct. Gin, Something Between Botany And Alchemy
Gin, Something Between Botany And Alchemy
If we could go back in time, we would discover that many current usages and customs were introduced after wars or discoveries, and in many cases involving mystery and medieval monks. And what’s more, normally several different countries claim separate ownership of such customs.
This is the case of gin.
Alcohol stills, monasteries, the medieval search for the philosopher’s stone.
A cooking pot on low heat transforms alcohol with a blend of different plants and fruits. This alcohol is then passed through a still, and is collected in a barrel. We are left with an excellent gin of around 40 to 50 degrees alcohol, that we now mix with ice, other plants and a refreshing mixer in just the right proportions.
A look back into time and a read through the chronicles takes us to its origins back in the twelfth century, when Dutch monks created the first gins from distilled cereals and the added aromas of juniper berries, aimed at combating the Bubonic Plague.
The drink’s development is attributed to the Dutchman Franciscus de la Boe (1614-1672), professor of medicine at the University of Leiden, who was preparing distilled alcoholic drinks blended with berries from juniperus communis for dieting purposes. The fruit was known by its French name genièvre and in Dutch it was known as genever.
During the Thirty Years’ War at the end of the sixteenth century, English soldiers discovered genever and after witnessing the hostility that it provoked in their allies in battle, named it ‘Dutch courage’, brought it to Britain and renamed it gin. Years later and after growing popularity it became the national drink with the foundation of the London Dry Gin brand. And later still it conquered the world.
The botanicals of gin
In the slang of those in the know, the term botanical is used to define the ingredients involved in producing gin, meaning the maceration of neutral alcohol and the aromas of juniper berries, different plants, herbs, spices and fruit.
The number of botanicals involved in producing gin is a secret, and the pride of its producers, though some contain as many as twenty ingredients. In the final result we can appreciate the perfume and refreshing sensation of citric fruits, of essential oils of dried lemon rind, of sweet and bitter oranges, grapefruit and lime.
These botanicals are complimented by perfumes from all over the world and exotic spices such as coriander, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, pepper, grains of paradise, nutmeg and plants such as fennel, liquorice and cassia bark.
The resulting distillation is a blend of aromas and flavours, which distilled once more gives a final product with a strength of 40 to 50 degrees. And the way we take our gin will depend entirely on where we are. Dutch gin tends to be drunk on the rocks, while gin made in the rest of the world is usually taken as a cocktail.