Aromatic and refreshing, gin has historically been much loved and much hated. In the 1700s, London's poor drank so much gin that the era was dubbed the Gin Craze. According to legend, one bar patron decried its allure, stating that "gin tastes like Christmas trees smell." That is an apt description because the principle ingredients of gin are juniper berries and a neutral alcohol.
To make gin, the distiller begins with a neutral alcohol made from a fermented mixture of malt, corn, rye or molasses. The maker distills it further with a mixture of juniper berries and other herbs and spices. Although the botanical elements added to gin vary among makers, most gin contains juniper and coriander. Other additions include citrus peels and any number of various spices. Most gin has notes of pine, woods, citrus and floral essences.
Each distiller uses a unique blend of botanical flavorings in its gin. Tanqueray No. 10 is a complex mixture of juniper with other botanicals that add dense, creamy notes. Bombay Sapphire mixes in 10 botanicals, including almonds, cubeb berries, licorice, lemon peel and cassia bark. Gordon's gin contains a proprietary blend of juniper, coriander, angelica roots and another secret herb. Beefeater gin has prominent juniper notes mixed with distinctive orange flavors. Its fresh flavor comes from angelica seed and lemon peel. Because each gin has a distinctive flavor, experiment to find the brand that best suits you.
Laura McGowan has written and edited for universities and educational publishers for more than 13 years. She has also covered gardening and wild plant and animal life of Illinois and brings expertise in vegan and vegetarian cooking, Apple computers and Labrador Retrievers. McGowan holds a Master of Arts in English literature.