For the Love of Gin

Healing Herb Gardens

There is nothing quite like a splash of gin in your glass to cure what ails, am I right? No story about gin would be complete without some reference to its history so here goes. Medicinal tipples began with the monks distilling alcoholic tonics from wine and infusing the liquor with juniper berries and other healing herbs. Juniper was considered an excellent all round medicinal herb of the day.

Apothecaries (an old fashioned name for a pharmacist) prescribed juniper tonics for coughs colds pains and strains ruptures and cramps. A cure all if you will. By the end of the 16th century alchemists (scientists) worked out how to distil spirits cheaply from grain and the gin journey continued. It was the Dutch who flavoured up the bitter tasting spirit with spices they sourced from East Indies to create the first gin called Jenever but it was the English who raised its popularity with the drinking classes.

Poor Old Tom

Improvements to the quality of gin from a rough spirit that needed sugar and other botanicals to give it a pleasant taste happened in 18th century. Major innovations in the distillation method led to smoother tasting gins which became known as the London Dry. Poor Old Tom gins made in pot stills met their timely fate as a new generation of more sophisticated drinkers emerged. But like all popular fads, think Dr Pepper, Pop Tarts and Vol au vents, it seemed that Gin had had its day.

Everyone knows that you cant keep a good man down for long nor it would seem a good spirit either. Published data from the 2018 International Spirit and Wine Report stated that Australia’s consumption of gin has grown almost 33% and gin worldwide is still trending upwards. So how gin make this remarkable comeback?

True Blue 

Smart marketing by Bombay Sapphire in 1988 reignited a stagnant gin drinking market. An authentic London Dry gin flavoured with ten botanicals sold in a beautiful blue bottle opened the doors to gin once again. The popularity of my favourite spirit gin now resides in the hands of boutique distilleries and master mixologists. Small batch distilleries can be found literally everywhere offering locally made London dry gins flavoured with botanicals. My favourites are right at my doorstep. Four Pillars in the Yarra Valley and Bass and Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula are very popular distilleries which I highly recommend visiting for a tasting paddle.

Traditional Gin Botanicals

Because gin is nothing more than a flavoured vodka there is an opportunity to create hundreds of different gin flavour profiles. Apart from the common gin ingredients which include angelica root coriander bay leaf cubeb juniper berry, cardamom, fennel, lavender, citrus peel, ginger orris root and grains of paradise. There is a dizzyingly array of herbs flowers and fruits and spices that can transform a traditional gin into a craft gin.

Gin varieties in the local liquor store seem endless and somewhat overwhelming when all you want is a mixer for the home bar that wont disappoint. Price is not always a good way to classify gin and make a smart selection.  We are here to help you sort through all the hundreds of local and imported gins based on science and a keen sense of modern taste. Our approach is to classify all gins into categories based on their distilling method, ingredients and alcoholic content.

Know Your Gins

London dry gin is all about the method. It is a grain spirit distilled with natural ingredients and no colours or flavourings are added. Minimum of 37.5% and juniper is the predominant flavour with citrus notes. It is considered a classic style gin perfect for mixing into a G & T and other classic cocktails. Gordon and Sapphire Blue are examples of this gin

Plymouth gin can only be distilled in Plymouth. The distillery was originally established to supply the British Royal Navy. The flavour is sweeter and earthier, with the first sip heavy on the coriander and this gin has a lingering spicy note of liquorice.

Navy strength gin recipe has been around since the 18th century. Sailors would make sure that the barrels of gin loaded in the ships hadn’t been watered down by spilling some gin on gunpowder. If it was strong enough to light the gunpowder, then it was 114 proof or 57% ABV as we know it now. There is no specific flavour profile and it’s all about the alcoholic strength. Navy strength gin is generally used to make a Gimlet which is the quintessential British navy drink of gin and lime juice.

Old Tom Gin bridges the gap between Dutch Jenever and London dry. Old Tom was a rough spirit flavoured with sugar and liquorice to make the gin drinkable. A modern-day version of Old Tom tastes malty sweet with a muted juniper profile compared to a London dry. Use it in a Tom Collins and Martinez

Genever is 15-50% malt wine mixed with a neutral grain. Oude (old) Jenevere is juniper scented with a malty flavour rich viscous mouth feel. Drink neat as a digestive or mix as an alternative to a whisky or bourbon. Jonge (young) is 15% malt and tastes more like a classic dry gin. Mix in Negroni’s.

Craft Gin is made in a traditional still with natural botanicals but flavourings colours and additives can be added after distilling. Emphasis is less on the juniper and more on the other botanicals. Hendricks Tanqueray are examples of a flavoured London dry gin. We love them because of their unique flavour profile. So if you love a particular gin keep hold of it and experiment with it to find the cocktails that mix best with its botanicals. This can be a difficult task which we are going to attempt to make easy.

Popular Gin Flavours

Gins known as “London Dry” are typically juniper-forward, with subtler touches of citrus, herb and spice flavours. Their flavour profile works wonderfully with sweet, tart, bright and juicy flavours that usually come from citrus fruits such as grapefruit lime and blood orange or berries like raspberries strawberries or blackberries. Even more unusual fruits that you might not think to add to a G&T, like pear, fig and peach make a fabulous gin cocktail!

When it comes to cocktails, the scope of flavours gets even wider as we take into account more savoury flavour profiles. London Dry gins work fabulously well with tomatoes in a Red Snapper (gin version of a Bloody Mary) and of course with olives in a Dirty Martini.  Helen one of my favourite mixologists aka sheshedcocktails executed this perfectly with her recent rosemary simple syrup inspired  G& T garnished with olives.

For sweeter profiles, the list of fruity gin cocktails is almost endless. The perfect cocktail recipes for a London Dry gin are Berry Bramble or Clover Club. These classic cocktails are full of raspberry flavour and when you add rosemary thyme or bergamot simple syrups these favourites become berry addictive. Without a doubt London Dry gins are the spirit of choice for martinis slings and fizzes

When it comes to fruity and floral gins like Pink Gins we think fragrant and flowery flavours work best. The likes of lavender, rose, and vanilla which are perfect botanicals for pulling out the floral and fruity notes of the gin. We recommend trying our rose gin fizzIf cocktails are more your thing, give your floral gin a go in a classic aviation cocktail where it will be complemented by the flowery flavours of lavender or violet.

Gin Cocktails

Citrus-forward gins are great for cocktails that have a herbaceous leaning, like our Rosemary Collins. A fantastic ways to enjoy citrus-led gins. The rule with gins like is get herbaceous with woody herbs like thyme and rosemary or soft green herbs like mint and basil. This means that when making a G&T with a citrus-forward gin we usually go for tonic waters that are more on the herbaceous side such as fever tree Mediterranean tonic and garnish with rosemary, thyme, marjoram or even oregano. You can really get creative adding indigo simple syrup for a touch of fragrant, aniseed flavour or just use a splash of our Indigo simple syrup instead!

Spiced gins work brilliantly with both savoury and sweet flavours like honey and chocolate. Try spiced gin in a G&T with savoury herbs like bay, thyme with sweet blueberries and you will not be disappointed. Cocktails are where spiced gins really come into their own though, their versatility is remarkable! Try spiced gin in a Filthy Martini, which is garnished with capers and your taste buds will certainly thank you. So are you thirsty for more?

Customised Cocktails

Juniper berries contain alpha pinene which imparts a pine or rosemary flavour, myrcene which is found in cannabis, hops and wild thyme and limonene a citrus flavour found in many herbs and spices Therefore it is no wonder that gin combines so well with coriander lemon peel as many plants have the same flavour compounds in different combinations. Experimenting with flavours can be a creative outlet with a dizzyingly array of herbs flowers and fruits and spices that can transform your home cocktail.

Herbs and fruit can be muddled into a cocktail, infused into simple syrup or used as a garnish. Fennel lemongrass mint sage rosemary and thyme can all give a colourful fresh aromatic hit to your gin cocktail.  Fruits that pair well with gin are cherry fig lemon lime orange and olive. Peach plum and pomegranate are also wonderful mixed as jams syrups and purees.

Flowers such as elderflower, jasmine, lavender, marigold rose and violet are most often used as garnishes or frozen in ice blocks but also make delicious liqueurs and simple syrups.

Verde Veritas

With such a wonderful array of flavours to work with and some general guidelines to flavour your next gin I feel its time to finish writing my words and end this musing on gin with a Latin epitaph Verde Veritas. Cheers to mastering the art of perfect truth that can be found in a glass of gin laced with natures best.


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