Since it was first distilled in the Middle Ages, gin has seen many ups and downs in terms of acceptability and popularity. The British are believed to have brought the gin into India during the Raj, where it became a favoured tipple amongst officers and ranks. But, after the British left, the popularity of the spirit in India declined and has not been the same since.
Since its origin, gin has gone through several changes and modifications in terms of production and taste. Other spirits, like wine and vodka, have a definite flavour and haven't undergone much of a change since they were discovered, but gin differs because it can be made from anything that can be fermented and distilled. This means that we can make gin from grapes, potatoes or even grains. The distinctive feature that separates gin from other spirits is the flavour of juniper berries that is added in to mask the rough and strong taste of the spirit.
The first recorded production of gin was in the early 17 century in Holland, where it was used to treat stomach ailments. The Worshipful Company of Distillers in London began to produce a better quality of gin under King Charles I's regime, which eventually led to the production of a more standardized spirit rather than those initially made in small pots.
Today, gin has evolved in the way that it is distilled and packaged. We can slot it into eight broad categories based on the taste and distillation process. The first style is London Dry, which includes brands like Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire. The gin has a strong taste of juniper, with a tiny hint of berries and is drier than older gin.
The second style is Plymouth, which is available in a brand of the same name. It gets its name from the place it is produced in, Plymouth. This gin is sweeter and earthier than the London dry variety. It is a great option for a gin and tonic mix because of its enhanced sweetness.
The next style is New Wave, which includes all new gins especially Hendrick's, which tends to have an array of botanicals added in for taste instead of just juniper berries. Some of the flavours that can be added include rose, cucumber and saffron; the subtle tastes of all three go really well with cocktails like the gimlet, which are not very strong.
Navy Strength, which is also quite popular, has more alcohol content than London Dry, and is best used in a negroni, a cocktail of gin, Campari and vermouth. An example of a Navy Strength gin is Martin Miller's Westbourne Strength.
An old, classic version is Old Tom, a style in itself as there are not many gins adhering to the old taste now. Old Tom tastes less of juniper and has more of the malty sweetness that makes it perfect for a Tom Collins, a cocktail of gin, lemon, sugar and soda. You can read about more of the styles here.
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