Gin, which was the leading spirit at the start of the 20th century, was so popular that sales of the venerable Plymouth gin barely dropped in the U.S. during Prohibition, according to Nick Van Tiel, English gins brand ambassador for Pernod Ricard. But gin fell out of favor by the middle of the century, and was often viewed as a stodgy old libation that young drinkers wanted no part of.
But gin has made a considerable comeback. Speaking at a session called “The English Ginvasion” at the Boston Cocktail Summit, Van Tiel credited Michael Roux, who developed Bombay Sapphire in 1988 with “making gin cool again.” British bar guru Dick Bradsell deserves some credit as well, Van Tiel noted, “for going back to the Golden Age of cocktails, before Prohibition, and using fresh ingredients and gin” in mixology. Here are five fast facts about gin that Van Tiel shared with attendees.
1) Flavored spirits are all the rage today, but “gin is the original flavored vodka,” Van Tiel said. Both are clear, rectified spirits, he noted, but gin has always been flavored with botanicals, namely juniper, as well as coriander, angelica root and seeds, liquorice and others.
2) The only guideline to making English gin is that the dominant flavor has to be Juniper. “Otherwise you’re making something else,” Van Tiel said. Gin is all about how the flavors work together, “and why there’s such a big difference between good gin and bad gin.”
3) Genever, developed in Holland in the 15th century, is the grandfather of modern gin. But genever tastes a little different from gin because the Dutch uses malt wine as a base instead of a neutral grain spirit.
4) London dry gin doesn’t actually have to be made in London. It’s a style, not a geographic appellation, according to Van Tiel.
5). The U.K. isn’t the biggest market for gin. It isn’t even the second biggest (Spain is). The U.K. is the fourth largest market for gin; the U.S. is the third. So what is currently the number-one market for gin? The Philippines, Van Tiel said.