The Ultimate Guide to Gin

To celebrate World Gin Day, we dive into the history of one of England's most popular clear spirits, and learn more about the crazy journey that this incredible drink has gone through over the centuries. Join us and our special guests gin experts - Charlotte and Martin from Gin in A Tin in celebrating our favourite spirit here at BoroughBox HQ!


The History of Gin

Believe it or not, gin was first introduced as medicine. Juniper berries and alcohol were used to combat gout, gallstones and chest infections dating all the way back in 70 A.D.

Gin made its way into the UK in the 13th century during the “Thirty Year War” where English soldiers fought in Dutch territory. To help calm their nerves and give them an extra boost of courage they drank “Genever” thus crowning the term Dutch Courage”!

Genever, now shortened to “Gin” didn't take long to make its way to England after the war. However, it only became popular when William III (William of Orange) took over the Dutch Republic in the 1670s before becoming King of England in 1689. William was Dutch, and to show their support, the upper class in England started drinking a spirit of Dutch origin.

Soon after, in the 18th century, the period known as the Gin Craze began. Due to high taxation, beer became expensive and unaffordable to the lower economic classes, who quickly turned to gin, as a pint of gin was cheaper than a pint of beer! With almost no legislation, and reduced taxes, gin production rapidly increased; with up to a quarter of all households in London producing their own gin. They used crops of previous harvests or even add-ons such as turpentine, commonly used to produce wood varnish, as replacements to juniper berries. 

During this period London Dry Gin was invented. By changing the way gin was distilled, a more affordable, easier, cleaner and cheaper way of making gin was created.

Needless to say, this period did not last. A series of poor harvests, an increase in population, lower wages, heavy taxations and new laws suddenly made gin unaffordable to many in England, ending the Gin Craze once and for all.

Gin made its way across the world with British soldiers and has become ever so popular in recent years, as a must-have in many iconic and craft cocktails such as the one our favourite secret spy loves..."shaken, not stirred".

So now time for your burning questions about gin - let’s start with the basics...

1. What is Gin?
The simple answer is: An alcoholic drink of distilled grains and botanicals, something obtained from a plant, such as juniper, citrus peel, coriander and even cinnamon.

2. How many types of Gin are there?
We’ve all heard of pink gin or, well… “normal” clear gin. But how many different types of gin are there and how can you tell them apart?

London Dry Gin
This is the traditional gin that we think of when anyone mentions gin. A dry, light and aromatic clear spirit. Distillers mix numerous aromatic ingredients during the distillation process to reach a flowery and sweet flavour. And no, this gin does not have to be made in London to be classed as a London dry gin.

Plymouth Gin
Unlike London Dry Gin, this gin MUST be made in Plymouth, England, to be titled as a Plymouth Gin. This gin is very similar to the London Dry Gin, but gains a more earthy flavour due to the greater usage of roots during the distillation process.

Genever or Dutch Gin
This gin is in a league of its own, for starters, this is not a clear spirit, it takes a darker tone, similar to whisky, due to the usage of malt grains giving it a similar taste to botanical whiskys.

Old Tom Gin
Very similar to the London Dry GIn, the Old Tom is a sweeter relative. Commonly used for cocktails that need a little extra sweetness in them.

Sloe Gin
Short answer: Sloe gin is a flavoured gin, made from sloe berries with added sugar.

Pink Gin
Perhaps the easiest one to answer on this list. Pink gin is gin that has been flavoured with fruits such as strawberries, raspberries or any other pink/red fruit.

3. Why is gin paired with tonic?
Funny story. English soldiers overseas used to drink a tonic (of sorts) which contained an antimalarial quinine, this had a terribly bitter flavour. So, to tackle this, English soldiers would mix it with gin, concealing the unpleasant taste.

4. How do I pick a tonic to go alongside my gin?
We asked Charlotte and Martin this question, after all, who better to answer what goes perfectly alongside gin than incredible gin producers!

“Always remember, let the gin do the talking! Do not use over flavoured tonics they will smother the gin, you will end up just tasting the tonic water. We prefer to use plain tonic water and allow our gin blends to sing!”

“There are thousands of garnishing combinations, for us there are two simple rules. Use the rind (not the flesh) of pink grapefruit to enhance all fruity gins; and a slice of fresh ginger will enhance all savoury blends.”

5. How do I get into gin?
Charlotte and Martin: “How exciting introducing someone to the world of Juniper! One should start at the very beginning by trying some classic London dry gins; such as Barkley Square, Tanqueray 10 and Sacred Gin before moving on to more complex blends with many more botanicals like Monkey 47 and Gin In A Tin. Never let a pretty bottle influence you on your choice.”

You can also always go for a classic cocktail, it will not overwhelm you with the flavour of the spirit and also help you better understand how to match it with different sodas and tonics.

6. What goes well with it? The Food Edition.
Charlotte and Martin: “Lots, too many to choose from, but a personal favourite is cooking with gin. En papillot Seabass fillets with Martin Millers Icelandic Gin (En Pappillot – Poached in a paper  parcel) and then to drizzle some of the gin on the fillets after poaching, just before eating, delicious!”

7. Which is the one for me?
That depends, what kind of flavour do you find yourself gravitating towards more often? If you like something sweet, why not try a pink or sloe gin? Let those berries and fruits add a delicious flavour to your drink. Why not try a classic, a gin and tonic. Let the gin do the talking or pair it with a flavoured tonic, not too strong to overpower but enough to bring out an incredible combination in flavours.

8. Which is your favourite gin?
Charlotte and Martin: “Our favourites change with the seasons. We are big believers in that there is no point in sipping a Winter warming gin in the Height of Summer. So, writing this in June 2020 we are currently rather partial to our Gin In A Tin Blend No. 10 Pomegranate, Raspberry and Cardamom, which makes a fabulous summer cocktail. Another favourite is Kyrö Napue Gin from Finland.”

9. Where can I buy good gin?
It’s your lucky day! We have an incredible collection of great craft gin and tonics on our site.
Also, don't forget to check out the full selection of Charlotte and Martin's 'Gin In A Tin' range here.

We hope to have answered some questions you may have regarding gin. Look at the time! It appears to be Gin O’Clock, and we all know what that means, so let’s put our feet up, relax and have a sip of a delicious gin cocktail. We’ve got a collection of some fun facts to help get you started.

Fun Facts

- Gin and tomato juice was all the rage as a hangover cure in New York City in 1928

- The Martini glass only got its name in the 1990s, when Martini-style cocktails became all the rage. Prior to that, it was called a cocktail glass.

- By 1726, London had 1,500 working stills and there were 6,287 places where you could buy gin.

- Currently, there is only one brand of Plymouth gin produced in the world.