Or “Shut Up and Drink Your Gin”… said Fagin to Oliver Twist
Gin is essentially neutral grain spirits, otherwise known as vodka, flavoured with juniper but it’s history is anything but neutral. It was created by a Dutch physician in the 17th century and sold in pharmacies as a medicine to treat a host of ailments. It was also used to instill “Dutch Courage” to make soldiers more bold before battle. When William of Orange and his English wife Mary were crowned King and Queen of England in 1689, gin surged in popularity in Great Britain.
During conflict with France, the British government enacted protectionist measures to encourage the distillation and consumption of gin over French brandy. This led to the Gin Craze in the early 18th century and to gin’s bad reputation as “mothers ruin” and as a pernicious cause of vice and debauchery.
The British Empire embraced the Gin & Tonic for its medicinal qualities when it was discovered that quinine-based tonic water was a preventative for malaria. The British navy demanded gin with an alcohol-by-volume of 57% as this was 100 proof that gunpowder would still ignite if sloshed with gin on rough seas. Gin was the bootleg spirit of choice during America’s prohibition era in the 1920‘s because it could be mixed in a large tub (hence “bathtub gin”) and rushed to the black market without lengthy wood aging. It was largely to disguise the poor quality of such gin that gin became the mixing spirit of choice in cocktails.
Today gin is experiencing a revival for all the right reasons. The premium handcrafted gins have flavour profiles as individual as fine perfumes due to their unique combinations of herbs, spices, fruit, roots, and flowers. Like perfume, they appeal to different palates to varying degrees. I wanted to make a herby savoury thyme and lime daytime cocktail, and so a quick trip to the liquor cabinet yielded these four lovely gins:
Gordon’s: smooth piney juniper taste with lemon and liquorice–long finish
Tanquerey: creamy earthy juniper forward with cut grass and pepper–good for mixing
Martin Miller: silky fresh peppercorn, jasmine and cardamom notes–elegant enough to drink neat
Bulldog: flowery sweet lavender, honeysuckle and citrus–short finish
In the end, the floral notes of Bulldog were just the thing for this fresh savoury cocktail I call Lime and Thyme.
Lime and Thyme
1.5 oz Bulldog gin
1/2 lime cut into 4 pieces
pinch of sugar
Muddle the sugar, thyme and lime quarters in a short glass. Fill half way with crushed ice, then pour gin and Cointreau and stir well. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.