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 Gin is the new favourite tonic


May 2018

Glass of gin
Today there are literally hundreds of different gins to choose from

It used to be beer; then wine was everyone’s drink. But for summer 2018 gin is without doubt the hot favourite tipple.

According to a report from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Britons bought a record 47 million bottles of this clear spirit last year, up by seven million on 2016.

G&T has often been named as the nation’s favourite drink, but now this has changed as a huge number of exciting new gins and also flavoured gins come onto the market.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said the market reports are showing another sparkling result for gin sales in the UK.

“The British public show no signs of growing tired of trying new gins with well over 100 brands now available on the UK market,” he said.

This is a long way from the first gin that was produced in the early 17th century in Holland which was sold as a medicine to treat stomach complaints, gout and gallstones.

Gin, while no longer considered a medicine, is still often described as a “clean” drink though and this is because, like vodka and sake, it is a clear spirit giving the best chance of a minimal hangover. Studies have shown that dark alcohols contain more impurities (or congeners as they are called) which occur as the result of fermentation. Our bodies struggle to cope with these impurities, hence the hangovers and even feeling sick after drinking a tad too much.

Gin can be made quite simply. It starts with ethanol; this is a colourless flavourless alcoholic liquid which is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars. For gin, the ethanol is redistilled in the presence of juniper berries. Juniper has to be the predominant taste of gin for the drink to be recognised as gin.

“In the presence of juniper berries” is loose wording because the berries aren’t simply mashed up and added to the ethanol. The most common ways of extracting the flavour from the juniper is either by steeping or vapour infusion.  Steeping simply means soaking before removing the berries; infusion really means steaming, when the berries are placed in a vessel above the base spirit which is boiled to give off vapour which collects the flavours from the heated berries as it rises. This infused vapour then condenses back into the spirit below.

There are of course lots of variations on all this and some systems combine both methods. For the amazing number of new boutique gins coming onto the market, additional flavours are added through the above methods. The flavours are usually referred to as botanicals as they cover natural plants and fruit, anything from strawberries, seaweed and rhubarb down to special Christmas gin flavoured with frankincense and myrrh.

Right across the UK now you can find locally made gins with a variety of individual flavours and styles. Some are very mild and still need mixers such as tonic; others are going the whole way to produce strong individual flavours and gins are now varying away from traditional plants or botanicals flavouring.  You can find Turkish Delight Gin that is a mix of rose petals with mint and junipers and tastes exactly like Turkish Delight; Chocolate Gin; or at the extreme stage the bursting with flavour Baked Apple and Salted Caramel Gin. Amazon alone sell a large variety of specialised gins now.

The Daily Telegraph ran an interesting story on how to make your own gin.

And for those of us who find all this a bit complicated, Sandy Lane have now produced an easy home making kit to help everyone get started on the new craze for individual gins.

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