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Gin is a clear spirit based on barley and rye to which a mix of selected herbs and spices are added. These flavorings, known as "botanicals," include aniseed, coriander, fruit peels and juniper berry.

The name gin in fact comes from the French word "genièvre," meaning juniper.


In the 17th century, a Dutch doctor developed the basic formula for gin as a medicine. Juniper berries were believed to contain therapeutic oils that could provide the early inhabitants of Holland with an inexpensive medicine. Whether it healed the sick or not, it did make them very happy. Carried from Holland to England by soldiers and other travelers, the English adapted this rich, sweet juniper flavored drink to their palates. By the end of the 19th century they had formulated a lighter, less pronounced juniper flavor that would be more widely accepted. This blend was known as "London Dry" and it is now the most popular type of gin throughout the world.


Different gin manufacturers use different types and amounts of "botanicals" to create their own unique Gin. The exact formula for each producer's gin is a closely guarded secret.

Gins are rarely if ever aged. Most are ready to be sold shortly after they leave the gin still.

"London Dry" Gin

In making "London Dry" gin, the distiller begins as they would in making any neutral grain spirit. The better distillers begin with a ratio of 3:1 corn to barley malt that is distilled in a Column still to roughly 90% alcohol. Once this high grade neutral spirit has been produced, it is reduced to 60% alcohol and then put into a modified pot still called a "gin still". It is then redistilled along with botanicals such as juniper berries, orange peel, angelica root, coriander and cassia bark.

The most obvious use for London Dry gin is in making martinis. It also works very well with many other elegant cocktails. What a number of people miss out on is the fact that because it contains spices, it can be used not only to bring out the flavors in whatever sauces, pastas or vegetables you might be cooking, but to add its own flavors as well. As with any spirit, it takes so very little to add so much more flavor to whatever you are cooking.

Genever Gin

The second type of gin is Holland's or Genever gin made in Holland. Its process differs from the lighter "London Dry." In making Genever gin, equal portions of barley malt, corn or rye are mashed and fermented into beer that is then distilled in a pot still. The resulting spirit, "malt wine," is distilled off at a lower degree of alcohol, usually between 50% and 55%. This is then redistilled with juniper berries and only a few other botanicals, far fewer than are used in making London Dry.

This gives the resulting product a rich, full-bodied malty flavor, that would tend to overwhelm anything that it was mixed with. It is therefore generally consumed straight or over ice.