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The Sipsmith Blog

Around the World in 80 Gins: Italian Gin

in Articles February 10, 2014

From Sweden, our next hop on the global gin tour sees us landing in sunnier climes. Italy, the ninth heaviest gin consuming country in the world, is a fascinating place for the juniper-lover to explore…

From its long history of Italian gin production to its modern distilleries, delve into gin alla Italia.

History

It’s a story we’ve heard many times: gin, despite its popularity in the UK, is not technically a British drink – rather, its origins come from a Dutch spirit called genever. But what if we told you that that’s only partly true? It turns out that genever itself may have a predecessor. That’s right: gin’s earliest relative most likely came from Italy.

It’s thought that in the 11th-century, Italian monks mixed juniper berries and cuttings with other locally sourced ingredients to make their own, homemade spirit. Juniper has long been used medicinally, and the trees are native to (and flourish across) Italy. During the arrival of the Plague several centuries later, the concoction may have even been used as an attempt to ward off the illness.

Of course, the juniper liquor that was consumed back then, while also not being an effective Plague deterrent, would have very little in common with the gin that we drink today. But it’s a testament to the appealing nature of the mix that people are still consuming juniper-based spirits a full millennium later.

What do they drink

While the big brands still have plenty of traction, a number of smaller, local distilleries are making their own Italian gin. Tower Hill Gin, which is produced by 1492 Coloniale Group, is crafted just outside of Milan. Known for its crisp, earthy flavours, and a heavy junipery punch, it’s a strong, cocktail-friendly gin.

Dol Gin is another interesting addition to the Italian gin-scape, as the spirit is produced in the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage centre. Made with consultation from the local apothecary, it successfully captures the region’s bounty.

And, while the distillery isn’t actually based in Italy, Origin’s Single Estate Arezzo Gin is a compelling drink for those who are curious about Italian gin. Crafted only from wild juniper berries sourced in Arezzo (no other botanicals allowed), it introduces the concept of terroir to gin tasting.

How do they drink It

There are a thousand and one ways to enjoy gin in Italy. Don’t forget that this is the country that invented the now wildly popular Negroni, the classic, early 20th century cocktail that mixes equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. The Cardinale is another take on the cocktail that switches sweet vermouth for dry, while the Punt e Mes Negroni factors in the bitter and herbaceous vermouth. In short, the country is known for its puckering aperitivi, and for gin lovers, that’s the perfect place to begin.

Cocktail Recipe

This classic Italian drink marries gin with Campari, a ruby Italian amaro, and Punt e Mes, a bitter and herbaceous vermouth hailing from the north of Italy. For those who favour the bracing bitterness of a classic Negroni, this version is even more intense – one for the bold.

The Punt e Mes Negroni

30 ml gin

30 ml Punt e Mes

30 ml Campari

In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine the three ingredients and stir with a bar spoon for 30-45 seconds until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over a single, large ice cube; garnish with an orange twist.

Feature images © Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock, Jennifer Woodard Maderazo

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