You may be an eager gin drinker, but do you know your gin facts? From the origin of the spirit to its most famous imbibers, there’s much to know about this beguiling beverage.
Straight from our expert Master Distiller, Co-Founder, published author, and all-around drinks authority Jared Brown, these fascinating gin facts might well change everything you thought you knew about gin.
1. GIN IS ENGLISH; NOT DUTCH
Genever, a malted spirit that is essentially light whisky with juniper, is the juniper distillate of the Netherlands. Gin was developed in London and is a unique and much purer spirit.
2. IN HOLLAND, GENEVER WAS SOLD IN PHARMACIES IN THE LATE 1600S
If you went to a drinking establishment, one of the top-selling beverages was wormwood wine – now known as vermouth.
3. GIN WAS BORN AROUND 1689
The earliest known food pairing occurred in 1731: gingerbread. This became quite common and is still traditional in parts of England. Discover how to craft your own gingerbread syrup at home here.
4. 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. Just as long as no one calls it an Appletini glass. . .
5. THE EARLIEST MENTION OF THE WORD ‘COCKTAIL’ IN REFERENCE TO A DRINK WAS ON 20TH MARCH 1798
…in the London Morning Post and Gazetteer (how’s that for historical?) In the newspaper’s satirical account. it was consumed by Pitt the Younger at the Axe and Gate Tavern at the corner of Downing and Whitehall, which was later torn down to expand the Prime Minister’s residence.
6. LONDON’S MOST POPULAR DRINK IN THE WINTER OF 1823 WAS THE HOT GIN TWIST
In fact, one man wrote a 149-line poem for the newspapers extolling its virtues. Another wrote a shorter poem extolling both the drink and the previous poem.
7. THE FIRST COCKTAIL LISTED IN THE FIRST BRITISH COCKTAIL BOOK…
…was a gin cocktail with ginger syrup, orange curaçao and bitters. It features in William Terrington’s Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks.
8. BY 1726, LONDON HAD 1,500 WORKING STILLS AND THERE WERE 6,287 PLACES WHERE YOU COULD BUY GIN.
9. CENTURIES BEFORE THE BIRTH OF GIN, JUNIPER WAS ALREADY IMPORTED TO BRITAIN FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN
It is considered the best in the world.
10. MARTINI TERMINOLOGY
A Martini is made with gin and sweet vermouth; a Dry Martini is made with gin and dry vermouth; a Dry Vodka Martini is made with vodka and dry vermouth. Discover how we make our perfect Martini here. (psst, a ‘Perfect Martini’ is something entirely different).
11. GIN AND TOMATO JUICE WAS ALL THE RAGE AS A HANGOVER CURE IN NEW YORK CITY IN 1928
It was famous years before the vodka-based Bloody Mary made its debut at the King Cole Room in the St. Regis Hotel.
12. NEARLY ALL JUNIPER USED IN GIN IS PICKED WILD
Almost none is cultivated.
13. WHILE BRITISH SAILORS RECEIVED A DAILY RUM RATION, BRITISH NAVAL OFFICERS GOT A DAILY RATION OF GIN
14. THE GIN RICKEY WAS THE MOST POPULAR GIN DRINK OF THE LATE 19TH AND EARLY 20TH CENTURIES.
It is a simple drink: a highball glass of gin, ice, sparkling water and half a lime squeezed and dropped in. There is no sugar in a Rickey. Find our recipe here.
15. EVEN THOUGH THE CINCHONA BARK FROM WHICH QUININE IS DERIVED IS BROWN, THE FIRST TONIC WATER WAS CLEAR
This is because even the earliest tonic waters were made with quinine directly, not the bark.
16. THE OLIVE WAS POPULARIZED IN COCKTAILS WHEN AMERICAN DRINKERS BEGAN MOVING FROM SWEET TO SAVORY FLAVORS IN THE LATE 1800S
17. IF WINSTON CHURCHILL EVER BOWED TOWARD FRANCE WITH GIN IN HAND IT WAS NOT BECAUSE HE DID NOT LIKE VERMOUTH IN HIS MARTINI
It would have been out of respect, because the Vichy government had banned alcohol production and good French vermouth was unattainable.
18. BRITISH NAVAL SHIPS WERE SUPPLIED AND MIXED THEIR DAILY DRINKS WITH LIMES RATHER THAN LEMONS
This is because British investors with connections in Parliament had invested in Caribbean lime plantations. Though this has nothing to do with why we recommend lime in our perfect G&T!
19. HOGARTH’S FAMOUS ETCHING, GIN LANE, WAS NOT MEANT TO SHOW THE EVILS OF DRINKING, BUT THE EVILS OF DRINKING GIN
It was one of a pair. The other was Beer Street and showed London as he envisioned it consuming beer instead of gin. Here the citizens were a perfect picture of health, as morbid obesity was considered healthy at the time.
20. THE BEST WAY TO TASTE GINS FOR COMPARISON IS AT ROOM TEMPERATURE, DILUTED WITH AN EQUAL MEASURE OF WATER
This reveals both qualities and flaws. Only when you have found the perfect recipe is it time to add plenty of ice, tonic and a slice of lime to enjoy the perfect G&T.
21. THE COUNTRY WITH THE WORLD’S HIGHEST PER-CAPITA GIN CONSUMPTION IS THE PHILIPPINES
It consumes an estimated 25 million cases annually.
22. GIN’S PRIMARY FLAVOR IS THE SWEET PINE AND SOFT CITRUS OF THE JUNIPER BERRY
All other botanicals are added to highlight nuances of this complex and sophisticated flavor.
23. THE JUNIPER BERRY IS ACTUALLY NOT A BERRY AT ALL
It is actually a female seed cone, a highly evolved pinecone with fleshy and merged scales that give it the appearance of a berry.
24. DURING THE PLAGUE YEARS, DOCTORS WORE MASKS FILLED WITH JUNIPER BERRIES AS THEY THOUGHT THE PLAGUE WAS SPREAD BY BAD ODORS
People began eating juniper, drinking wine infused with juniper, bathing in juniper and covering themselves with juniper oil. This is considered superstition by modern historians, but juniper oil is an effective natural flea repellent.
25. THE GIN ACT OF 1736 IMPOSED AN ANNUAL FEE OF £50 (TODAY EQUAL TO ABOUT $30,000) ON DISTILLERS OF BASE SPIRITS AND THE SAME AGAIN ON GIN RECTIFIERS.
Thus, it became traditional for London gin distillers to buy their base spirit rather than producing it in the distillery. The same remains true today.
26. IN 1721, BRITAIN CONSUMED 3.5 MILLION GALLONS OF GIN.
27. AT YALTA, PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT COMPLAINED THAT THERE WERE NO LEMONS TO MAKE TWISTS FOR THE MARTINIS
Stalin had a lemon tree flown from Georgia that day.
28. SIR FRANCIS CHICHESTER BECAME THE FIRST MAN TO SUCCESSFULLY CIRCUMNAVIGATE THE WORLD SOLO IN A SAILBOAT
(Say that three times after three Martinis!), he later credited his success to a daily glass of pink gin (gin, Angostura® bitters and cold water), and said the saddest day was when the gin ran out.
29. AT ONE TIME THERE WAS A WORKING GIN STILL IN ONE OUT OF EVERY FOUR HABITABLE STRUCTURES IN LONDON
30. FACED WITH GOVERNMENT ACTS THAT SEEMED POISED TO STAMP OUT GIN PRODUCTION, LONDONERS STAGED A MOCK FUNERAL FOR MADAME GENEVA IN 1736
31. UNTIL RECENTLY, PLYMOUTH GIN WAS THE SOLE GIN STYLE IN THE UK TO BOAST GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION
However, that will soon disappear, as owner Pernod Ricard has withdrawn their support for the EU endorsement.
32. ‘LONDON DRY GIN’ DOESN’T NEED TO BE MADE IN LONDON – INSTEAD, IT IS A BROAD STYLE GUIDELINE RATHER THAN A LEGAL INDICATOR
33. THE GIN AND TONIC HAS LATELY UNDERGONE A TRANSFORMATION IN SPAIN
The “gin tonica” is served in balloon wine glasses called Copa de Balon glasses and comes with all kinds of unusual botanicals.
34. HISTORICAL “BATHTUB GIN” HAD DANGEROUS – EVEN LETHAL – PHYSICAL EFFECTS
It gained popularity in the United States during Prohibition, but its dangerous – even lethal – physical effects soon emerged due to the fact that it sometimes contained methanol. Sufferers were blinded or even poisoned.
35. BUT, BATHTUB GIN LED TO SOME INCREDIBLE CLASSIC COCKTAILS
(The Bee’s Knees being a prime example), as the initial recipes were devised to help mask the task of the low-quality alcohol.
36. THE ORIGIN OF THE MARTINI’S NAME IS A MYSTERY
While bartender Harry Craddock, who wrote the seminal Savoy Cocktail Book, is often credited as one of the early popularizers of the Martini, the source of the drink’s name is still a mystery.
37. OLD TOM GIN ORIGINATED IN THE 18TH CENTURY, AND IS GENERALLY A ROUNDER AND SWEETER STYLE THAN LONDON DRY GIN
38. THE BIRTH OF COCKTAIL CULTURE IN LONDON CAN BE CREDITED IN PART TO THE RISE OF THE SO-CALLED “AMERICAN BARS” IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY
They were known for their innovations – like the fact that they used ice in their drinks.
39. BARREL-AGED GIN IS AN EXPANDING, RELATIVELY NEW GIN CATEGORY, WITH CRAFT DISTILLERIES LIKE FEW SPIRITS IN ILLINOIS AND ST. GEORGE SPIRITS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA HELPING TO SPREAD ITS POPULARITY
40. NO GIN AND TONIC OF QUALITY CAN BE MADE WITHOUT HIGH-QUALITY TONIC AS WELL
Whilst the gin is the star of the show, the tonic makes up a significant proportion of the drink. Artisanal tonic makers like Fever-Tree are recommended, while tonic producers like Jack Rudy in South Carolina and Kentucky are refining the art of tonic water by making their own, small-batch tonic syrup.
41. DUKES BAR IN MAYFAIR’S DUKES HOTEL IS OFTEN CITED AS HOME OF THE BEST MARTINI IN THE WORLD
Drinks are mixed on a tableside trolley, and the bar maintains a strict two-Martini limit.
42. SLOE GIN IS MADE WITH THE HANDPICKED BERRIES OF THE BLACKTHORN TREE
While some superstitions say the berries must be pricked with a silver needle before use, this isn’t necessary – simply freezing the berries in order to break their thick skins before adding to the gin should suffice. What limoncello is to Italy, sloe gin is to Britain.
43. SLOE GIN PAIRS EXCEPTIONALLY WELL WITH STRONG, BLUE CHEESES
Though it’s also equally palatable in more summery drinks.
44. GIN MUST LEGALLY HAVE A “PREDOMINANT JUNIPER FLAVOR”
But there are no specifications or limits to how many other botanicals may be used, or the quantity of juniper berries that need to be added during the distilling process.
45. THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO MAKE GIN
Some distilleries produce gin concentrates, which they later ‘water’ down with a neutral spirit, traditional one-shot distillation distils the botanicals with the spirit. Sipsmith use a one-shot method, which ensures our talented distillers are able to ensure the quality of each and every batch.
46. THE PIPE AT THE TOP OF A GIN STILL IS ALSO KNOWN COLLOQUIALLY AS THE ‘SWAN’S NECK’
Hence the swan illustration that you’ll find on Sipsmith’s labels. Although that’s not the only reason – find out more here.
47. THE MARTINI HAS PROMPTED A GREAT DEAL OF POETRY
Writer E. B. White called it “the elixir of quietude,” while journalist H. L. Mencken said it was “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” However, given the murky origins of the Martini, whether or not it’s truly American is still disputed.
48. JAMES BOND SHOULDN’T BE RELIED ON FOR MARTINI KNOW-HOW
Though James Bond’s famous “shaken, not stirred” line is probably the most remembered Martini quote in the world, the majority of bartenders disagree, and would recommend a stirred Martini instead, as shaking prompts too much dilution. Find how to make the perfect Martini here.
49. IAN FLEMING, THE AUTHOR OF THE JAMES BOND BOOKS, IS CREDITED WITH INVENTING THE VESPER MARTINI
He certainly left an additional impression on gin drinkers: he’s credited with inventing the Vesper, a cousin of the Martini that blends gin, vodka, and vermouth – topped with a lemon twist.
50. THE GIN AND TONIC FIRST GAINED POPULARITY IN THE BRITISH COLONIES
Because the quinine in the tonic water was found to be a potent deterrent to malaria-carrying mosquitoes. However, the bitterness of the quinine was unpalatable, so gin was added to make the drink taste better.
Now you know a little more about gin and its history, you might like to find out a little more about Sipsmith and how we came to be. Discover more below.