Gin 101 – The Origin of Gin

After my first article “The whisky 101” I want to continue this series with a Gin 101. Gin or Genver? Fashionable drink or traditional spirit? Among other things, I would like to clarify these questions and shed more light on the development of gin.

Gin has its origins in medicine. Hundreds of years ago, alcohol was distilled and added to medicines for the manufacture of drugs. This includes juniper berries and all herbs and berries.

The origin of gin.

According to the history books, the origin of the gin can be traced back to the Dutch doctor “Franciscus Sylvius de la Boe“. About 400 years ago he produced a juniper schnapps called “Genver”. It has been used for decades as a medicine, including to treat the plague.

Little by little medicine became a popular spirit. It was found that it tasted even better if the alcohol was mixed with fruit. Gradually the recipes were developed further and further and finally Gin or at that time “Genver” became a popular drink in Holland.


How Genver went to gin.

At that time there was a war between Holland and Spain. Therefore the English royal family put soldiers at the side of their allies from Holland. They were not only side by side in the battlefield with their Dutch comrades, but also drunk themselves under the table together. The reason for this was a delicious liquor called Genver, which the soldiers of the English Crown also liked more and more. That’s how it happened that the soldiers brought liters of Genver to their homeland. Since the drink was also very well received there, the drink was renamed “Gin” from “Genver”.

Supporting for the rise of gin was the new King Wilhelm III from Holland, who himself established his own gin distilleries throughout the kingdom. Some of his political decisions also helped to foster this development. Wilhelm III imposed an import ban on brandy, which was at least as popular at that time, and enacted a law at the end of the 16th century that allowed every private individual to burn gin.

However, this did not only bring advantages. Although the gin became cheap the quality had probably never been so bad. At times, gin was cheaper than beer and consumption increased massively. This caused social and economic problems because people were already drunk during the day. William Hohgart, a painter of the time, expressed the problems in his work “Gin lane“.


Gin restrictions.

At the beginning of the 17th century the “Gin Act” was enacted. The production, dispensing and quantity was licensed by the state at that time. But as clever as the people were, it didn’t slow down the development – on the contrary, it didn’t slow it down at all. Modified recipes had been developed and sold under different names.

It was not until the middle of the 17th century, with the “Tippling Act”, that the overall situation improved. A number of factors led to the enormous increase in the price of gin. On the one hand, the gin license had been reduced in price by the “Tippling Act”, but on the other hand the requirements were tightened up and high penalties were imposed, which made the production considerably more complex and increased the quality of the gin. Furthermore, there were some bad harvests that contributed to the price increase. This resulted in a moderate consumption of gin, as it became simply too expensive to get drunk on a regular basis.


Gin for everyone.

The picture changed around the time of the industrial revolution. The improved conditions made it much easier to produce gin and the quality also benefited considerably. At the same time, trade with faraway countries flourished and special varieties of gin were always enjoyed, which were fired. In the course of time, the popular gin and tonic came into being.

English soldiers stationed in the English colony, India, also wanted to drink their beloved gin. In addition, due to its high alcohol content, gin was also ideal for the transport. A lot of other things, such as beer, got bad over the long sea journey.
In addition, the soldiers had to take quinine solutions to protect themselves from malaria. To mask the taste, they decided to mix it with gin. But since that didn’t help much, they tried to polish the mixture with sugar and soda. And lo and behold, one of the most popular drinks worldwide, the Gin Tonic was born.


The new history of gin.

At the end of the 18th century, gin was still very popular. Especially the just mentioned “Gin Tonic” can be found in almost every one of the numerous newly created cocktail bars.

After that, however, gin consumption gradually flattened out. World wars, giants such as prohibition and other factors made Gin an insider’s tip for several decades.

At the end of the 20th century and in the last few years, gin has become noticeably more popular again. Numerous start-ups, the in-house gin-creation of many bars or the gintasting can be found everywhere.

Winston Churchill, incidentally, also found that this should remain the case:”The Gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and mind’s, than all the doctors in the empire.”


Gin 101 was interesting? Read also about our Whisky 101 in one of our KEPLER World blog articles.

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