Gin – A brief history

Drink, News  / 

Gin the drink of Irish mammies and the hipster alike whether it’s a classic G&T or supped up cocktail made with pink flavoured gin and fresh herbs to boot, they all start out the same with a simple berry. We’ve put together a short history lesson so you can gain a little know how on your favourite alcoholic beverage

Gin in it’s most basic form is a liquor that consists of approx. 40% alcohol that s made from grain distillation and primarily flavoured with juniper berries (or juniper extract). Gin got it’s name from the Dutch word for juniper genever also known as jenever.

juniper berries-juniper-genever-jenever-gin-dutch-english-gins-gin craze-history-berry-berries

Gin, like so many things (Coca-Cola and heroin), was originally produced as a medicine. It was distributed by chemists for the treatment of such ailments as gout and dyspepsia. Consumed in large enough quantities, it likely did help improve the perception of symptoms associated these issues and many others though only for a few hours at a time.

The English discovered gin when they were fighting the ‘Thirty Years’ War’ in the 17th century in Holland and saw Dutch soldiers drinking jenever (gin) to boost morale before heading into battle. The term “Dutch Courage” was born, and the English brought the idea of making and drinking gin back with them.

Once the liquor crossed the English Channel in the later half of the 17th Century and in the early years of the 18th Century, gin rapidly gained popularity in England, cementing the association it still has with the nation. By the year 1720, some experts estimate that as many as a quarter of the households in London frequently produced their own gin.  This was known as the ‘Gin Craze‘ causing decades of soul-searching among philanthropists, politicians and magistrates about the wretched lives of the poor, parliament had to pass five major legislative acts over the course of 22 years in a vain attempt to rein in the population’s consumption of gin. Gin’s reputation was the crack cocaine of it’s day was further cemented with tales of gin-fuelled degradation and squalor, portrayed (below) in William Hogarth’s infamous 1751 engraving “Gin Lane”.

gin craze

These days, however, gin has become rather civilised and sought after. Britain is its greatest exporter, with 56 new distilleries opening in the past two years alone, and in Ireland over forty new craft distilleries opened in the last year, while Ireland has half that amount in the process of being developed and the government is hoping to make it into the new whisky—prestigious and profitableThis is in large part due to the cluster of “craft” and “artisangins that set up shop at the turn of the century. The roaring 20’s gained more attention, cocktails in fact took off in Europe in the early 19th century, when the development of gin-based long drinks helped to lift the spirit out of the gutter and popularised mixology.

white lady cocktail-gin-gin 20's-roaring 20's-cocktails-gin cocktail-history of gin

The modern day resurgence of gin has can be accredited to mixology and craft/artisan products going mainstream creating a demand again for gin, this has led to a second Gin Craze which has become very evident here in Ireland. Total gin sales have increased by 114%, compared to the 240% jump in Irish gin sales this year alone.

The liquor has been resurrected from a ‘Mother’s Ruin’ to a hipster must have, it has swiftly become Ireland’s most popular spirit for 2017. So whatever your preference be it a trendy vintage gin cocktail in a jam jar or the humble G&T the rebirth of gin will ensure that the hits just keep coming, and we can certainly drink to that!




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