The Truth About Gin

Getting to know the world's most enduring spirit


Ever since juniper got involved with alcohol -- we're talking 11th century, here -- gin has been soaking hearts and minds, high and low. It was once administered as a cure for the plague; its taxation caused riots in the streets of London. It has been the fuel of armies and navies, the lifeblood of gangsters and gamblers, and the center stripe of the world's most iconic cocktails. Say what you will about all other spirits: Gin is what we talk about when we talk about booze.

So break out your g&t, get "Gin and Juice" stuck in your head, and soak up our favorite trivia about one of life's most enduring liquors.
1.) You can thank a Dutch doctor for that martini -- a physician named Franciscus Sylvius is gin's formally recognized inventor.

2.) Gin is a neutral spirit flavored principally with juniper, as well as a blend of botanicals that can include anise, caraway, cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange or lemon peel.

3.) It was also once regularly flavored with turpentine.

4.) Throughout the 1600s, gin was proffered as a cure for everything from gallstones to gout.

5.) By the late 1680's, the Dutch exported 10 million gallons of gin per year; British soldiers referred to it as "Dutch Courage."

6.) During the early 1800s, gin was so popular in London it was deemed a full-on craze; fears of an increase in gin-fueled crime helped the passage of the Gin Acts, which sought to curb the availability of the spirit that would soon be nicknamed "Mother's Ruin."

7.) The "gin and tonic" combo was born as an anti-malarial medicine. Quinine -- a component of tonic water -- helped stave off malaria; gin helped mask the bitter flavors of the tonic water. Voila.

8.) Snoop's "Gin and Juice" was nominated for a Best Rap Solo Performance Grammy in 1995, but was beat out by Queen Latifah's "U.N.I.T.Y."

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: LBERNSTE
    170609 2

    I have long believed that gin is one of the four essential food groups. Right up there with red meat and butter.

    Aug 16, 2010 at 10:46 AM

  • Snooth User: Carly Wray
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    196958 864

    I second that belief, wholeheartedly.

    Aug 16, 2010 at 10:49 AM

  • The original flavored vodka!

    Aug 16, 2010 at 11:15 AM

  • Snooth User: ifly34467
    152086 10

    gin,gin,gin, makes you wanna sin!

    Aug 16, 2010 at 12:12 PM

  • Snooth User: ssigaud
    299760 23

    Favorite gin(s)? Mine is Hendricks - what is yours?

    Aug 16, 2010 at 12:27 PM

  • Snooth User: Carly Wray
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    196958 864

    I love Tanqueray 10 ... but have been hooked lately on Hendricks g&t's with a dose of cucumber puree. It's like drinking fresh air.

    Aug 16, 2010 at 12:38 PM

  • Snooth User: gdeuel
    188531 4

    Hendricks is great, but have you tried Bulldog?? Wow!

    Aug 16, 2010 at 12:46 PM

  • Snooth User: grey eagle
    106502 22

    In my opinion (as a gin drinker for 45 years) the best gin around today is Martin Miller's Reformed London Dry. It makes the very best Gibson!

    Aug 16, 2010 at 12:51 PM

  • Snooth User: Carly Wray
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    196958 864

    Ooh - I haven't tried Martin Miller's ... I've got to give it a shot.

    Aug 16, 2010 at 12:52 PM

  • Love(d) gin fizzes. In fact, I loved them so much one day I got so drunk and haven't been able to drink another one since (36 years ago!). They were sure good going down. Maybe I'll give it another try.

    Aug 16, 2010 at 1:09 PM

  • Snooth User: guida
    353900 1

    Gin might make you sin - but oh boy - that's fun + fun for me -

    Aug 16, 2010 at 1:10 PM

  • Snooth User: ffred
    236158 7

    Years ago, Bob Peterson of Pasadena introduced me to the German gin, Schlicte Steinhager Dry Gin. Comes in a distinctive stone crock. Its a different taste than most, quite aromatic with the juniper, and makes a great martini on the rocks--use the best dry vermouth you can find. Its a little more expensive than more popular ones at about $30. But if you decide to try it you may become addicted...oh yeah! ffred

    Aug 16, 2010 at 1:15 PM

  • Snooth User: jerwine
    133658 41

    Gin Soaked Olives !

    Aug 16, 2010 at 3:45 PM

  • The note about German gin reminded me of Genever, surely the original gin, and imported by the English before they invented their own. Genever doesn't make a good martini, but it's great straight, on ice, and in a Dutch cafe or restaurant. Enjoy

    Aug 16, 2010 at 3:53 PM

  • Snooth User: ifly34467
    152086 10

    nothin'better than Beefeater with bleu cheese stuffed queen olives! by the way, it's 5 o'clock here! cheers!!

    Aug 16, 2010 at 5:22 PM

  • Snooth User: pettitcl
    259255 1

    I really like Old Raj

    Aug 16, 2010 at 5:41 PM

  • Snooth User: mred163
    487782 5

    I've tried them all (74 years old am I) and I quit trying after Bombay Saphire. None better to my old tastes.

    Aug 16, 2010 at 5:55 PM

  • Snooth User: hannaclan6
    546112 22

    Dry Fly gin is our favorite, from Spokane, WA. Even the most die-hard gin & tonic drinkers prefer it straight with a squeeze of lemon and won't "ruin" it with tonic.

    Aug 16, 2010 at 5:58 PM

  • If you like gin...try Citadelle. It' awesome!!! It's made in small batches, so may be a litlle hard to find, but it's worth it!


    Aug 16, 2010 at 6:01 PM

  • Snooth User: delmas2nd
    337567 3

    nothing is better than oodles of Boodles in the afternoon. plenty of Boodles Gin, Lime and Tonic.

    Aug 16, 2010 at 6:03 PM

  • If you like gin...try Citadelle. Citadelle is billed as a super premium gin. It has 19 botanicals, is distilled three times, and is sold in a beautifully decorated bottle it!!

    Aug 16, 2010 at 6:05 PM

  • Snooth User: mad322
    366876 2

    I tried Boodles and really like. I found Blue gin really interesting, too. But I still go back to Bombay Sapphire.

    Aug 16, 2010 at 8:30 PM

  • Snooth User: rebob
    233947 1

    Rangpur Tanqueray is the best!

    Aug 16, 2010 at 10:33 PM

  • Snooth User: ORILEY31
    472146 1

    Seeing that a Dutchie was so brilliant to invent this beautiful spirit, why not try a real Dutch one such as "Boomsma" (Young Genever Gin).

    Aug 16, 2010 at 11:09 PM

  • What? No mention of 12 Bridges, Aviation or Magellan Blue? I'm shocked. My fav is Hendricks shaken with a few slices of cucumber. Cool & refreshing.

    Aug 17, 2010 at 1:34 AM

  • Snooth User: ricellus
    315624 1

    Make mine an Old Raj Martini straight -up and ice cold, olives or onions. Makes me want to give Empire Building a go.....Quite Right Quite Right.

    Aug 17, 2010 at 5:14 AM

  • Here's one for the other gin lovers:
    Take a bottle of Bols Dutch gin, in the stone crock bottle, and a bottle of blue Curacao, and stick 'em in your freezer. The next day (at least) when they're nice and thick, mix them in the proportions of a dry Martini, garnish with a wheel of orange slice. It's called a Flying Dutchman, an old forgotten cocktail. You get a slightly orange tasting Martini type drink, and the orange slice floating in the blue drink looks like something from the Star Wars Canteen scene - you'll LOVE them!

    Aug 17, 2010 at 10:11 AM

  • Snooth User: RemyMartin
    501667 13

    The problem with many of the recommended gins is that, for me, the alcohol content is too high and consequently it does not make a smooth martini. BOMBAY, original, has the taste and makes a very smooth martini. BOMBAY used to make their own vermouth but for reasons unknown to me they quit making it about 30 years ago........ a serious loss to me. R & R

    Aug 17, 2010 at 2:51 PM

  • Snooth User: wine2love
    179042 5

    My favorite gin is from Distillery 209, made in San Francisco. That, combined with Campari and Giuseppe Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth in a 3-2-1 portion order, makes the perfect Negroni.

    Aug 18, 2010 at 12:11 AM

  • For a really dry martini, try Tanqueray on the rocks.

    Aug 19, 2010 at 7:51 AM

  • As know this has been stated before, but you can't beat a "Gin and Tonic with a twist" for Leg Cramp's, the Quinine in the tonic will give you a wonderful nights sleep, Tonic on it's own is awful.

    Aug 22, 2010 at 8:50 PM

  • Hendrick's is my fave!

    Aug 23, 2010 at 12:35 PM

  • Snooth User: gr
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth
    6339 1,074

    @robert mulvaney & @ORILEY31 -- I'm a bit late to this one, but it should be noted that modern gin and genever (even the jonge style, which more closely resembles modern gin) aren't really all that similar.

    Modern gins start with grain neutral, are sometimes distilled in column stills rather than pot stills, and almost all have additional botanicals added (angelica, orris, cubeb; the kind of stuff you find in greater volume in absinthes). Genever, whether jonge or oude style, includes either at most (jonge) or at least (oude) 15% maltwine and is always done in a pot still.

    The only real connection between the the two spirit types (marketing in the US proclaiming "genever-style gin" or "genever gin" be damned) is the juniper whence both their names (and the fact is that gin was as close as the British could get to the genever they loved, but weren't about to import while they were at war with Holland / couldn't when trade routes were interrupted by war with the French, so forth). Note, by the way, that this process and maltwine business is the reason what Anchor Brewing puts out is more of a musky gin than an actual genever.

    Boomsma, on the other hand is great, especially the oude (use it in an Old Fashioned). I actually don't care much for the only Bols we get in the states, a jonge style, but the House of Bols actually have a bunch of really great products... unavailable in the US for lack of demand. Supposedly DuKuyper (in Montreal) also makes a genever, but I've never seen it on shelves (in Canada or the US).

    Aug 26, 2010 at 7:51 PM

  • Snooth User: Sugar
    29416 1

    For the Martini lover, getting your gin right is essential. I find Bombay light for my tastes (although still excellent for other applications), and Hendricks too "floral" from the cucumber. In premium gins, I prefer those made in a traditional pot still, especially the bracingly austere Plymouth. Broker's is very good, too. For everyday gin, Tanqueray is my number one choice for a fine Martini.

    Sep 01, 2010 at 10:34 AM

  • Snooth User: botlvr
    290762 6

    I was brought on Martinis. My parents drank them. They called them WHITE DEATH. When they had cocktail parties my brother and I used to steal the olives out of the drinks. Today I drink them shaken enough to when they are poured into the correct glass there is a slick of ice on top. Two olives very dry. One olive is for me and one for my mom in heaven. Friday nights she is enjoying one with me. My boat is The Martini Mistress. God I enjoy a great martini. Bombay Saphire is great. I agree Hendricks is too floral. I am known to send them back at bars and fine restaurants. I will have to
    find Brokers.

    Sep 09, 2010 at 8:29 PM

  • I love Bombay Sapphire
    It has a smooth taste and a very nice Aroma
    Albert Tromp
    Beverage Manager @ Radisson Aruba
    FB Albert Tromp

    Sep 12, 2010 at 4:30 PM

  • Snooth User: mkmadhok
    144035 2

    Beefeater is my first choice (and the old bottle was beautiful too) and Tanqueray is almost as good (my second choice). Makes great cocktails and can be had with almost anything from exotic liquers such as Mary Brizard Blue Curucao to the ordinary cranberry juice or even a fresh fruit juice, lemon etc. The most universal drink ever!!

    Sep 19, 2010 at 1:35 AM

  • Snooth User: Lilyrock
    564118 3

    I started with Boodles and I like my martinis up, very dry (hold the vermouth) and very well chlled. I then switched to Tanqueray after a friend I met in France pointed out that it has a higher percentage alcohol and because I like the taste of straight any alcholol, savour the taste of Tanqueray. Due to economics I bought Beefeaters recently and as I gift, my nephew just bought me Sapphire, but given my choice I always go for Tanqueray. While in a bar last week and not wanting to pay $10.00 for a Tanq, my brother asked what the well gin was. Brokers we were told. I said, I doubt I will like that but the $4.00 price tag won me over. I must say, it was darn good!!!

    Sep 22, 2010 at 4:30 PM

  • My favourit gin by far... Pink 47 London Dry Gin from Old St. Andrews. I liked it so much I bought the company so admit to being biased. Four times distilled, 10 botanicals and 47% alcohol give a really complex flavour without a trace of harshness. Give it a try neat over ice or in your favourite cocktail mix: it's winning prizes where ever we offer it to competition.

    Sep 26, 2010 at 10:02 AM

  • the seacret to drinking Bombay is to drink till the lady on the label looks good

    Oct 02, 2010 at 10:04 AM

  • Pink 47 is unbelievably good and makes the most amazing martini. Love it with soda and lime too. Thanks for buying the company Bob! British Columbia thanks you too!

    Oct 02, 2010 at 3:45 PM

  • The real martini "GIN" is my favorite drink of all time. Tanqueray bites all the way down, I want a wonderful smooth gin. So which ones should I be looking for?

    Oct 05, 2010 at 5:56 PM

  • I have been a devout gin drinker for most of my so-called"adult" life. Have participated in many a gin tasting with fellow aficianados . Had difficulty in becoming a long-term devotee until I tasted "209" Gin made in San Fran-
    cisco. I have visited the distillery twice to watch the genius master prepare this gin. Do yourself a favor and give it a try. I have absolutely no connection with this company, but want you to share my amazement and enjoyment with this product. It is truly remarkable.

    Dr Alan Steen

    Oct 07, 2010 at 2:37 PM

  • Well, I have tried many Gins but there is nothing like Gordons export.
    The Gordons which is available in the UK is 37.5 prof and Gordons export in the yellow label bottle can be 43 or 47.5 prof depending on which country you buy it. The 47.5 prof is really good and 2 of these will have you singing!!
    I have been drinking Gordons Gin for 20 years and personally think it is the best and most genuine London Gin. I flew for British Airways as a purser and at the end of our crew training course in 1979 we were taken to the Gordons Gin distilery in London as a treat. This is in the same place as it was in 1765 and smells of nothing but gin. We had lunch with the directors and Export Gordons flowed like water. Well you would expect that.
    Best wishes and enjoy the Gin!!!!
    Laurence Finestone

    Oct 10, 2010 at 12:22 PM

  • Snooth User: Mashworth
    517934 13

    Hendricks hands down

    Oct 22, 2010 at 9:50 PM

  • Snooth User: bgsovski
    343067 8

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned the two "Blues" - Blue Coat and Blue Dog. ECE

    Oct 29, 2010 at 10:05 PM

  • I have a friend that doesn't get drunk usually, freakishly high tolerance or strange metabolism I'm not sure. But, Gin will get her drunk. I'm talking take-your-top-off, dance-on-the-table drunk. Vodka doesn't though, so there is something in the Juniper maybe that she is sensitive to? I notice also that I am a lot drier the next morning after a gin evening. I've started drinking water spacers to help. I don't like gin straight, but I love the herbal quality it gives drinks.

    Nov 03, 2010 at 8:00 AM

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