Gin seems to have originated in Holland, but found its real status in London in the late 18th century, with distillers all over the city. Originally, gin emerged as more of a medicinal tonic thought to alleviate circulatory issues and, later, the notorious G&T found a place in warding off malaria for soldiers during colonial times – attributed more to the quinine in the tonic, but the gin could have helped, too.
Back then, gin was a far cry from the artisan botanical blends that are now available, but one of the original ingredients, juniper berries, still remains a key flavour in today’s drink. In fact the word ‘gin’ derives from the Dutch word for juniper – jenever. These small and mighty berries provide antioxidant benefits that help prevent damage and ageing to cells, as well as being linked to reducing inflammation. Because of their natural bitter flavour, juniper berries can also aid digestion by supporting the increase of digestive enzymes and gastric-juice secretion to optimise the breakdown of food and prevent issues such as bloating or reflux. Since the berries act as a diuretic, they can also help to prevent water retention.
With the choice of blends now weaving in a multitude of herbs, spices and floral extracts, the botanical flavours of gin make this a superior choice. However, the key mantra here is , of course, moderation – it’s best to stick to one measured glass and avoid sugary mixers and cocktails. Tonic, for instance, can have some artificial ingredients, so opt for one that is more akin to the original – my preferred make is Fever-Tree. The higher-quality distillers recommend serving your shot neat over ice to fully immerse yourself in the beautifully complex flavours. So sip your gin wisely, savour the unique flavours and let it be a cause for celebration (and not ruin!).
Hepple Gin – co-founded by chef Valentine Warner and mixologist Nick Strangeway, Hepple Gin uses juniper and herbs from the local hills of Hepple. hepple-gin.com
Gin: The Manual by Dave Broom (Mitchell Beazley, £14.99) – if you really want to know your juniper from your sloe then this book is for you.
Silent Pool Distillers – try this classic gin that combines no less than 24 botanicals with clear spring water from its namesake Silent Pool. silentpooldistillers.com