A brief history of Gin

We love gin. As a society we bought somewhere in the region of 50 million bottles of it in 2017, amounting to around £1.2 billion. But, for all the glamour of a Gin & Tonic, gin has a few dirty cobwebs lurking around its history...

It all started with juniper, or as the Dutch called it: genever. Known since the middle ages as a remedy for fever and other ailments, a drink with the oil of the juniper berry has probably been around for quite some time. It was Franciscus Sylvius de la Boe however, a Dutch doctor, who created a schnapps distilled with juniper berries and thus created the drink genever.

This drink was mass produced in the Netherlands and in the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) Dutch soldiers would drink genever from a bottle on their belt, claiming there was courage to be found in its calming effects. The English soldiers, fighting with them, recognised this and thus coined the phrase 'Dutch courage'.

The English were so impressed by the spirit that it didn't take long for it to hop over the channel. In fact, by the early 18th century it is thought that half the households of London were producing their own genever, shortened to the now recognisable: gin.

With the help of levies against French produce meaning that home distilled spirits rose in popularity, the 'gin craze' era was ushered in. Often much more alcoholic than one would think palatable, and available through a neighbour or family member, gin took hold of the country. Hogarth's famous etching 'Gin Lane' sums up this time very well:

The government soon realised they had to step in and in the mid-18th Century a number of Gin Acts were introduced to restrict the distilling, selling and consumption of gin. By the turn of the 19th Century the 'gin craze' was under control and the drink began its journey to modern renown.

Exquisite Gin Palaces were built where you could go and enjoy a gin amid entertainment and luxury. Elsewhere, gin was used to mask the bitter taste of quinine - a popular cure and preventative for malaria - by mixing them together with tonic water... thus producing the world-adored Gin &Tonic! (learn more about Tonic here)

So, as much as a Gin & Tonic is a British colonial invention, the spirit itself comes from Holland and like many spirits, a connection to medicine.

Today, we in the midst of a new 'gin craze'. One that is controlled and regulated unlike the last, but one that is just as widespread and popular. Here at Darnley's we are driving forward the experimentation behind creating new editions such as our Coastal Haar expression. Maybe however, there is nothing to beat a G&T with our Darnley's Original - why not see for yourself?

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