Exploring a brief history of the legendary gin and tonic (with a twist)
To think of gin as a medicinal product isn’t so far-fetched for those of us who need a stiff drink after a long day. It’s what you need to take the edge off stress, and it was once used to ease pain and ailments. Conceived in the 1600s by a Dutch scientist, gin was formulated from juniper berries and gets its name from the English bastardization of the Latin term ‘juniperus.’
Part of the Cyprus family whose bark and leaves have been used in medicines for centuries, juniper plants’ bark and berries yield medicinal properties that soothe cramps and indigestion.
Demand for the distilled spirit grew dramatically as people tried to acquire the ‘jenever’, but were left disappointed as it was only available through pharmacies, resulting in small distilleries sprouting up and the birth of the non-medicinal, commercial gin.
The Dutch introduced English troops to the spirit during the Thirty Years’ War when the English noticed Dutch soldiers showed more than a little courage in battle thanks to the bottles they carried on their belts. News of the liquid courage spread quickly as the English returned home, resulting in the Dutch exporting gin all over the world.
To those of us drinking gin nowadays, our go-to is the gin and tonic, which also has quite the interesting history. We won’t take a trip so far back as 1600s Holland, but we will step back to 1857 as the British Crown took control of India and malaria took hold of British immigrants.
It was then discovered that the indigenous people looked to the South American cinchona tree, also known as the ‘fever tree,’ as it’s bark would cure fever chills thanks to copious amounts of quinine found inside. It was shown to cure and prevent malaria after it was brought back to Europe in the 1640s and thus the gin and tonic was born as the British learned the addition of gin, sugar, ice, and citrus would cut the bitterness of the quinine and in turn produce a refreshing, malaria-preventive beverage.
Today, tonic water isn’t quite so bitter as it’s quinine levels have become more balanced with sweetening agents, but it still proves to be the perfect bitter kick to accompany the piney taste of the juniper berry-distilled gin. We’ve got a few tips and tricks on how to make the perfect gin and tonic…in our opinion anyway, we don’t know what the English have to say about it.
Tip one: Get everything cold: glasses, tonic, and the gin. (Keep your gin in the freezer for gin and tonics. All other gin cocktails can be made with room temperature gin.)
Tip two: Only use small, freshly opened bottles of tonic water as larger bottles will go flat quickly.
Tip three: Squeeze in two lime wedges rather than just adding a sliver after the fact.
The Perfect Gin and Tonic
(courtesy of thehuffingtonpost.com)
- 2 oz. gin
- 4-5 oz. tonic
- 2 lime wedges
In a frozen Collins glass, add your gin. Fill the glass with large ice cubes. Squeeze in one lime wedge. Add your tonic. Squeeze in the second lime wedge and briefly stir.
Then sit back and enjoy your perfect G&T.