36 facts about gin (with thanks to Slingsby’s Harrogate!)

To celebrate the 36 Word Story Challenge with Transdev Harrogate and Harrogate International Festivals, I’ve asked one of the Festival’s Sponsors for some fascinating facts about gin.

Incidentally, you can have a go at the 36 Word Story Challenge by popping your entry into the box at Harrogate Bus Station, or E-mailing alexbc@harrogate-festival.org.uk.

Here are 36 fab facts for you…the first 21 come from Slingsby’s of Harrogate.

1. Gin derives from the Dutch spirit “Genever” (Latin for juniper). The English fought alongside the Dutch during the 30 year war, and were given Genever to make them more willing to fight. Some claimed they had imbibed the Dutch courage, and this is where the famous term comes from!

2. Soldiers would take Genever home with them, and share it with friends and family. This is where the English developed a taste for juniper flavoured spirits.

3. The name Gin is derived from an English mispronunciation of Genever, which was “Ginever” ; this was eventually shorted to gin.

4. In 1689, the Distillers’ Act was passed, which allowed the public to legally distill alcohol. Many people started to distill their own versions of “gin” using low quality grain and turpentine, as well as any ingredients they could source locally for free.

5. By 1726, London had 1,500 working stills, and there were an incredible 6,287 places where you could buy gin.

6. By 1733, gin production and consumption was so high (mainly due to poor quality of life and nearly deadly water), that the average person per year would drink 14 gallons of gin. Hic!

7. The earliest known food pairing for gin was gingerbread. The public used to go and watch hangings whilst drinking gin, and eat warm gingerbread.

8. During the plague years, doctors wore masks filled with juniper berries, as they thought the plague was spread by bad odours. People began eating juniper, drinking wine infused with juniper, bathing in juniper and covering themselves with juniper oil. This was considered superstitious by modern historians, but juniper oil is an effective natural flea repellant.

9. The Gin Act of 1736 imposed an annual fine of £50 (about £20,000) on distillers of base spirits, and the same again on gin rectifiers. Thus, it became traditional for London gin distillers to buy their base spirit rather than producing it in the distillery.

10. At one time, there was a working gin still in about 1 in every 4 habitable structures in London.

11. Gin must legally have a “predominant juniper flavour”, but there are no limits as to how many other botanicals may be used, or the quantity of juniper berries that need to be added during the distilling process.

12. The gin and tonic first gained popularity in the British colonies, as the quinine in the tonic water was found to be a potent deterrent to malaria-carrying mosquitoes. However, the bitterness of the quinine was unpalatable, so gin was added to make the drink taste better.

13. There are more classic cocktails made with gin than with any other sprit.

14. Gin and tomato juice was all the rage as a hangover cure in New York City in 1928, years before the vodka-based Bloody Mary made its debut at the King Cole Room in the St. Regis Hotel.

15. While British sailors received a daily rum ration, British naval officers requested something more sophisticated so they got a daily ration of gin.

16. Navy strength refers to when gin, rum and gunpowder were all loced in the same place on a ship. The barrels would smash together and break, causing the gunpowder to get wet, preventing it from igniting. The strength of rum and gin was raised to 57.2%, which was high enough alcohol content to ensure the gunpowder still ignited, but was not so high that it exploded.

17. The country with the world’s highest per-capita gin consumption is the Philippines, with an estimated 25 million cases consumed annually.

18. The juniper berry is not actually a berry at all. It is a female seed cone…a highly evolved pine cone with fleshy and merged scales that give it the appearance of a berry.

19. In 1269, the first major mention of a juniper-based health-related tonic appeared in a Dutch publication. Ever since, gin has been used for “medicinal purposes”. The Royal Navy mixed gin with lime cordial to stop scurvy (hence the name Limeys), and angostura settled the stomach at sea.

20. The most usual production method for gin is to distil botanicals, such as juniper, coriander, citrust peel, cinnamon, almond or liquorice, with neutral grain alcohol. Making gin is like flavouring vodka, except that botanicals are always natural.

21. At around £450 for a 750ml bottle, the world’s most expensive gin is Notlet’s Reserve. This 52.3% alcohol gin is 104.6 proof.

And here are 15 more from me…

22. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, left quite an impression on gin drinkers. He is credited with inventing the “Vesper”, a cousin of the Martini, which blends gin, vodka and vermouth, topped with a lemon twist. Yum!

23. “Shaken Not Stirred” is a well known catchphrase, but most bartenders agree that a stirred beverage is preferable. Shaking causes excessive dilution.

24. World Gin Day takes place on 10th June 2017…put it in your diary for next year!

25. Gin is made to be served with tonic. Drinking it neat is not recommended.

26. A whopping 60 million cases of gin are sold every year – half of that in the Philippines.

27. Gin doesn’t make you depressed. Well, no more than any other spirit. Eric Carmen’s All By Myself or Bette Midler’s Beaches are more likely to make you cry.

28. Frank Sinatra was a big gin fan!

29. Slingsby’s offer free tasting of their different gin varieties at their shop on the Montpellier Quarter. It’s just a stone’s throw from a 36 bus stop, too!

30. Nearly all juniper used to make gin is picked wild.

31. London Dry Gin doesn’t need to be made in London. It can be produced anywhere! All Slingsby’s gin is bottled in Harrogate.

32. “Bathtub Gin” was a style of cheaply produced gin, popular during the Prohibition era in the United States.

33. In 1923, the “Gin Twist” was all the rage. Mentioned in many novels and periodicals at the time, it consisted of gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and hot water, and was the “Beyonce of Cocktails” at the time!

34. The quinine in tonic water can help fight malaria!

35. American standards demand that gin is at least 40% ABV (alcohol by volume), whereas in the EU it has to be 37.5%.

36. We love gin!

Best of all, you can enjoy a finely crafted gin & tonic, then hop on the 36 bus to Ripon, Harrogate or Leeds. Cheers!





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