Have we mentioned that we love gin? If you enjoy gin and history as much as we do, you’ll appreciate these random tidbits about gin…

1. Before Gin There Was Genever

Genever Still Life by Kevin Ludwig

Genever Still Life by Kevin Ludwig © 2007 (CC) Some rights reserved.

By the 1500s (if not earlier), Belgium and the Netherlands were distilling malt wine; however, due to unrefined distilling techniques, the resulting spirit was not something you’d actually enjoy drinking. Thankfully, someone had the brilliant idea to add a common local spice–juniper berries (jeneverbessen in Dutch), as well as a few other herbs–and genever (or jenever) was born.


2. Also Known as “Dutch Courage”

Flag of the Netherlands

Familiar with the term “liquid courage”? These days, that usually entails having a drink to work up the guts to talk to the person who caught your eye across the bar. The Dutch were far more courageous:

According to Merriam Webster, the first known use of the phrase “Dutch Courage” was in 1807. According to legend, British troops witnessed how bravely Dutch troops went into battle after drinking genever.


3. Oldest Working Gin Distillery

Plymouth Gin Distillery

Established in 1793, Plymouth Distillery (formerly Black Friars Distillery) is reported to be the oldest gin distillery still producing gin. Its current working still has been faithfully on the job for over 160 years. And while London dry gin does not have to be produced in London, Plymouth gin can only be produced in Plymouth. It’s slightly sweeter than the London style and its botanical blend focuses more on earthy and fruit flavors.


4. Gin (aka Mother’s Ruin) Nearly Destroyed London

Gin Lane by William Hogarth, 1751

Gin Lane by William Hogarth, 1751

You read that correctly. This delicious botanical spirit nearly did what the French, Germans, and every other colonial power failed to do for centuries: destroy the city of London.

During the 1700s, gin became so cheap and readily available that the masses were drinking it in deadly doses–leading to the Gin Craze. However, this “mother’s ruin,” as it was then dubbed, is not the gin we know and love today but more of a cheap alcohol mixed with flavors. In the late 1600s, the British government encouraged the local distilling industry with lax laws and bans on French imports. But the poor quality control meant that gin was frequently mixed with turpentine or sulfuric acid, which could cause blindness among other health issues.

In 1751, Artist William Hogarth used his skills to support the government’s attempts to regulate gin production with his Gin Lane illustration, which featured a poem at the bottom that began with:

Gin, cursed Fiend, with Fury fraught,

  Makes human Race a Prey.

It enters by a deadly Draught

  And steals our Life away.


5. The World’s First Vending Machines Dispensed Gin

Old Tom Gin Dispenser

During the 18th century Gin Craze in England, the Gin Acts of 1736 and 1751 attempted to slow the spirit’s flow–but soon Puss and Mew slot machines popped up to supply gin to anyone with two pence to spare. Gin suppliers mounted wooden signs with black cats on their exterior walls and customers would simply stand before the sign and say, “Puss, give me two pennyworth of gin.” The supplier would respond, “Mew,” if gin was available and the customer would slip a coin into the mouth of the cat. Moments later, a dram of gin would pour out of the pipe under the cat’s paw into the buyer’s mouth or cup.

As awesome as that sounds, somehow we don’t think this would catch on today. People seem far less willing to drink things out of random pipes in alleys. Those were more innocent (and plague-ridden) times.


6. Gin Has Saved Lives

Gin and Tonic

The once infamous gin rose above its devilish beginnings, however, and soon became the “spoonful of sugar” to help essential medicine go down–from fighting malaria in India (thanks Gin & Tonic!) to battling scurvy on the high seas by helping the British Navy swallow the necessary amount of lime juice to get their Vitamin C.

Gin’s popularity is once again on the rise. Malaria and scurvy are at record lows here in the Midwest. Coincidence..?


7. Some Like It Hot…

Hot Gin Twist

Gin hasn’t always been limited to being an ice-cold cocktail base. In fact, in the winter of 1823, London’s most popular drink was the Hot Gin Twist — hot water and gin, with sugar and lemon juice — a cocktail that was so popular it was extolled in a 145-line poem by William Maginn, A Twist-imony in favour of Gin-twist, …and then, in a shorter piece of verse by John Timb, who praised both the drink and Maginn’s poem about it.

To ensure Londoners weren’t still feeling the ill effects of the Gin Craze decades later, we did our own taste test — 45 mL gin, 22.5 mL fresh squeezed lemon juice, 15 mL simple syrup, topped with 60-80 mL of boiling water and garnished with a lemon peel. Let’s just say, if Londoners were still crazy in 1823, their love of the Hot Gin Twist was a clear sign that sanity would win out in the end.


8. The Vesper and James Bond Were Born in the Same Brain

The Vesper - Gin and Vodka cocktail

Not only did author Ian Fleming create the internationally loved character of James Bond, he also invented the well-loved gin cocktail the Vesper, which is first described in Casino Royale as “Three measures of Gordon’s [gin], one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet” that is then shaken and garnished with lemon peel. Stop by the tasting room if you’d like to give it a try!


9. The Philippines Consumes An Absurd Amount of Gin

Philippines Flag

It would seem the 7,000+ islands of the Philippines float entirely on a sea of gin.

As of 2012, of the nearly 60 million cases of gin being sold around the world, the Philippines was drinking over 22 million cases (nearly all of which were the country’s local brand, Ginebra San Miguel). Apparently, the Filipinos love drinking gin so much they created a new compound word (of sorts) — ginuman, which combines gin and inuman (literally “drinking fountain” but also culturally used to refer to a drinking session). Favored Filipino gin cocktails mix gin with either pomelo juice (the Ginpo) or pineapple juice.


10. Gin Is the Most Rapped-About Spirit

Spirit Rap Stats

Sure, gin has nearly toppled an empire, has been used as a medicine by that same empire, and inspired poets and writers for centuries, but how do rappers feel about it? As you can see above, we crunched the numbers.

Turns out gin has been rapped about more than any other spirit. In the late 90s, Cristal gave it a run for its money, and more recently it’s had a few turf wars with Rum and Vodka, but we’re betting that Gin’s rap star is still rising. Snoop Dogg, if you’re reading this (and I’m pretty sure you are), isn’t it time for a Gin & Juice remix?