It's just flavoured vodka: 9 things you didn't know about gin

Gin has fast become a firm favourite among SA drinkers, but just how clued up are you about this trendy tipple? These quick facts will make a great talking point next time you share a G&T

11 January 2019 - 11:58 By Michele Magwood
Citrus and rosemary G&T.
Citrus and rosemary G&T.
Image: 123RF/belchonock

1. THE PHILIPPINES DRINK THE MOST GIN IN THE WORLD

Global sales of the spirit rack up nearly 60-million cases a year, and almost half of this is consumed in the Philippines. The country drinks more than 22-million cases of Ginebra San Miguel, and while this gin accounts for 43% of the gin market, most people outside the Philippines have never heard of it.

2. GIN HAS MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

Gin has been used for medicinal purposes since the Middle Ages. The juniper berries in it were used as a topical antiseptic and to cure lung congestion.

The berries also contain flavonoids that are said to prevent heart disease, fight infection and improve blood circulation.

The Royal Navy mixed gin with lime cordial to stop scurvy, and in the 1800s gin and tonic was developed to make anti-malarial quinine more palatable. The British Empire floated on a sea of it.

3. GIN IS ACTUALLY JUST FLAVOURED VODKA

Vodka is alcohol that’s distilled to 97% or 98%. It becomes gin when it is distilled with natural botanicals like juniper, coriander, citrus peel, cinnamon, liquorice and, in SA, fynbos.

4. GIN 'N CAKE WAS ACTUALLY A THING

The earliest known food pairing with gin occurred in 1731 when it was served with gingerbread. This became extremely popular and is still the tradition in parts of England.

5. GIN MAKES THE BEST HAIR OF THE DOG

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.

6. GIN MAKES YOU BLIND DRUNK

The “bathtub gin” that was made in the US during Prohibition had dangerous — even lethal – physical effects due to the fact that it sometimes contained methanol. Sufferers were blinded or even poisoned.

7. THE SLOE BURN

Sloe gin is made with the hand-picked berries of the blackthorn tree. While some superstitions say the berries must be pricked with a silver needle before use, this isn’t necessary – simply freezing the berries in order to break their thick skins before adding to the gin should suffice.

8. IAN FLEMING BECOMES GIN MASTER

Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books, left an additional impression on gin drinkers: he’s credited with inventing the Vesper, a cousin of the Martini that blends gin, vodka, and vermouth — topped with a lemon.

9. THERE'S A CORRECT WAY TO TASTE GIN

  • Taste gin at room temperature, swill around the mouth and see whether you can taste the juniper, as well as other botanicals: cucumber, citrus, fynbos, spice.
  • Add a little water and the flavours become more pronounced. Look for a taste that works over a few blocks of ice, that doesn't need to be drowned in tonic.
  • Make sure your gin-to-tonic ratio is right. For every 25ml of gin, pour 150/175ml of tonic.
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