Home' Scoop : Scoop 53 Spring 2010 Contents 68 scoop SPRING 2010
s the sun defrosts our angry
winter corpses, flowers burst into
bloom and flocks of bluebirds
flutter around and sing in three-
part harmony, the weather calls
for a drink of something lighter.
Spring’s sweethearts pop open champagne by
sunset; families toast their overcooked barbecue
with a glass of rose; backyard gatherings across the
country are lubricated with tumblers of Moscow
Mule; and the bitter spinster opens her window,
breathes in the sweet air, screeches profanities
at all of them, slams down the blinds, flicks on
Coronation Street and pours a gin and tonic. Right?
Wrong! Contrary to popular belief and carefully
designed introductory paragraphs, gin is no longer
exclusively the drink of crotchety old Brits and
those cloaked in black velvet.
The mainstream popularity of an easy gin and
tonic has certainly been gathering pace for a few
years: consider Snoop Dogg’s 1990s classic Gin and
Juice, where Snoop raps melodic about Seagram’s
and “Tanqueray and chronic”. That little g em of
a song is not only said to have pushed sales of
Tanqueray up by 25 per cent but also heralded the
beginning of hip-hop artists pledging allegiance to
various brands of liquor. A double-edg ed sword
perhaps, but it was one that shifted brands like
French classic Cour voisier from old money to new
– and reignited interest in the world of spirits.
The marketing genius of companies like
Bombay Sapphire has certainly helped push gin to
a new, sophisticated level beyond whatever Snoop
beg an – set foot in any bar around town and you’re
likely to see plenty of well-heeled, 20-somethings
sipping on a gin and tonic. And in the next 12
months, chances are there’ll be more gin from
Australian distillers than ever before.
Thanks to the delights of technology, gin can
now be created at a higher purity while retaining its
flavours – making matters a lot easier for modern
distillers – and plenty of Australian talents have
caught on. Mt Uncle, a distillery just west of
Cairns, will release three kinds of dry gin this year,
employing tropical native botanicals and fruits –
putting our very own spin on London’s dry classic.
Of course, gin doesn’t belong to the Australians
any more than it belongs to the British – the
original inventors of gin were Dutch.
Cooked up by Dr Sylvius in Holland in the
1600s for patients with stomach complaints
(although its history probably goes back further),
the doctor’s original concoction is known today as
jenever – a Dutch word for juniper, the berries that
give gin and jenever its aromatic flavou r.
There are two types of jenever: oude (old) and
jonge (young) – but it’s not a matter of ageing,
rather it’s down to distilling techniques.
Oude refers to the classic technique of distilling
malt wine from malted barley, while jonge can
be distilled from grain alcohol or molasses,
creating a lighter flavour at a cheaper price. Today,
jenever distilled from grain and malt is known
as graanjenever, and is best consumed straight –
offering rich flavours and a smooth finish.
English soldiers first came across jenever in
Holland during the various wars g oing on at the
time and used it to soothe their ner ves before
going into battle – that’s where the term ‘Dutch
courage’ comes from – and returned home with it.
From 1690, the Brits had no choice but to
brew their own when King William III banned all
imported spirits. They called their derivation ‘gin’,
and men were drinking about 14 gallons of it each
year (that’s 56.7 litres – you just try to reason with
that after a hard day at work, ladies).
In 1769, London distiller and smart cookie
Alexander Gordon removed the sug ar and added
flavourings like coriander and orange rind –
developing what would become the most popular
form of gin today, Gordon’s London Dry Gin.
As for the classic G and T? We have mosquitoes
and brutal colonisation to thank for that. Gin
was used in tropical British colonies to mask the
bitterness of quinine, which was used to protect
against malaria, and is still found in tonic today.
In terms of the flavour of gin, it's all about
botanicals. Beyond the juniper berries, which must
be present in any gin, it’s the choice of botanicals
and the way they are distilled that separate
Tanqueray from Beefeater. Many Australian
distilleries have begun to create a London Dry
style, but employ Australian botanicals instead of
Gordon’s classic coriander and orange.
Bathurst Dry Gin is the very first true
commercial Australian dry gin – that is, using
only Australian native botanicals (along with the
requisite juniper) in the distilling process.
Where low-quality gins are produced by soaking
juniper berries and botanicals in the base spirit
and redistilling, high quality gins have a more
complex distillation process, often involving a final
distillation where the alcohol vapour wafts through
a chamber in which the dried juniper berries and
botanicals are suspended – resulting in a much
more complex, flavourful spirit.
These upcoming, high-end, artisan gins herald
an exciting new wave of aromatic, flavoursome
spirits to give the big producers a run for their
money. One of the most popular is G’Vin, a
French gin that includes fresh flowers from grape
vines and produces a floral gin perfect for martinis.
Specialty spirits importer Doug van Tienen
recommends a G’Vin martini, replacing cognac
with vermouth for an earthier base and a floral
nose, and to extenuate the length of the flavo urs.
If gin and tonic is more your style, Doug
warns ag ainst commercial tonic water. Apparently
Australian offerings contain too much quinine,
which breaks down the gin. Kirks tonic is the best
of the typical supermarket offerings, he says, but
imported tonics from Italy and India are certainly
preferable. Try the San Pellegrino tonic water
available at the Re Store – if you’re going to drop
cash on a great gin, it makes sense to top it up with
You might not think it’s the most fashionable drink, but gin’s more popular than ever
words Rachael Ciccarelli « images Ross Wallace
after the show
“From 1690, men were drinking
about 56.7 litres of gin each year”
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