Every year on 19 October the world celebrates Gin and Tonic Day. And if you know me at all, you know it’s a celebration I fully support.
According to lore, this modest drink was invented as a tactic to get British soldiers and other officials to take their quinine, a key ingredient to help fight malaria, a deadly disease back then.
This year I decided to share some interesting bits about both gin and tonic, starting with gin.
- Gin is not a legitimate gin if it doesn’t contain juniper. However, the juniper berry is not a berry, but a female seed cone that looks like a berry.
- A London dry gin doesn’t need to be distilled in London. It’s a broad distilling style guideline rather than a legal indicator.
- Ian Fleming, author and creator of James Bond is credited with inventing the Vesper Martini. But did you know a martini is best stirred, not shaken? That’s because shaking splinters off more ice fragments that then quickly dissolve, effectively watering down your drink. Stir your gin and vermouth in a glass filled with ice before draining it into a chilled glass and garnish with three olives.
The gin and tonic is a classic cocktail and one of the simplest to prepare.
The name “gin” comes from the Flemish “genever”. During the Dutch War of Independence in 1580, English soldiers discovered this tipple and nicknamed it ”Dutch Courage”. Well, that’s one version of how gin came about. Another origin narrative traces it to a Dutch physician, Sylvius de Bouve. He discovered a highly alcoholic medicinal concoction called jenever, rumoured to improve circulation and cure various other ailments. Either way, gin soon made its way to British soil where masses immediately took to it, producing it at an extremely low cost. The subsequent boom in gin consumption led to Parliament passing a law that imposed a tax on the drink.
Quinine is the quintessential ingredient of tonic water. This anti-malarial alkaloid is extracted from the cinchona tree’s bark. Increased malaria infection among the British settlers in India, particularly among soldiers, became a huge health concern. Unfortunately, quinine has an incredibly bitter taste. However, adding gin to tonic water reduced the bitterness.
And that’s how we all started enjoying gin and tonic. Tell me in the comments below which is your favourite gin. Cheers!