It’s all about gin! Once a spirit widely known for the downfall of many, now a complex, versatile and internationally renowned classic, with many small craft distilleries shining a light on some of the best gins in the world.
A Brief History of Gin
Yes gin lovers, your favourite tipple has a long and interesting history which you can read more about at your leisure. In brief, back in the 1600’s, the Dutch pioneered the transformation of ‘Genever’ (or the French ‘genièvre’) from a medicinal cure-all to a drink of choice to bolster the bravery of their troops before heading into battle, hence the term ‘Dutch Courage’.
The Gin Craze
British troops assisting the Dutch in battle had their first taste of gin and took the new spirit back to England. Eventually, a series of events ( including heavy taxes on imported spirits) would make a pint of gin cheaper than beer, fuelling what is now known as the ‘Gin Craze’. With very little regulation, poor quality spirits were widely produced and ‘Mother’s Ruin’ as it was soon known, became the source of misery across London.
With the passing of the Gin Acts from 1736, licensing laws were introduced, along with hikes in taxation to elevate the price of gin out of reach of the masses, whereby consumption dropped and quality production increased. The Gin Craze was over.
What is Gin made from?
Several decades later, with the advent of hedonistic glamour, cocktails and jazz in bars across the globe, the basic Genever recipe was refined into the clean, bright versatile spirit we all enjoy today. Characterised by the use of juniper as the star botanical, with a new generation of innovative craft distillers at the helm and a vast selection of native botanicals to explore, the array of new and exciting taste experiences are endless.
This is good news for all experienced gin lovers out there but I hear some of you asking, well what is gin made from and how do we drink it? Lucky for all of us, experimentation is a cornerstone of the modern Australian gin industry so there are no set rules aside from Juniper being the base botanical, and there are no limits to creativity.
How is Gin Made?
Broadly speaking and to put it as simply as possible, these are three of the most common ways to make gin – to extract essential oils and produce a clean, pure spirit.
To give the gin a bold and direct flavour, if producing their own alcohol from scratch, the craft distiller would distil the grape (or grain) to produce a ‘neutral’ alcohol and then re-distil in the wash with juniper berries and other chosen botanicals.
A second common method for adding botanicals to gin is called vapour infusion. A basket of botanicals are added inside the still where the vapours of the alcohol are forced through these botanicals, which then condense back into a liquid, creating a more gentle and subtle flavour.
And finally, a technique that is increasingly popular amongst craft distillers is the steeping method where fruit macerates in the alcohol and the gin naturally extracts the grape sugars and colour. It is possible for the distiller to use any combination of these 3 methods to create other highlights to produce their unique style.
How to Drink Gin?
There are several classic ways to serve gin including; straight up, on the rocks, neat and/or in cocktails.
Straight up: When ordering your gin ‘up’ this means the gin has been chilled but is served without ice. This is a great way to enjoy the full spectrum of subtle botanicals in the gin. Pour your gin of choice into a shaker full of ice and shake thoroughly, before pouring the gin into a cocktail glass. As the gin warms, the flavours will become more distinct.
On the rocks: If you prefer your drinks with a little ‘heat’ taken out, you could try it this way. Fill an old-fashioned glass (aka rocks or tumbler glass) with ice and gently pour the gin over the top. As the ice slowly melts, it dilutes the gin and reduces the strength of the spirit so if you can, use fresh ice made from filtered water. Less is more when it comes to garnish, as it can detract from the aromas and flavours of the spirit.
Neat: Don’t be afraid to drink your gin neat. Gin is a great sipping spirit, however quality is key. A lot of gins these days are designed to also be drunk neat. It’s the ultimate way to experience each of the unique flavours and aromas of modern Australian craft gins. Pour the gin into an old-fashioned glass without chilling or ice, and sip slowly to appreciate the complex mix of botanicals in each style. Or try it in a tasting glass to better appreciate the gin…a short tulip-shaped glass with a small bowl that narrows at the lip to trap the subtle aromas.
The Best Gin
How a gin tastes neat often depends on the base spirit the gin is made from. Here at Bass & Flinders we choose to have control over the entire vine-to-bottle process, hand crafting the grape-based eau de vie on site at the distillery using traditional Charentais distillation methods as well as new world creativity and technology. The carefully crafted, grape-based spirit is a botanical unto itself, providing a much smoother mouthfeel and creating a well-rounded and well-balanced gin…the best gin possible.
What to Drink with Gin?
Which leads us to cocktails!! Distilled with such a vast range of botanicals, Gin is one of THE most versatile spirits for a wide range of cocktails - making it the perfect go-to for mixologists and novice gin-lovers alike. The spectrum of flavour is huge. Play on the gin’s strengths, using mixers to match the hero botanicals in each gin and you can’t go wrong.
The versatility of gin allows for cocktails in many different flavour styles ranging from spicy, nutty and herbal through to citrus, fruity and refreshing or floral. Some styles of gin such as London Dry may have more upfront juniper characteristics, whereas a more modern Australian craft gin will have its own unique balance of flavours. Knowing the aromatics of the botanicals in the gin will help you determine which cocktails to make and which complementary garnish to choose to add flavour and style to your favourite tipple.
Juniper, the Star Botanical in Gin
Let’s start with the most important botanical of them all. What gives gin its distinct flavour and aroma? Juniper. A small, berry-like seed which imparts the delicate notes that make gin taste like, well…gin. In fact, it can only be called gin if it has juniper in it. And what you may not know, is that the local soil and climate can play a big part in determining the juniper’s flavour, which creates another level of unique flavour and character to every gin.
Most Popular Gin Botanicals
Some other commonly used botanicals in gin to balance out flavour, aromas and mouthfeel include a variety of herbs, fruits and spices. Coriander seeds are one of the most common, along with angelica root and citrus peel to balance out the juniper, however there are no specific rules. Coriander adds some body and spice, while angelica root adds earthiness and a sweet touch. Other botanicals like cassia bark (a common replacement for cinnamon), licorice root, cucumber and black pepper are all commonly used in gin production.
Native Australian Botanicals
Some native Australian botanicals used to complement the dry juniper notes are finger limes, strawberry gum, Bunya nut, lemon myrtle, ginger, wattle seed and locally foraged kelp and samphire. Lemon myrtle adds sweet lemon citrus notes, perfect for a dry gin style and Tasmanian pepperberry adds a spicy dimension to the final taste while wattle seed brings textural depth, and adds amazing flavours of nutmeg, macadamia and almonds.
How to Make the Perfect Gin & Tonic
The unwritten rule for complementing the unique flavours of your chosen spirit with a matching tonic and garnish, is to harmonise by accentuating a flavour that’s already in the gin or alternatively adding balance by garnishing with a flavour that’s not already in the gin. The idea is to gently support the flavours and aromas so there’s no need to go overboard with a weird and wonderful garnish. Dry gins match very well with all varieties of citrus, floral gins are great with a flourish of berries, rose petals or mint and spicy gins often match well with cinnamon, nutmeg or peppercorns. Savoury gins of course are perfect with a lick of salt from your favourite olives or enjoy the subtle aromas of freshly picked rosemary.
Remember this is your drink - just choose what you love.
Our Top 5 Gin Cocktails:
And for those of you who are feeling a little more adventurous - beyond The Perfect G&T, here’s a selection of some of our favourite cocktails to make at home:
Wild & Spicy Negroni: Gin, sweet vermouth and bitter amaro. Easy to make at home. With its complex blend of 10 botanicals, Bass & Flinders Gin 10 supercharges this much-loved modern classic with a hint of spice. Garnish with a fresh orange twist.
Antini: There would be no martini without gin and this one is truly Australian. Inspired by the flora and fauna found in the Australian outback our Angry Ant gin pairs with a local vermouth to create a fragrant delight.
Maritime Paloma: Inspired by a classic cocktail, using our Bass & Flinders Maritime Gin and rimmed with lemon myrtle salt to create a grapefruit fest with a touch of lime-soda spritz and uniquely Australian flavour.
And what about the gins that go best with food? The reason gin matches so well with food is that many of the botanicals used for modern Australian gins are widely used to enhance the flavours of our favourite dish, so when looking to pair gin with food, it’s the same as choosing a garnish. It’s important to play to the gin’s strengths.
What Food to Pair with Gin?
For smoky, barbecue style meats, try a dry gin. For a predominantly maritime style gin, try matching with seafood or fresh summer salads where both the salty and citrus characters can shine. Or when trying a unique experience such as the Bass & Flinders Heartbreak Pinot Noir gin, pair with traditional pinot noir dishes such as roast lamb or duck.
So there you have it gin lovers, this artful craft spirit is one of the hottest trends in bars and clubs right across the modern, well-connected world and there’s a good reason why. Complex and interesting, while also simply delicious, there’s an endless number of ways to enjoy this versatile tipple. So play around and have some fun. Make yourself the perfect G&T or set free the inner bartender in you and mix up your favourite cocktails with the star ingredient we all know and love…Gin!