We’re in the middle of a gin renaissance; sales of flavoured gin are rocketing globally. British gin exports increased by 32% in the past five years according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. Multinational drink manufacturers are meeting much of gin’s increased demand; Bacardi’s gin brand, Bombay Sapphire, for example, has been upping its output by approximately 10% per year. But an increasing number of smaller gin producers have sprung up in the past few years to offer drinkers quirky alternatives to the big brands.
Gin and tonic was developed in the 19th century as a way to make quinine more palatable for British officers at risk of catching malaria in India. Your weekly G&T remains a classic; however, more people are taking theirs with a bit of a twist with the spirit being used in a variety of go-to cocktails or, like whisky, enjoyed neat over ice. Another lasting trend is homemade gin, kept in bottles that look like they belong in the laboratory of an alchemist.
Gin is produced by using juniper berries and other botanical ingredients to flavour already-distilled neutral alcohol. In the case of cold compound gins, after any botanical solids have been removed, the liquid is diluted and bottled. Compound gins are rarely labelled as such due to negative connotations with the term, but many of the budget gins are made this way.
The neutral alcohol used for gin making is highly concentrated ethanol, which by law must be of agricultural origin. This is normally a grain, but some gin producers use ethanol from grapes or molasses, the by-product of sugar refining, instead. The ethanol is purified by repeat distillation to reach at least 96% alcohol by volume.
The costlier, but arguably tastier, way to make a gin is to redistill the alcohol after the botanicals have been added. This is how the small craft producers and many of the big brands make their spirits, and the gin-making method discussed in this article.
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