- The word "gin" can also mean a machine, particularly a snare or trap. It is closely related to the word "engine." Whitney's Cotton gin is one example of this use. The lines "Oh, thou who didst with pitfall and with gin/Beset the road I was to wander in," from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, are another.
Gin is an alcoholic beverage made by distilling the mash of fermented grain. The resulting spirit is then flavored by the addition of herbal extracts, primarily juniper berries. The main producers of gin are England, Ireland and the Netherlands.
Gin was invented in the Netherlands during the 17th century, and became very popular in England during the late 17th and early 18th century. This was the first time that an alcoholic spirit had been made available cheaply in England, and gin became very popular with the poor in London, leading to widespread drunkenness, and concerns about morality and addiction. This subject was highlighted in William Hogarth's famous satirical engraving, "Gin Lane".
England and Ireland
In England there are two distinct types, London dry gin and Plymouth gin. Ireland produces Cork gin (named after the city not the bark of the cork oak tree). Gin used be to a popular intoxicant of the working classes and the artist Hogarth produced a series of prints on the theme of gin. A popular euphemism for gin in England is Mother's Ruin. Although gin may be consumed neat, it is mainly consumed in mixed drinks, such as the gin and tonic and the martini.
Gin & Tonic
It is alleged that the origin of gin and tonic is from the British Army in colonial India. It had been discovered that quinine had anti-malarial properties and it was prescribed to the soldiers. However, the taste was very bitter and the British soldiers found that it was much more palatable when mixed with gin. Having built up a popular following for the cocktail, quinine water was later commercialised as effervescent Indian Tonic Water. It should be noted that the present levels of quinine in tonic water are low and it requires the consumption of copious amounts to have any prophylactic effect.
In the Netherlands gin is known as jenever with two distinct varieters, jonge and oude (young and old). The flavor of Dutch jenever is much more pungent than the English and Irish varieties. Dutch gin is normally drunk neat and chilled.