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What is Ginuary?
Ginuary is an annual international month-long celebration during the month of January celebrating all there is about bountiful wonders of gin. While many awareness days (or weeks or months) have an official organising body, Ginuary doesn’t. It is simply a chance to discover, experiment, appreciate and enjoy all the pleasures a refreshing glass of gin and a mixer has to offer. With its increasing popularity bars, pubs, restaurants and supermarkets are naturally jumping in to the scene so watch out for all the offers and promotions this Ginuary.
Note: don’t confuse this celebration with World Gin Day. No. This is a whole month of gin for which I’ll certainly be drinking to.
What is Gin and How is it Made?
Gin is a distilled alcoholic drink made from the combination of grain alcohol, juniper and other botanicals. Juniper is the main ingredient which gives it its distinct taste and allows it to be called a gin (more on that below) but both the production method and ingredients determine the flavour. The alcohol must be a neutral taste to let the juniper essence and flavours shine through. Wheat or barley are typically the grains but others can be used.
The word ‘gin’ itself is believed to have derived from the Dutch word jenever. There are dry gins, sweet gins and aged gins but they all contain the flavour of juniper.
Other than the juniper itself gin’s ingredients are known as botanicals. These are simply the herbs, berries and fruits that are combined with the ethanol in the distillation process and absorbed into the liquid or vapour as it’s made.
Typical botanicals include coriander seeds, angelica root and seeds, lemon peel, orange peel, apple, coriander, spices, orris root, cassia bark, cinnamon, almond, cardamom, ginger, liquorice and nutmeg.
It is the ability to add so many different and varied botanicals which has made gin so popular and been a catalyst behind so many locally produced varieties.
There are several ways to distil gin but two predominate.
Steeping Gin Production
Steeping is a method whereby the ingredients (in this case juniper berries and botanicals) are placed into a special vessel called a still and left to soak in the alcohol for around 48 hours during which time the essences and flavours infuse into the liquid.
This liquid is then re-distilled. After the re-distillation has taken place water is added to reach the correct percentage of alcohol.
Vapour Infusion Gin Production
In this method the botanicals never come into contact with the grain alcohol but instead are placed into baskets within the still, above the alcohol, and combine with the alcohol as it evaporates. Vapour infusion gives a more subtle flavour.
Difford’s Guide has a good explanation of other gin production methods.
There are strict EU laws governing what can be called a gin.
- Gin is a juniper-flavoured spirit drink produced by flavouring ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with juniper berries (Juniperus communis L.)
- The minimum alcoholic strength by volume of gin shall be 37.5 %
- Only flavouring substances or flavouring preparations or both shall be used for the production of gin so that the taste is predominantly that of juniper
- The term ‘gin’ may be supplemented by the term ‘dry’ if it does not contain added sweetening exceeding 0.1 grams of sweetening products per litre of the final product, expressed as invert sugar
- Distilled gin is one of the following:
- a juniper-flavoured spirit drink produced exclusively by distilling ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with an initial alcoholic strength of at least 96 % vol. in the presence of juniper berries (Juniperus communis L.) and of other natural botanicals, provided that the juniper taste is predominant
- the combination of the product of such distillation and ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with the same composition, purity and alcoholic strength; flavouring substances or flavouring preparations as specified in point (c) of category 20 or both may also be used to flavour distilled gin
- The minimum alcoholic strength by volume of distilled gin shall be 37.5 %
- Gin produced simply by adding essences or flavourings to ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin shall not be considered distilled gin
- The term ‘distilled gin’ may be supplemented by or incorporate the term ‘dry’ if it does not contain added sweetening exceeding 0.1 grams of sweetening products per litre of the final product, expressed as invert sugar
- London gin is distilled gin which meets the following requirements:
- it is produced exclusively from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin, with a maximum methanol content of 5 grams per hectolitre of 100 % vol. alcohol, the flavour of which is imparted exclusively through the distillation of ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin in the presence of all the natural plant materials used
- the resulting distillate contains at least 70 % alcohol by vol.
- any further ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin that is added shall comply with the requirements laid down in Article 5 but with a maximum methanol content of 5 grams per hectolitre of 100 % vol. alcohol
- it is not coloured
- it is not sweetened in excess of 0.1 grams of sweetening products per litre of the final product, expressed as invert sugar
- it does not contain any other ingredients than the ingredients referred to in points (i), (iii) and (v), and water
- The minimum alcoholic strength by volume of London gin shall be 37.5 %
- The term ‘London gin’ may be supplemented by or incorporate the term ‘dry’
Bombay Sapphire is one of the most famous gins. Here’s a video from the distillery explaining how it’s made:
Why Has Gin Become So Popular?
Gin has had a bad name. Often nicknamed ‘mother’s ruin’ gin was hugely popular in the 18th century as a cheap and readily available drink keeping the working man warm, hunger at arm’s length, and acted as an escape from the drudgery of life in the slums and workhouses.
The gin obsession was blamed for misery, rising crime, madness, higher death rates and falling birth rates. Gin joints allowed women to drink alongside men for the first time and it is thought this led many women neglecting their children and turning to prostitution, hence gin becoming known as ‘Mother’s ruin’.
By 1730 there were an estimated 7,000 gin shops in London alone with some 10 million gallons of the drink distilled every year but make no mistake, it was very strong drink indeed with few regulations to regulate its quality. So bad did social problems become readers may be familiar with William Hogarth’s Gin Lane pictures depicting a woman carelessly dropping her baby, emaciated people, crime and ruin (in contrast to Beer Street which depicts a happy, prosperous group of people. The 1751 Gin act put paid to that.
How times have changed! Gin is now a popular, trendy drink found readily in bars, pubs, restaurants and supermarkets in a mindboggling variety of flavours.
According to Kantar Research gin has now overtaken whisky as the nation’s favourite spirit. Over a quarter of the population have purchased Gin (including flavoured/gin liqueurs) in the last 12 months, up from just over 10% four years ago. Gin brands have also really succeeded in connecting with younger consumers: four years ago, 43% of 18-24s told said they’d drunken gin, it’s now 55%.
It’s also now one of the products of a typical basket of goods, used when the government calculates inflation.
According to Statista sales of gin grew a massive six-fold between 2010 and 2020 (see below).
Its resurrection is in large part due to the distillery Sipsmith which won a battle with the government (HMRC to be precise) in 2009 which overturned a ruling that forbade gin distilleries from selling small amounts. Borrowing ideas from the US craft beer industry trend they applied it to gin and it opened the flood gates to small, craft distillers.
Its premiumisation has also been a factor. While there have often been popular brands like Gordon’s (who remembers the ad “It’s to be Gordon’s”?) and Beefeater, drinkers can now trade up to Bombay Sapphire and locally made brands.
The popularity of the hipster culture also played it’s part as they enjoyed trying new flavours and independent venues, not the mass produced options most of us go for.
It is also comparatively easy to make meaning craft distilleries can popup with relative ease.
Cocktails have also become increasingly popular and are no longer the reserve of expensive cocktail bars and long summer nights. Cocktails became more popular with the common man and began to be offered in a regular drinks menu. Gin fitted in very well.
Gin is also a versatile drink for the distiller in that it can be infused with a wide variety of fruits and berries to appeal to a wider number of people. Tonic is by far the most popular mixer but almost a third of gin serves are now mixed with something other than tonic, up from 16% four years ago.
According to Kantar Worldpanel, “flavoured gin has been one of the biggest success stories in recent years. Pink gin’s association with growing categories like spritzes and the light, refreshing aperitivo, as well as Prosecco cocktails, has helped to widen the gin category by expanding the occasions upon which gin is consumed and keeping it very much on trend. The penetration of flavoured gin has grown at 160% year-on-year, testament to both the changing tastes of more adventurous consumers but also the influx of craftier gin products on the market. This has been driven by younger shoppers who are attracted by the sweeter taste, a trend reflected across categories as varied as fruit wines, flavoured vodka, and fruit cider.”
Kantar makes more interesting points. We spend less time in pubs and nightclubs, therefore less time drinking beer, and more time in mid-tempo environments, like casual dining venues, where the drinks we are choosing are changing.
It’s also low in calories meaning you can knock a few back in an evening vs having a few beers and putting on the pounds. An average shot has 72 calories.
A 2018 Wine and Sprits Trade Association (WSTA) report revealed there were 361 distillers in the UK.
Gin Facts, Figures and Statistics
Statistics are often difficult to source or vary wildly depending on the publication. Gin sales are no different and annual sales and production figures appear to vary.
There is no hiding though the massive rise in popularity of the drink in the past decade.
Sales of gin both worldwide and in the UK have taken off. While its popularity has never disappeared entirely it has returned with a vengeance to the bar scene and domestic drink cupboards across the UK. No longer is it the 1970s drink of aunties getting sloshed (“she’s been on the gin again”). Its resurgence is quite incredible.
According to Statista, worldwide sales have taken off with gin being drunk at home accelerating at a pace ahead of gin being drunk out of home. A total of £11.487bn (yes, that’s billion!) worth of gin is projected to be drunk in 2020 with average revenue per capita growth of 4.7% year-on-year.
And the Brits just love their gin. In 2020 the market volume was estimated as:
|Country||Market Volume (£)|
In the UK that’s a 9.6% year-on-year growth.
- Revenue in the Gin segment amounts to £3,097m in 2020. The market is expected to grow annually by 4.3% (CAGR 2020-2023)
- In global comparison, most revenue is generated in United Kingdom (£3,097m in 2020)
- In relation to total population figures, per person revenues of £45.63 are generated in 2020
- The average per capita consumption stands at 1.3 L in 2020
These figures differ from a 2018 ONS study which found UK manufacturers sales of gin to have increased 267% since 2009 from £130 million to £461 million. UK sales represent 72% of the total EU production in 2017, followed by Spain at 11% (£71 million).
Other figures from Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) in 2018 found Brits bought over 60 million bottles of gin worth over £1.6 billion, up 38% on the same period the previous year.
Whichever figures you choose there’s no doubt year-on-year sales of gin are skyrocketing:
Top Gin Cocktails
While gin is often accompanied by tonic there are many different ingredients that do equally as well or better. Here’s a video on how to make a gin cocktail at home:
The BBC Good Food Guide first of all suggests:
- The key to making drinks is the balance between sweet and sour/bitter. Try not to let one element overpower the other.
- Taste your drinks before you serve to make sure they’re wonderful
- If serving over ice, fill your glass to the top with the stuff
- Ensure your garnish is fresh and stacked close to the straws
- Remember that we drink in three steps, with our eyes first, then with our nose and finally with our mouth
So, get your laughing gear around these gin cocktails from popular gin distiller Sipsmith (I love the names):
- 50ml Sipsmith® London Dry Gin
- 2 barspoons of honey
- 20ml lemon juice
- 20ml orange juice
- Orange twist (to garnish)
- 1Combine the gin and honey in a cocktail shaker and stir well to dissolve the honey
- 2Add the citrus juices and fill the shaker with ice
- 3Shake well
- 4Double strain into a chilled glass
- 5Garnish with an lemon twist
- 50ml Sipsmith® London Dry Gin
- 10ml sugar syrup
- 20ml fresh lemon juice
- 20ml Sipsmith® Sloe Gin or Crème de mûre
- Blackberry and fresh lemon slice (to garnish)
- 1Build the first three ingredients in a glass with ice cubes and stir
- 2Top with crushed ice
- 3Drizzle over Sipsmith® Sloe gin or Crème de mûre for the float
- 4Garnish with a blackberry and a slice of fresh lemon
- 50ml Sipsmith® London Dry Gin
- 10ml lemon juice
- 5ml grenadine or raspberry syrup
- 10ml sweet vermouth
- Handful of fresh raspberries
- 1 egg white
- Raspberry to garnish
- 1Dry shake all the ingredients until the egg has emulsified and the berries have been pulverised
- 2Add half a cup of ice
- 3Shake again until cold
- 4Fine strain into a chilled coupe glass
- 5Garnish with a raspberry
The Corpse Reviver No. 2
- 25ml Sipsmith® London Dry Gin
- 25ml fresh lemon juice
- 25ml Cointreau® (or other triple sec)
- 25ml Lillet Blanc®
- Dash of absinthe
- Lemon twist (to garnish)
- 1Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker
- 3Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass
- 4Garnish with a lemon twist
- 50ml Sipsmith® London Dry Gin
- 25ml Sipsmith® Tonic Syrup
- Hot water
- Orange twist (to garnish)
- 1Combine the gin and tonic syrup in a mug or heatproof stem glass
- 2Stir well
- 3Top with boiling water
- 4Garnish with an orange twist