For a long time relegated to second place after vodka, gin began to regain its popularity at the end of the 1980s. Dedicated entirely to the world of cocktails and mixology, there was rivalry at both a creative and technical level. Distilleries introduced new aromatic plants and spices. They were thus able to create unusual flavours, elevating this spirit to new heights, and satisfying the demands of a more sophisticated, educated clientele.
A common spirit that became fashionable
At the height of its glory in the 50s and 60s, gin was the base of numerous cocktails, including the famous Dry Martini.
However, the arrival of vodka over this same period had a dramatic impact. Gradually relegated to second place, gin eventually fell by the wayside. During the 70s it suffered from a dated image, and could not compete with a modernized public who had developed a taste for vodka.
It was not until the end of the 80s and the introduction of a new brand of gin, Bombay Sapphire, that the spirit’s image recovered, and once again began to arouse the curiosity of barmen and mixologists. Gin became a new source of inspiration and innovation. Distilleries all over the world competed to come up with ingenious new recipes. Original cocktails showcased the aromatic palette of the raw materials (spices, aromatic plants and herbs) while at the same time demonstrating the distilleries’ talent and technical mastery.
The essence of gin
At the heart of the production of gin is a blue-green berry that grows on a shrub called genus juniperus (juniper). This is then supplemented with other flavourings, such as coriander seeds, that are used by a substantial majority of producers. However, there are no rules regarding the choice and quantities of the herbs, spices and other flavourings that may be added to the eau de vie.
While a gin’s final character is of course linked to its various ingredients, its quality and complexity are not solely dependent on the number of spices and aromatic plants used in the recipe (generally somewhere between 6 and 10). In addition to these proportions, the distiller’s expertise consists of knowing the best way to extract the essential oils from the selected plants, flavourings and spices. To each their technique! Some producers think nothing of using all three extraction techniques (infusion, maceration and distillation) in the preparation of their gin.
Different kinds of still
During the 60s, John Dore & Co Ltd invented a still known as the Carter-Head. Its function was to transform grain alcohol distilled by column stills into vodka or gin.
Consisting of a 3,000 litre tank fitted with a column, the unique feature of the Carter-Head still is the copper chamber at the top of the column. This chamber is filled with spices, aromatic plants and juniper berries, which flavour the alcohol vapour when it arrives at the top of the column, having risen up through the plates.
This type of still has become extremely rare, but is still used by some distillers, who blend the resulting subtle distillates with the heavier distillates obtained from pot stills.