To be called gin’, the spirit must officially contain a prevailing aroma and flavour of juniper but after that you can pretty much flavour this timelessly classic liquor anyway that you like. It’s generally a clear spirit of roughly 40% alcohol or 80 proof with a minimum bottled strength of 37.5%, and that will have been obtained through grain distillation and juniper berries. Not all styles of gin are the same and we’ll take you through the different types after we finish explaining how it shifted from being distributed primarily as a prescribed medical substance to its stint on the battlefield and then England’s adoption of it as their most popular drink of, nearly, all time.

The Middle Ages is where we first see gin recorded with references made to genever’ by the Flemish in the 13th Century. Genever is a Dutch word meaning juniper and for a little while it seems it meant gin as well. By the 17th Century Amsterdam was producing gin by the barrel load with hundreds of distilleries throughout the city. Gin cocktails were not, however, popping up in boutique wine bars and coffee shops’ served in martini glasses and being snubbed by James Bond just yet. Originally, gin was handed out by chemists as a sort of catch-all treatment for basically anything. Gout was top of the list followed by various other Shakespearean style diseases and the effectiveness of gin as a medicine was doubtless only really felt when imbibing quite large quantities rather than small and precise doses. With enough gin you could probably forget you even had legs let alone the pulsing discomfort of trapped fat crystals in your big toe knuckle. But we don’t want to put you off this stunning spirit with its grisly history and early prescriptions. Gin has come a very long way in 500 years.

After treating medical complaints with varying success, gin began to appear on the battlefield to treat more subtler conditions like the heart-wrenching terror of fighting in a 17th Century war. There is some chit-chat amongst Europe’s historians that the term Dutch Courage owes its origins to the distribution of Dutch gin to English soldiers throughout the Thirty Years’ War. Whether or not that’s true, what is known for sure is that once the Brits got a taste for it in Holland, the liquor style followed them home and was a big hit on the streets of London. Most homes were producing their own home-made gin by 1720 with experts estimating that as many as a quarter of the homes in London had their very own backyard still. It was cheap and plentiful and a few hundred years of steady and increasing popularity in England has ensured its survival into the 21st Century.

In fact, gin became hugely popular throughout the British colonies because it fantastically masked the bitterness of quinine, used effectively to treat malaria in warm and sticky countries. Quinine is, of course, found in tonic water and the much-loved Gin & Tonic drink owes its origins to those humid, mosquito ridden colonials.

It went through a bit of bad press in England for a while as the poor who couldn’t safely drink the water found that while gin probably wasn’t the healthiest alternative, it was the more enjoyable one. Fast forward a few hundred years, however, and gin is in its Renaissance revival with Australian Gin rating particularlyy favourably.

Mixology has become an art as much as a science with flavoured varieties from all over the world including Roku from the Japanese distilleries, Hendricks by the Scottish stills, Scapegrace from the Kiwis in New Zealand, Four Pillars Navy Strength from Australia’s Victoria and Dasher + Fisher Ocean Gin from the deep south Tasmanian Southern Wild Distillery. Death’s Door in the US favour simple ingredients to produce complex flavours while England, the masters of the London Dry, also tout to produce an ancient recipe from the oldest working distillery in England, the Plymouth Original.

Now you know how gin started it’s time to explain the various ways in which gin can be enjoyed and how to get the most from the rich and varied varieties of the world’s gin, delivered straight to your door by CocktailChef.

You can start with a Dry London style, arguably the classic’ gin and while you’re doing the classic thing you may as well choose a drink from the roaring 1920’s popularised by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Co. the martini. The Dirty Martini is classically made from gin, dry vermouth, olive brine (the juice from your jar of pickled green olives) and a green olive or three to garnish. You can premix your own cocktail and keep it chilled in the fridge. If you like things particularly dirty, add a little more brine to the mix. Collect your bottle of London Dry and vermouth in the same order with CocktailChef and have the lot delivered directly to your door.

Sloe gin is red liqueur made by mixing gin and sloe dupes from the blackthorn tree. These tart little berries look like a cross between a small plum and a blueberry. It’s a little lighter than traditional gin with a general 30% alcohol content and an excellent little tipple neat, over ice or in a cocktail or two. It lends itself equally well to warm and cool weather. In the winter months you can warm up with a hot toddy combining mulled apple juice with cinnamon, a dash of orange juice and a few cloves. During summer fizz it up with your choice of fresh mixers like lemon juice, prosecco or fizzy ginger beer. Load it up with crushed ice and citrus flavours and sip it through the afternoon. The CocktailChef selection of sloe gins include a taste from all corners of the globe, home-grown Australia, traditional British, and even the Germanic Black Forest.

Our barrel aged selection, also sometimes called yellow gin, are made from a collection of different flavoured barrels used for sherry, pinot noir and French cognac among others. These distinctively flavoured varieties generally capture more than just the scents and tastes of how they are aged, evoking clear and distinct notes of where they come from. If you enjoy an Old Fashioned, experiment with swapping out your rye and choosing a barrel aged gin instead. Negroni and Boulevardier lovers will already know the sweet tingle of barrel aged gin, Campari and sweet vermouth.

At CocktailChef, we do more than just deliver conveniently to your door. We carefully curate our selection to include all of your favourite producers as well Australia’s largest collections of craft and boutique producers. We can tailor and personalise your experience by choosing a selection that we’ll know you’ll love. Just give us an idea of your preferences and what you’d like to spend, and we’ll do the rest. We also guarantee the lowest price.