This is the year of the Gin Craze and we have embraced this trend by launching a new gin section on our drinks menu, carefully chosen by Gareth our Bar Manager. The new selection is going down a treat with our discerning guests and the colourful and funky shaped bottles certainly add to the glamour of Harvey’s Bar.
As part of my ‘research’, I asked my good friend Peggy, hailed as the ‘queen of gin’ to sample some gins with me. Despite the myth that gin makes you cry, we had lots of laughs in the process! To be honest, some of the gin tasted to me, more of medicine than meadows but I suppose it’s an acquired taste. However, I am partial to a Hendrick’s or a Brockman’s! I also had a good chat with Colm in our bar who shared some useful insights into our longstanding love affair with juniper spirits.
So what is gin?
Gin is a spirit which derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries. Most gins are made using a distilling process which has maize, barley or molasses as its main product ingredient All gins include juniper and other plant ingredients used are coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom, cinnamon, grains of paradise, cubeb berries and nutmeg. Typically a fine gin contains six to ten botanicals. The name gin is an anglicised version of the Dutch Genever but the modern day product is very different.
What is the history of gin?
There is some dispute about who first created gin, but we can credit Dutchman Franciscus de la Boe Sylvius, a professor of medicine who was experimenting with juniper as a diuretic in the 1550s. He infused juniper into white spirit and it was sold in chemists as a treatment for stomach aches, gout and gallstones. During the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) Dutch soldiers in the chilly trenches were fed gin for its warming properties. When Dutchman William of Orange became King of England he took gin with him. At the time England was at war with France so they had stopped buying French brandy and wine and started distilling gin. So if you need a little Dutch Courage, make sure it’s gin!
- Gin & Lime was a favourite with the navy as a palatable combination for ingesting lime juice as a scurvy countermeasure.
- The Gin & Tonic was originally put together as an anti-malaria concoction in colonial India. Quinine was added to carbonated water to give Indian Tonic and mixed with Gin to make it more appealing.
- In the 18th century, one in three houses distilled and sold very dubious quality gin. In order to stop the excesses of this situation a tax of £50 pounds (excessive in anyone’s eyes) was imposed by means of a legal notice regarding gin, which is known as the Gin Act 1736.
Does gin make you cry?
There’s a common myth that drinking too much gin will make you depressed. Let’s be clear on this, the key word in that sentence is that it’s a myth. Of course drinking too much gin won’t make you feel great the following morning, and as we all know drinking can affect your mood at the time of imbibing. The truth though is that gin doesn’t really have any different ability to change your mood than any other spirit.
The Gin & Tonic is perhaps the quintessential English beverage and was seemingly the favourite tipple of the Queen Mother in her time. In recent years, gin has become trendy in Ireland and with the surge of interest in cocktails, it has become one of the most fashionable spirits. There is a now a new generation of craft producers who are redefining Irish gin. Two hundred years ago, this small island had over a hundred officially recognized distilleries; by the turn of the century there were only two. The hand-crafted, artisan Dingle Original Gin almost has a Kerry accent with its unique character derived from a range of botanicals from the Kerry countryside. Shortcross Gin from County Down is also a great success story in the fascinating world of gin. A classic gin, it is known for its unique hint of floral meadows.
Gin is used in many different cocktails that we have in Harvey’s bar including Gin Martinis, Brambles, Long Island Iced Tea, etc. Of course tonic water is probably the most common mixer used with gin but soda water and more recently ginger ale are common mixers. Recently we have added the Fever Tree range of mixers to enhance our choices. Different types of fruit are used to compliment different gins, for example, lemon goes very well with Gordons, cucumber mixes with Hendrick’s, we have also used rose petals to flavour Hendrick’s and many guests prefer lime slices as their garnish. Gordons, Bombay Sapphire, Hendrick’s, Cork Dry, Dingle and Shortcross are the best sellers.
Over the years, maybe gin was more of an evolution than an invention. Gin has become a popular drink and there are good gins and great gins. The best ones are the ones taken in good company in lovely surroundings. It’s great to see our guests enjoying a G&T on the patio overlooking Lough Eske. I have the fondest memories of family holidays in France, sitting by the pool with a ‘Sin & Tonic’. In closing, I will raise a glass to the good old juniper berry and the spirit it gave birth to.
Gin Gin ☺