The Story of Gin

The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire. Apparently so said Winston Churchill, referring to the potent ability of quinine, a key ingredient in tonic, to not only treat deadly malaria but also prevent it. Without it swathes of soldiers and civilians would have succumbed, and it’s possible that the title Empress of India might have eluded Queen Victoria. In fact, we can thank the conquistadors for quinine, who during their energetic travels in South America the 17th century, spotted that the cinchona tree was the go-to medicine tree for locals, when it came to treating the ’chills’. Quinine is pretty bitter so it was mixed with sugar and water to make it nicer. What made it even nicer of course, was adding gin, ice and a slice…A bonus was that lemons prevented scurvy too.

Gin is another story entirely and the Dutch have a lot to do with it. One suggestion is that it was invented in 16th century Leiden, Holland by Dr Sylvius de Bouve as a medical treatment (again). Alternatively the story is that 13th century distilled malt wine was so disgusting, the distillers in the Lowlands felt compelled to add juniper berries and herbs to mask the taste, calling the concoction jenever, which comes from the Latin Juniperus. It was cheap to make and the British quickly acquired an indiscrimate taste for it at the time of George II, with Londoners consuming over 11 million gallons of gin every year by 1750. Various attempts were made to control quality and consumption and eventually it became a gentleman’s drink, entwined with the idea of Empire. Whatever its history, it’s a seductive drink with wonderful subtleties, as well as a cure for chills and ills. A good enough reason any day to indulge especially at the Brudenell's Seafood & Grill where we have a great selection of Gins from the classics to the quirky. 

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