The History of the G&T - PuristGin

The History of the G&T

By Stuart McLellan

The History of the G&T - PuristGin

Gin. Quintessentially British yet with roots traceable back to the monks of Salerno. The history of the gin & tonic is far less straightforward than it appears!

As early as the 11th century, these monks were making medicinal remedies from Juniper berries using alembic stills. How exactly did we arrive at the modern day incarnation of gin from some Italian hooch I hear you ask?

Well, next came Dutch gin or ‘Jenever’, The earliest mention of Jenever in Europe came around the 13th century, made by distilling malt wine, this concoction was apparently so abhorrent tasting that herbs were added to mask the flavour. Juniper berries were added for this reason as well as their perceived medicinal qualities at the time, hence the name Jenever.

Dutch Physician Franciscus Sylvius’ is often credited with the invention of ‘Gin’ in the mid 17th century, however we’ve established that it had been around in varying forms centuries previous. By this time, numerous Dutch and Flemish distillers were creating things that more closely resembled what we perceive as gin however, and Sylvius was amongst them.

Gin became a craze in Britain in the early 18th century after the government legalised unlicensed gin production. Soon enough there were as many as 1500 unlicensed, residential gin stills in London alone! Due to the fact you could distill it with leftover barley unfit for beer brewing, its availability and extremely low price, the gin craze quickly became a gin crisis in the UK. Eventually a number of ‘Gin Acts’  were introduced in an attempt to curb the gin drinking problem and slowly but surely the gin craze came to an end.

By the 19th century in Britain, gin was beginning to resemble what we know it as today, both in production and consumption. The invention of the column still gave rise to the style we’ve come to know as London Dry gin, due to how practical and consistent it made the distillation process. 

Simultaneously, halfway around the world in British territories in India, the British East India Company were using quinine as a cure for malaria but found the taste extremely bitter and unpalatable. Their solution? Mix it with gin! They drank the quinine in tonic water and found that it became much more appealing when mixed with gin, lime and sugar, the G&T was born!