Quick Sips: Gin is a distilled spirit was dominant tastes of juniper and some pine, ideally clocking in around 47.5% ABV. Aromatics such as florals, citrus, and berries are added. As there are no governing bodies for gin, details can vary wildly by distiller.
There are four categories of gin: London Dry, Old Tom, Plymouth, and Geneva (which is not really gin). Almost every widely accessible gin today is London Dry.
Backstory: The Dutch created and consumed both this Juniper infused liquor and its predecessor, genever as early as the 13th century. In Holland, gin served two roles. It was used medicinally and as a sort of colonial era PED for the troops. Theoretically, the magical elixir would heal ailments ranging stomach aches to gallstones, not to mention endow soldiers with superhuman fighting attributes worthy of Van Damme–Lundgren collaboration. (Sorry guys, but the pharmaceutical applications were a flop). However, as Holland’s military accrued victories, the libation garnered a reputation as a supernatural potion of a secret weapon: Dutch Courage.
While the neutral Swiss Army might have corkscrews on their knives, the Dutch did not travel with a battlefield bartender. Instead, the soldiers drank the gin diluted only with a sugar cube, generally straight from their canteen. When ice became more widely available, this slugging evolved into a family of drinks ultimately known as “Slings.”
Slings were an American creation, and like most American creations, it involves a reworking, perfecting, and codification of foreign ideas. With all due respect to Papa’s time in the Raffles Hotel, the domestic creation resembles Holland, not Singapore. Like its Dutch forebearers, the sling is simply sugar, gin, and ice; a few twists such as nutmeg create variants. However, the key to the evolution remains proportion lest you find yourself drinking a giant glass of gin–or an alcoholic version of glucose.
After the sling, things got a little crazy! While the Dutch were busy with their courage, the English had developed their own gin culture, spread largely by the Royal Navy. Enter classic Gin and Tonic. From there, gin spiraled into a host of classic cocktails.