There’s no denying that the F&B industry has seen a recent spike in popularity for the British spirit, with Britons setting this year’s record of purchasing £48 million worth of the alcohol – but how exactly has it become so trendy? We’ve decided to look into the main factors related to the gin-craze, such as worldwide trends and what the population today seeks for, in their everyday drinking habits.
The history of the liquor is very interesting and is worth the attention in order to understand its importance in the British culture. Gin was first produced in Holland in the 17th century, and was initially used for medicinal purposes, generally prescribed to fix stomach issues. It was only during the Thirty Years War (the longest central European war) that the British troops found another use for the spirit. As said in many history books and songs, the gin gave the soldiers “Dutch courage“, making them stronger and merrier.
As the soldiers grew fonder of the alcohol, they brought it back home, causing the inception of illegal distillation shops and home installations. So although gin was popular in pharmacies around Europe, only the British took it a step further by introducing the spirit for their leisure. Its popularity grew at an astonishing speed, especially in lower working class England. Yet, it wasn’t until King Charles I created the Worshipful Company of Distillers, a London based distillery club, that different types of gins were produced.
Unfortunately, gin also almost destroyed the lives of many Londoners. By 1730, an estimated 7,000 gin-shops opened in the capital, causing an uproar of violence and addiction, which ultimately resulted in a spike in poverty. Until 1751, London was said to have been in a catastrophic state, as portrayed in many art pieces and comic strips (see below), but the 1751 Gin Act fixed the problems by limiting the spirit’s sales. The act prohibited smaller merchants to sell the alcohol, meaning gin was only sold in bigger pubs or distilleries, which were much more controlled.
The Making Of Gin
The importation of gin in the UK has therefore, had colossal consequences both socially and financially for the country – but how would you explain its rapid growth in its manufacturing? For one, gin is one of the easiest alcohols to create, which justified how different flavors and types were developed so rapidly. Similarly to craft beers and ales, new gin shops and craft productions have been popping up across the UK, as well as worldwide.
According to The Scotsman, the British population consumed around the equivalent of 1.12 billion G&Ts in 2016, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. Scottish gin is exported to over 140 countries including booming economies such as Russia, India, and China. Although Scotland’s gin is still in the lead, producing over 70% of the UK’s gin; new labels are being made in foreign countries such as Germany, Spain and Iceland.
Gin & Tonic
Another much more obvious basis for the spirit’s popularity, is its related cocktail, the one and only Gin and Tonic. The drink has one of the biggest ranges of consumers, from all ages and sexes.
“Gin is a marketer’s dream; a national treasure, it is consumed by both sexes and can be enjoyed at any time of the day.” – Armstrong-Wilson
Unlike other liquors, it is diluted by its non-alcoholic friend: the tonic. The cocktail was discovered by English officers based in India, who in order to fight the warm weather and local diseases such as malaria, mixed their gin with local quinine (the extract from the bark of the fever-tree) with some sugar and water, now known as Indian Fever Tree tonic. As soon as the effects of the mix worked on both officers and locals, the exportation of gin and tonic became a significant part of Britain colonialism.
As we touched on earlier, gin is today not only produced in the UK but also abroad. The gin-craze started just like any other trends: mostly due to young people’s personal tastes and behavior towards certain movements. The health benefits of the spirit are without a doubt the cause for its popularity, but we shouldn’t forget its versatility as well. Spain, for example, is taking the gin-making process a little bit further. Although G&Ts are supposed to be the easiest drinks to make (especially at home), some gin-specialized bars have introduced endless lists of different type of gins, infused with different fruits, syrups, bitters, aromas, and more.
You don’t necessarily have to seek out these, often hard to find, artisanal tonic syrups or spend a lot of money on an expensive gin. You can also easily opt for the simple and traditional cocktail with a slice of lime, but we recommend you try some of London’s top gin bars such as The London Gin Club or City Of London Distillery. If you’re not sure about what to get, ask the waiters or bartenders and they’ll help you choose one that best fits your palate. Local produced ingredients and craftsmanships are also crucial influences in today’s culture, as we’re aiming towards healthier and more traditional origins. Today, this fad can also be detected with the rise of organic and artisanal craft beers, as well as in fashion with the increase of green, ecological and hand-made clothing lines.
SHOP THE STORY
What do you think influences our trends most and do you follow them yourself? We would love to know in the comments below.