World Gin Day is coming up on Saturday, 13 June 2020 and Australia has a lot to celebrate. Australian craft distilleries are making some of the best gins in the world right now. We have put together an ultimate gin guide with a bit of history on this popular spirit to get you properly prepared, along with our favourite G&T recipe, and the small batch gins we’re sipping on.
WHAT IS GIN?
One of the legal requirements for calling something gin in Australia simply states that the liquor must have the “taste, aroma and other characteristics generally attributable to that particular spirit.” In other words, to call something gin, it has to taste like gin. But what is gin?
Most agree gin was invented by a Dutch physician back in the 1600s when he went looking for something to help his patients suffering from kidney trouble. Oil from the juniper berry and grain alcohol were both diuretics. Together, he figured, they would work wonders. His drink, which he named “jenever” after the Dutch word for juniper, wasn’t a miracle cure, but it did taste good (especially when compared to other unaged grain spirits of the day, which could be quite harsh).
Later that century, an English king angry with the French heavily taxed French wines and brandies, and at the same time lifted restrictions on distilling gin in England. This led to a big gin boom in England.
Even further down the ages, gin’s popularity grew among British colonists living in tropical areas who took quinine to fight malaria. The bitter medication was mixed with soda water to temper the taste, but when they mixed the tonic with gin, it actually tasted pretty alright.
The rise of craft gin distilleries in Australia
While gin fell out of favour worldwide after WWII, it’s making a serious comeback — and nowhere more than here in Australia. We had fewer than ten gin distilleries in Australia in 2014 and now there are over a hundred. With more opening all the time.
Gin is so successful here thanks of course to a new generation of inventive and creative distillers, but also because of our very own bush tucker ingredients found across the continent. And what do our native herbs, flowers, fruits and spices have to do with gin? Let’s look at how gin is made.
Gin is a neutral grain spirit — a liquor made from grains like corn, barley, rye or wheat — to which botanicals are added, with the main botanical being juniper. While every distiller has their own method, gin is often made by adding the botanicals (like seeds, citrus peels and herbs) into the grain spirit. They are usually then steeped for a while before the whole thing is distilled again.
Sometimes a gin basket or botanicals basket is used inside the still. It’s filled with additional botanicals and the hot alcohol vapors filter up through the basket before recondensing, picking up flavour along the way. (While it’s true a gin producer could just pour oils and flavours into the alcohol and it still call it gin, most craft producers don’t take that shortcut.)
Why is gin so popular in Australia?
It’s those botanicals that give gin its signature flavours and aromas. That makes Australia ripe ground for producing some of the most delicious gins in the world. Our own lemon myrtle, finger lime, sage, pepperberry, sea parsley, even bush tomato and native basil have all found their way into Aussie gins, to worldwide acclaim. And even though the main botanical, juniper, doesn’t grow in the Southern Hemisphere, we have our own version: the boobialla bush. It’s also known as native juniper and some Aussie distilleries use its aromatic berries in their gin.
How to drink gin
- Gin makes a fantastic cocktail. Here are three of the best:
- Negroni (gin, Campari, sweet vermouth)
- Martini (gin, vermouth)
- Gimlet (gin, Rose’s lime)
And let’s not forget:
How to make perfect Gin and Tonic
Perhaps our favourite way to enjoy gin is in a Gin and Tonic. A typical recipe is three parts tonic to one part gin, which means even if you use the best gin in the world, a cut-rate tonic will make a sub-par drink. That’s why we started carrying some special tonic waters. And they are what we recommend in a G&T.
- Capi was voted best tonic in an Australian Bartender survey
- Strangelove offers a range of premium Australian mixers
- 60mL Gin
- Tonic to fill
- Citrus slice (lime, orange, grapefruit),
- Herbs (rosemary, lemon thyme, basil, lavender)
- Fruit (blueberries, strawberries, apples, cucumber, chili peppers)
- Spices (cinnamon stick, star anise, peppercorns)
- Fill a highball or collins glass with ice
- Pour the gin, then the tonic into the ice
- Stir well with a long spoon
- Top with a garnish that complements the flavours and aromas of your chosen gin
Here are our favourite Australian gins
Flight of the Juniper Possum – Australian Gin Tasting Set
40-57% ABV / 12 x 30ml bottles
This Australian Gin Tasting Set features gins from NSW, VIC, TAS, SA, WA and the ACT. Each is the result of tireless experimentation by a local distiller, and we’re proud to present each one of them in this tasting flight. This beautiful set comes with a tasting booklet with detailed information about each gin, a profile on the distilleries and interesting facts about gin in Australia.
Shane Warne 708 Gin
SevenZeroEight Gin is a premium classic dry gin (43% ABV) produced using a modern distilling technique to ensure maximum extraction of flavours from the botanicals. The balanced botanicals stand-alone and are perfect in a straight up martini, as well as, a smooth blend in any classic cocktail.
Wildspirit Bloody Merry Gin
Bloody Marys – they’re the cocktail that makes drinking before noon perfectly acceptable and are pretty much the hangover cure to end all hangover cures. But what if we told you it would taste just as good if you swapped the vodka for gin? Yeah, we’ll need some convincing too. Using infusions of fresh tomato and celery alongside botanicals to create a delicious, bright spirit unlike any other, it’s delectably unexpected.
Australian Distilling Sydney Gin
This gin’s set of aromatics are distinctly Sydney, including juniper, coriander, native lemon myrtle and orange zest – all patiently added to the finest quality base.
Sydney Gin captures the essence of the city with a refreshing mix of juniper, coriander, orris root, lemon peel, orange peel, and lime peel.
Wildspirit Unpeeled Mandarin Gin
Bright citrus, sweet, spice and everything nice. This gin is a real crowd pleaser, using fresh mandarin peel, native anise and cinnamon myrtle. As you sip the gin you’ll find the mandarin playing a part, with a gentle, sweet citrus. This is balanced by warm cinnamon spice, juniper, cardamom and liquorice. The gin has a lovely creamy mouthfeel and a long spicy, citrus finish. Unpeeled Mandarin Gin is a super autumn gin, balancing warmth and spice with citrus to carry you through the change in seasons.
Archie Rose x Sydney Opera House Inside Gin
To celebrate the beauty, diversity and creativity of Australia’s leading cultural icon, we’ve collaborated with the Sydney Opera House to create a two-act gin release.
Named simply Outside Gin and Inside Gin this twin release will bring to life the timeless architectural splendour and natural surrounds of the Sydney Opera House alongside the creative energy and artistic talent experienced on its stages.