American gin

Gin’s brave new world: the story of American gin

As an international, Barcelona-based gin blog, we tend to have a small, unwitting bias in favour of British and Spanish gins. They are two of the most innovative gin traditions and we have easy access to those brands.  But as we grow and welcome more North Americans to the group, we thought it was worth spending a little time looking at the contribution of America and Canada to the history of gin. These countries have had a long love affair with gin. They are now starting to have an influence on the development and future of our favourite drink.  We know that we have not yet reached “peak gin” in North America. But there are an increasing number of gin connoisseurs over the pond. And an increasing collection of new, innovative American and Canadian gins for us all to try.

So, let’s take the wraps off the American gin story. Let’s pay tribute to the increasing contribution of our transatlantic cousins to this great and glorious international drink.

Stepping back in time

Let’s wind back a bit to the 19th century.  In those days, New York was a bustling, growing city and the Dutch had a big influence.  In fact, Manhattan was originally known as New Amsterdam. And when the Dutch came to town, they brought with them their favourite drink.  Dutch immigrants brought high quality genever from the old country. It was far superior to anything they could get locally. It was also better than the stuff the English were bringing with them.
In fact, in the 19th century, 5 times as much “Holland Gin” was imported to the US than English gin. 

Ice, ice, baby!

Then, some time in the 1830s, ice started to make an appearance – and it was a gamechanger. Ice soon became a vital (and innovative) way to keep drinks cool in New York’s hot summer months.  Its widespread availability helped to inspire a new kind of drink, called a cocktail. Most Americans made their cocktails with whiskey at first. But gin wasn’t far behind and by the mid-1800s, there were as many as 6 distillers in New York. Brooklyn alone was distilling almost 3 million gallons of grain spirit per year, most of it used to fuel the American gin revolution.  By 1870, the first London Dry style gin distillery was opened in Cincinnati, Ohio and slowly, slowly the switch to a drier type of gin began.  In those days, the malty, sweet taste of Genever and Old Tom gin was perfect for mixing with punches or slings, but not so good for the more subtle and evolving art of cocktail making.

A tale of three Harrys

By 1888, Harry Johnson’s Bartender’s Manual contained 19 different gin drinks, all of which required either Genever or Old Tom gin. By 1908, the gin switch was on with the appearance (and soon dominance) of drier gins.  And then after the end of World War 1, came prohibition and everything changed. 
For the next 13 years, alcohol was illegal in the US. The result was the closure of thousands of bars, breweries and distilleries as the cocktail revolution imploded stateside.  On the other hand, this elevated the status of stylish new international bars such as the Savoy’s American Bar in London to The Ritz in Paris. 

The United States elite simply sailed over to Europe to sip their alcohol in style and freedom. These sophisticated establishments created the world’s first superstar mixologists such as Harry Craddock and Harry McElhone, who carved themselves a permanent spot in cocktail’s hall of fame.  

Just as an aside, why are all the best bartenders called Harry?

The dawn of the cocktail

By the early 20th century, classic cocktails had started to build themselves a reputation with drinks such as the Aviation, the Negroni and the Dry Martini first making an appearance.

These are all classic gin drinks that we still sip on today.  But back in the UK, enterprising Brits started looking for ways to protect their potential post-prohibition market. They did this by bootlegging their gins to the US to fuel the illegal speakeasy gin trade that was thriving.  However, this bootleg gin did not come cheap, so DIY “bathtub gin” began to fill the void. This was often dodgy (to say the least). But those commercially savvy Brits had established a “brand bridgehead” in the States. This was to pay off post-prohibition when big players such as Gordon’s and Gilbey’s opening their first US distilleries.

The rest is history

The rest, as they say, is history and ever since, gin has remained a staple cocktail ingredient across North America. From the Dry Martini to the classic G&T, gin has found a serious niche for itself in the biggest consumer market in the world.  Gin can be found in cocktails across the US from Long Island Iced Teas to Gimlets and from Singapore Slings to Hanky Pankys.

The new world of American gin

Not long ago, the craft beer revolution transformed the beer market in North America forever. Now, there are signs that the craft gin revolution is parking its tanks on the lawn. Great small batch gins such as Brooklyn’s No.209 Gin, New York’s Dorothy Parker, Washington’s Death’s Door and Ryan Reynold’s Aviation Gin.
And, in true New World style, new genres of gin are being created all the time. These include an increasing number of barrel-aged gins that are leading the charge for new flavour sensations that we can all enjoy!

Stay tuned for an article in the next few weeks with some of the best gins from New York and Canada. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Gin news

The Ruddles Report: March gin news!

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin news | 0

Notes from a gin dog

He’s been at it again! Our faithful gin dog, Ruddles has had his nose to the ground this month. He’s been hunting down all the gin news that might have passed us by.
Now, we’ve pulled it all together in our monthly news roundup, The Ruddles Report.  He’s dug up a bunch of stories on everything from the best gin Easter eggs to why Ryan Reynolds’ launched a football-inspired limited edition gin in Wales.
Ruddles has all the answers.  He’s also found an interesting report on something that is increasingly important for each of us – sustainable gin making. This article should make it just a little bit easier for us all to make conscious choices about the gin brands we buy. 

Plus, we’ve shared a story from the UK’s Consumer’s Association who have taken an independent look at the UK’s best gins. There are so many opinions out there, so it’s refreshing to get a fully independent review. Finally, we round off this month’s Ruddles Report with a review of some of the best online gin clubs – are they still a good deal and which ones are the best?

So, let’s get going with this…

Gin and chocolate – Happy Easter!

We all know that Easter is coming – and that means chocolate! But what if we could  combine two of our favourite things into one deliciously festive treat? Well, we can. 
Welcome to the Marks and Spencer’s Gin and Tonic Easter egg

If you’re a chocolate lover and a gin drinker, then this is the perfect treat. Plus, if you like the gin/chocolate combination, you might also want to try Salcombe Gin’s chocolate flavoured spirit. It still tastes of chocolate but it won’t melt in your hands!

Ryan Reynolds honours Wrexham AFC with special edition gin

In a world of celebrity gins, Ryan Reynolds was amongst the first to put his influence and celebrity status behind a gin brand. A few years ago, he invested in Aviation gin.  Since then, his gin has gone from strength to strength. Ryan himself often features in little comedy vignettes that are charming, tongue in cheek and often very amusing.   All good for the brand (which is now owned by drinks giant Diageo) .  But it was a big surprise when he recently announced a bid to buy local Welsh football club Wrexham AFC, from the junior leagues.  So, I guess none of us should be surprised that he has now combined his two passions into a limited edition gin for the club’s supporters.

In partnership with the club, he’s releasing a run of 6000 bottles of Wrexham AFC/Aviation gin. They’ll be snapped up fast, but one day, if you get your hands on a bottle, these could be collectors items.

Sustainable gin – something worth supporting!

The last few years have really brought the climate crisis to the fore – and for good reason. Thankfully, the eco-message is getting through – we only have one planet and we need to look after it. 
So, it’s really refreshing to see the gin industry get behind the idea of sustainability. Last month, Ruddles told you about how Beefeater are making their bottles fully recyclable. We also talked about local innovations such as reusable gin pouches from Eden Mill. 

But how do you know if your gin is sustainable or not?
Here’s an article that lists the major sustainable gin brands out there. Some may surprise you!  Sustainable drinking – we think that’s something worth supporting.

Which gin? Independent gin reviews you can trust

We’re always looking out for great gins and new ideas. But at the end of the day, there are a million different opinions out there and often, it boils down to a matter of personal taste – which gins do you like and not like.

Impartiality and independent views are often hard to find, so when Which? magazine (the journal of the UK Consumers Association) decided to do an independent test of 2021’s best gins in the UK, we thought it was worth paying attention to.  If you want to know which ones they reckon are the best, this is the article for you.

In the club? – the best vs the rest

And finally, many people subscribe to gin clubs – and they are not always satisfied.  In fact, there is a sense that the novelty might be starting to wear off a little bit as unusual gins are increasingly available (at great prices) from local retailers, distillers and on-line sellers. We’re not sure if this is a temporary dip or if there is a sustainable shift.
Either way, Gin Clubs are still very popular, so we thought we’d share a little article that might help you to separate the best from the rest.

That’s all for this month, everybody.  Spring is in the air – and that means it’s gin and tonic season!!!



Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.

RECENT POSTS

  • 5 “go to” classic gins you can rely on
    In this new world of 1000 gins, sometimes too much choice can be your enemy.  We all know about the recent explosion of craft gins and often they can be quite expensive.  So, it’s good to have a handful of “old faithfuls” classic gins that you know you can rely on for a good, standard … Continued
  • Gin Gazpacho: for when the heat is on!
    When the heat is on and you just want something light, healthy and easy for lunch you could do worse than reach for a chilled bowl of home made Gazpacho soup.  But we started thinking about making this traditional Spanish summer soup with the help of a little gin, so we began looking for recipes … Continued
  • Home-made Pimms – put a little sunshine in your life
    We’re now well and truly into summer and the social season lies ahead of us.  In the UK we have three of the most social events of the year coming up including Wimbledon this week (where people watch tennis and drink Pimms); the Henley Royal Regatta (where boaters in straw hats row, while people drink … Continued
  • Small bottle, big label: the story behind Angostura bitters
    We recently published a little article about gin and bitters (including Angostura) – a pairing almost as old as gin itself. As cocktails become more daring and our tastes become more and more exotic, we are constantly searching for new twists and flavours to make sure we get the very best out of our drinks. … Continued