Author: Amanda Baxter
Gin is still on the rise. We get asked every year when the “gin bubble” will burst; however, when you look at the figures, it seems that the question should instead be, how much will the market grow this year?
In 2015, the UK’s gin consumption toppled the £1 billion mark. And this wasn’t down to Aunty Peggy and her pre-prandial G&T; the gin market is being led by 18 to 35-year-olds – educated, experimental and thirsty. Gin has thrown off its image as your parents’ drink and been embraced by Millennials across the country. The question we ponder is, why?
Answers from some of our favourite bartenders include the resurrection of the Martini (Dukes), variety (with new releases daily) and marketing; but, digging deeper, it is possible to trace gin’s renaissance back to the constant quest for original cocktail recipes. Cocktail books from Prohibition through to the 1950s often have a surfeit of recipes calling for gin – even if the type of gin required is unclear (Hollands, Old Tom or London Dry?). Its versatility makes it almost promiscuous in the world of cocktails; according to David Embury, author of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks published in 1948, gin will “blend satisfactorily with all manner of other flavours”. Of course, there is a gin for any purist too. I love our No.3 over ice with just a grapefruit twist.
So, what about those people drinking it? There is certainly an argument that gin is seen as more ‘sophisticated’ than other white spirits (eg vodka), served in its big copas with shovels of ice and exotic garnishes. It is also a spirit with a uniquely British heritage, from the grimy streets of Gin Lane to the upmarket Gin Palaces of Holborn, the British Empire and its malaria-fighting quinine tonic to your local pub, which nowadays undoubtedly stocks at least 3 or 4 different gins.
In my opinion, the appeal is in the botanicals – those fruits, spices, herbs and flowers that flavour a gin and make each one unique. Unlike whisky or wine, you do not need to guess what flavours are in your glass, sniffing and swirling and hoping you are identifying them correctly. Gin emerged in the 1980s with clear messages, lists of ingredients and an authentic history, all of which helps you work out which mixer and garnish to pick, or which cocktail it will work best in.
So what is next for this ever-growing spirit? We are seeing more flavoured gins on the market – raspberry, elderflower, spiced – which are challenging the definition of gin as first and foremost juniper-flavoured. The American craft-distilling movement is not taking a backseat either, with a push for their own American Dry or New Western classification, whose gins often offer a simplicity of flavours and a higher alcohol rate. One thing I am sure of is that excellent quality will always shine through, and the level of quality today is higher than ever before.