Once maligned as the ruin of the lower classes, gin has shown itself worthy of the most sophisticated company
From its humble origins as the default tipple of London’s poorer classes in the 18th century, gin has steadily ascended the social ladder, as the raft of premium brands that have found their way onto the shelves over the past few years amply demonstrates. These fashionable new gins may be flavoured with such exotica as roses and cucumber (Hendrick’s, made in Scotland), frankincense (Sacred Gin, hand-distilled in Highgate), or cardamom and grapefruit zest (Berry Bros and Rudd’s No 3 Gin); they may be bone dry (like Sipsmith’s, made in a copper pot still in Parson’s Green) or slightly sweet (Jensen’s Old Tom, for example, made by a Dane in Bermondsey). The old stagers have got in on the act too: Beefeater’s 24 Gin is flavoured with green tea, for example, and the Kennington distillery has also released a summer gin, flavoured with elderflower, and a cinnamon spiked winter version. They all, however, contain juniper: it is where the word ‘gin’ comes from, after all. Their target is a new breed of cocktail aficionado, keen to explore the versatility of gin. Many of these new devotees are women, more likely perhaps to sip a Ramos Gin Fizz (a terrific long drink made with gin, lime juice, orange flower water, egg white and soda) than to knock back macho Martinis. Delve into old cocktail books and some surprising facts emerge: the original recipe for the mojito in the Floridita manual, for instance, recommends gin as an alternative to rum, especially in summer: muddle some brown sugar with lime juice, add a slug or two of gin and plenty of fresh mint, then top up with soda water. Gin also makes a great Bloody Mary, especially with a splash of dry sherry mixed in, and it is excellent with blood orange juice too. For a drink that was stigmatised for centuries, gin’s new incarnation as the smartest of spirits is truly remarkable. Still a little wary? Perhaps you should just think of it as the discerning drinker’s vodka… then order a Negroni.