Like we need an excuse to drink gin?
On a blissfully sunny British Saturday afternoon, with the sun safely over the yardarm, two of my favourite gin-based drinks for kicking back with, would either be the brilliantly simple, but perfectly refreshing G&T or a Negroni – James Bond’s second choice of drink (after a gin-based martini of course).
And you might think of the British as the largest consumers of gin; but you would be wrong. The UK is only the world’s 4th largest gin market, behind Spain in 3rd, the US in 2nd and perhaps surprisingly the Philippines in 1st place by quite a distance, drinking more than the other three combined.
Britain does of course have a rich history of gin distilling but it was something we stole from the Dutch, in the 17th century soldiers fighting the Thirty Years’ War saw Dutch soldiers drinking Jenever to boost their morale before heading into battle, giving rise to the term ‘Dutch Courage’
The oldest working distillery in the world is the home of Plymouth Gin, originally a monastery as far back as 1430, every drop of Plymouth Gin has been made there since 1793.
London Dry Gin does not have the same geographical provenance restrictions as other as spirits, but in recent times London has seen several independent gin distillers opening up including the very successful Sipsmith in Chiswick, City of London distillery within the City itself (the clue is in the name), Jensen’s in Bermondsey, The East London Liquor Company at Bow Wharf and the crowd-funded London Distillery Company in Battersea.
All the while, since 1862, Beefeater the ‘Godfather of gin’ has been quietly going about its business just behind The Oval at Kennington.
We were fortunate to be invited inside on a ‘research trip’ and were taken round by Desmond Payne the Master Distiller and most experienced gin maker in the world. His ‘lab’ and office between them contain a rich archive of everything from James Burrough’s father’s original royal warrant for supplying tea to the Queen in the 1800′s, collections of vintage bottles, original recipe cards for every variety of gin you could imagine and a framed print of the iconic ‘Gin Lane’ by William Hogarth from 1751.
I would recommend a visit to the recently opened visitors center. Happy World Gin day!