Why don’t we start on home turf?
Gin wasn’t invented in London, but few would deny it found its spiritual home there during the infamous gin craze of the 17th century.
The city had two problems:
- Too much cheap grain that wasn’t good enough for brewing beer.
- Stiff duties were being imposed on imported foreign liquor.
As a result, entrepreneurial cockneys — Alan Sugars of their day — set up small distilleries across the capital. Before long there was a thriving gin palace on every corner, attracting crowds on a nightly basis.
That is until the Gin Act of 1751 finally brought the gin industry under the control of local magistrates.
Today the legacy of this proud history can be found all over London. The Beefeater Distillery gets its name from the Yeoman Warders who guard the Tower of London. Gin enthusiasts are welcome to visit for an hour-long distillery tour most weekdays, and best of all a refreshing gin and tonic is included in the entrance fee.
If you’re true gin connoisseur, you can create your own blend at The Ginstitute. It’s here you can take part in a marathon three-hour tasting and blending session. You can expect to learn a little more about the history of gin, sample cocktails, and finally totter away with two delicious bottles of gin — one blended by your own fair hands!
Did you know that over 70% of the gin enjoyed by Brits is distilled in Scotland?
The tradition of Scottish gin production runs very deeply indeed. This is due in no small part to the juniper bushes which are common across the Highlands. Juniper berries are an essential ingredient of gin, and the Scottish variety is known for its rich and mellow flavour.
Iconic gin company Hendrick’s has been based at the Girvan distillery in South Ayrshire since 1999. However in recent years, a healthy crop of Scotland-based artisan gin producers has emerged, including Dunnet Bay Distillers, CrossBill Highland Distilling, and The Botanist. You can sample all of their wares and more at tastings hosted in bars across Edinburgh and Glasgow, for instance at Gin71, Glasgow’s first dedicated gin bar.
If you want to take in as many of Scotland’s gin-based delights as possible, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association has mapped out the Scottish Gin Trail. Stretching from Edinburgh to Caithness, the trail takes in all of Scotland’s best gin distilleries and bars.
Only got time for a flying visit? Gin Journey organises regular events in Edinburgh, during which you can enjoy chauffeur-driven transport between the city’s premier gin-themed hot-spots.
In fact, Spain is the second largest gin market in the world, getting through 3.2 million cases of gin per year, with 75% of this made within the country. This is largely due to the huge popularity of ‘Gin-Tonic’: gin and tonic served in a balloon glass with plenty of ice and garnish. A trip to Spain is a great choice if you’re trying to decide where to travel to if you love gin.
You can enjoy gin in any Spanish city, but if you have to choose one head for Barcelona. You’ll find a vibrant gin bar scene to rival any in the world, including the Old Fashioned Gin Tonic & Cocktail Bar, Bobby Gin, and Xixbar to name a few. Head just out of the city to the fishing village of Vilanova and you can pay a visit to the Gin Mare distillery, where the Ribot family has been producing Spain’s most famous home-grown gin since the 1940s.
While you’re over there, be sure to try an agua de valencia, or Valencian Water. It’s made up of gin, vodka, cava and orange juice with a pinch of sugar, and it’s absolutely delicious. In fact, it’s almost too easy to knock back while you’re sitting in the sun so beware!
2) The Netherlands
To make sure your knowledge of all things gin is truly complete, head to Amsterdam where you can experience the delights of jenever. Jenever is a more complex juniper-based spirit which the Dutch have been enjoying since the middle ages.
Maltier than modern Gin, Jenever often has a light, honey-like colour. While the taste of juniper still dominates, jenever also boasts smooth, creamy flavours. It is equally enjoyable straight, with a mixer, or when used to add a new dimension to gin cocktails.
Want to find out more? Head to Amsterdam’s House of Bols where you can discover how a great cocktail is made, and immerse yourself in the history and heritage of this exquisite spirit. Tickets are priced at just €16, which includes a cocktail.
Appetite whetted, you’re probably going to want to sample even more varieties of Dutch gin. So pay a visit to the De Drie Fleschjes tasting room where they’ve been welcoming enthusiastic jenever drinkers since 1650! If you’re lucky, the friendly and knowledgeable bar staff might even to let you in on a few gin-soaked secrets, and mix you a cocktail you won’t find anywhere else.
1) The Philippines
This may come as a shock, but the Philippines is the world’s largest gin market, making up around 43% of global sales, and consuming 22 millions cases of gin each year.
That’s about 1.4 litres per Filipino!
Its popularity is due to a number of factors. In the 1700s, the British brought gin with them during their occupation of Manila, and it soon caught on. So much so that a gin distillery opened in the city in 1834.
To this day Ginebra San Miguel is still the largest gin brand in the country, selling £200 million of alcoholic products each year!
You’ll typically find gin drunk as part of a cocktail such as the Gin Pom, made up of gin, pomelo juice and crushed ice. But the spirit’s versatility is one of the key reasons for its popularity, so you’re just as likely to spot Filipinos drinking a gin and pineapple juice or a mix of beer and gin!
Head to Katipunan’s first rooftop bar The Rooftop for a gin and tonic which will cost you around 100 Philippine pesos (about £1.50), or visit The Bonbon Club in Legazpi Village — a bar dedicated to gin located in a cool neighbourhood.