Which alcohol is made primarily from juniper berries?

And the answer: gin.    

Photo credit: tastingtable.com.

Gin is a distilled, colorless-to-pale yellow liquor made from purified spirits, usually obtained from grain mash, and with juniper berries as the principal flavoring ingredient. The name of the drink comes from the French word for juniper berry, genièvre, altered by the Dutch to genever, and shortened by the English to gin.

Most gins start their life as a neutral, grain spirit, much like vodka. The flavoring of juniper creates the distinct gin taste, which is actually a practice that dates back to around 70 AD. Juniper berries were often added to wine for their restorative properties and health benefits throughout the world, and especially in the Netherlands. It wasn't until the 16th century, though, that the Dutch began to produce a spirit called genever— a far closer companion to what we know as modern day gin. The drink was malt wine and juniper berries (used to mask its harsh taste), and although it was considered a "medicinal liquid" like all other spirits, it quickly began to evolve with new popularity.

In the late 1600s, an era now known as the Gin Craze quickly took hold of England. King William III imposed a series of tariffs and bans on French wine and Cognac in an attempt to weaken the French economy, while simultaneously instituting the Corn Laws in England. Much like they sound, the Corn Laws provided tax breaks on all spirit production, and distilling skyrocketed. Ultimately, the new laws made it so a pint of gin was cheaper than a pint of beer.

By the time the British government reimplemented regulations on the new spirit, the Gin Craze had taken a toll. Gin created with anything from sawdust to turpentine was sold from backdoor vendors, and the risks involved with consuming gin seemed extensive. During the 18th century, gin was a vilified spirit, and blamed for the death of thousands across England. Then came the Gin Act of 1751: a parliamentary measure intended to crack down on spirits consumption. The act raised taxes and fees for retailers while making licenses more difficult to come by.

Finally in 1830, gin experienced its redemption. A new (and safer) way to distill gin brought renewed interest to the spirit, and distilleries slowly began to return in England. Today, gin is one of the most well-loved liquors around the world.


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