Gin may be your favorite spirit. It may be your preferred base for cocktails. But how well do you really know the botanical spirit? With a rich history, odd family of related spirits, and curious legal definitions, gin is one of the toughest spirits to master—which makes gin expertise so impressive. Find out if you’re a gin wiz or a wannabe with this gin IQ quiz.
1. How much juniper does a spirit need to qualify as gin?
a) At least 51 percent of all botanicals by weight
b) At least 25 percent of all botanicals by weight
c) Enough to make juniper the dominant flavor
d) Any amount
2. The base of London Dry gin must be:
a) Eau de vie
d) Grain neutral spirit
3. Which of these is not a relative of gin:
c) Old Tom
d) Sloe Gin
4. Where is gin made:
e) All of the above
5. Navy Strength Gin must be bottled at what ABV?
a) 51 percent
b) 53 percent
c) 57 percent
d) 63 percent
6. How long must barrel-aged gin be rested in a cask?
a) There is no legal limit
b) 3 months
c) 9 months
d) 1 year
7. Which of these is not a common botanical in London Dry gin?
a) Cubeb berries
b) Angelica root
c) Orris root
e) Grains of paradise
8. 19th-century British soldiers drank G&Ts to avoid what disease?
d) Hay fever
9. Old Tom Gin was named for:
a) The king
b) The first gin distiller
c) The Thames river
d) A cat
Despite the emphasis distillers and drinkers put on the juniper in gin, there’s no legal limit on the percentage of gin represented in the spirit as compared to other ingredients, as there is for ingredients in whiskey mashbills. Instead, juniper must simply be the “dominant flavor” in the spirit.
While contemporary gins can be made with any base, allowing distillers to emphasize new flavors like malt and fruit, London Dry must be made with a grain neutral base, which is then infused with juniper and other botanicals.
While gin took over London during the Gin Craze just as absinthe took hold of Paris during the 19th century, and though the two share some piney flavors, the two spirits aren’t directly related.
These days, gin is made all over the world, with excellent bottlings coming out of America and Japan especially.
Navy Strength gin had to be strong to spill on gunpowder and not prevent British sailors from lighting the munitions—i.e., it had to be flammable. The naval powers that be chose 57 percent ABV for their high proof booze.
The revival of barrel-aged gin is fairly new and offers distillers a chance to experiment with aging techniques without much restriction. While other aged spirits like whiskey and tequila must rest for a certain number of months or years before they can be legally labelled as such, gin can be aged for any length of time.
Plenty of distillers have experimented with herbs like lemongrass, but the tropical grass is not commonly found in gin bottlings. On the other hand, cubeb berries, angelica root, orris root and grains of paradise all make regular appearances.
The quinine in tonic is an anti-malarial, but it didn’t taste very good back in the day, until British soldiers added sugar and booze (the carbonation came later).
Back when bad gin became a public health concern and the British government cracked down on bars and distillers, bartenders would serve sweetened gin through pipes that lead outside the bar and emerged through large paintings of black cats. The felines and the style of gin came to be known as Old Tom.