The word gin is a corruption of genievre, the French word for juniper. Distilled gin is produced by distilling neutral alcohol and water in the presence of botanicals, of which juniper, coriander and angelica are key. The product is diluted further with alcohol and finally brought to its final strength with water.
In the EU, a drink can be called gin if it is produced by addition to ethanol (of agricultural origin) natural (or nature-identical) flavourants such that the taste is predominantly one of juniper. 'Compounded gin' is made by adding essences to ethanol and this can not be called gin.
The alcohol for gin may come from grain-, molasses-, potato-, grape- or whey-based fermentations.
The prime traditional flavourants are the juniper berry (Juniperus communis), coriander seed (Coriandrum sativum) and Angelica (Archangelicum officinalis), together with the peel of orange and lemon.
Other materials may also be used in the formulation of gins and these include cassia bark, cubeb beris, liquorice, orris, almonds and grains of paradise.
Water quality is critical for the production of gin and, as for beer, this explains the traditional locales where the drink was first made and became popular. These days, as for beer, water purification and salt adjustment protocols mean that the production region is of no significance.
Gin is produced in copper pot stills similar to those used in the production of whisky. Nowadays they tend to be steam-heated rather than direct fired. The still is charged with water prior to adding alcohol to the desired concentration which is typically 60% ABV. The botanics are added either loose or suspended in a bag. The still is closed and heated.
The 'heads' emerge first, followed by the main fraction, of some 80% ABV, which is collected as gin. The 'tails' comprise the later fractions in which alcohol concentration is falling. They are collected with maximum heating and are combined with the heads as 'feints' to be purified in a separate distillation or alternatively sent to the alcohol supplier.
Sloe gin is produced by steeping berries of the sloe (Prunus spinosa) in gin. The mix is sweetened with sugar, filtered and bottled. Nowadays flavourants may be employed in place of the berries per se.
Pimms is based on a secret recipe and is compounded from gin and liqueurs.
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