Friday, January 21, 2011

Motherfucking Booze Time: Gin

I fucking love pretty much everything about drinking. I like the taste, the culture, the variety... the whole kit and caboodle. I'm a drinker, there is no doubt. However, we've seen a decline in recent years of knowledgeable drinkers. Too many dumb motherfuckers show up to a bar, plop down their money, and order a drink because they heard it on the TV machine. "Herp derp, gimme a jack an' coke!" "Derpy herp-herp... Jager bomb, please!" Fucking shoot me now. Half of these mongoloids couldn't tell you what "Jack" (an American whiskey) or "Jager" (a German digesteif) is, other than a liquid they drink to get fucked up and make bad decisions. It's essentially the booze equivalent of fast food.
This is why I'm starting a new series here on the Box called "It's Motherfucking Booze Time." I'm going to give you a quick primer on a selected booze, including production, taste, and history. I'll also include a selection of drinks made using said alcohol. It's like the Encyclopedia Brittanica, except not obsolete. The first entry in our series is gin.

What the Fuck is Gin?
To understand what gin is, you need to understand what neutral grain spirit is. Neutral grain spirit (also known as pure grain alcohol or pure grain spirit) is a spirit derived from mash distilled at so high an alcohol by volume that none of the flavor of the mash is left behind. Think of it like blank, flavorless alcohol. Some people do drink this shit, and usually brag about it later... which is kind of like bragging to a friend drinking a Dr. Pepper that you like to drink carbonated water. Yeah, congratulations asshole. NGS provides the basis for many alcohols, including gin.
Gin is really more a taste than a traditional variety of alcohol. That taste is derived primarily from juniper berries, which aren't berries at all... they're really cones with fleshy scales. Other botanicals, berries, and spices are added to give individual gins their desired flavor, but juniper berries are king.
Contrary to popular belief, most common alcohols (gin, whisk[e]y, rum, vodka, tequila) come in at around the same alcohol by volume... that is, about 40%. While you may find higher alcohol versions of many of these drinks, only whisk(e)y and gin will be at LEAST 40%. Alcohol by volume is just what it sounds like... what percent of what's in the bottle is ethanol. Sometimes the ABV is given as a proof. To determine the ABV, simply cut the proof in half... 80 proof is 40% ABV, 101 proof is 50.1 ABV, and so on.

Gin: Fucking Up History Since The 11th Century
Gin is the bad boy of alcohol, historically speaking. While the other alcohols were being lovingly produced by kings and emperors, gin was sitting in the back, smoking a cigarette, and planning to sexually assault mead the next time he saw her. Wherever there was terrible shit going down in Europe, gin was there cheering it on.
Like most liquors, gin (technically juniper berry-flavored alcohol) was first made by monks. Monks must really love to get fucked up. Gin really hit its stride during what else but the fucking bubonic plague, where it was used as a remedy. Surprise! It doesn't cure shit. This didn't stop the Dutch (who properly invented gin) from selling it as a cure all in the 17th century, apparently forgetting all of the people it DIDN'T save during the plague. From Holland, gin jumped over to England where it became wildly popular after the government made it legal to make at home (which is extremely easy to do) and, in a brilliant move that could lead to only happy endings, jacked up the taxes on pretty much all other spirits. This period is known as the Gin Craze, where the British slum dwellers went hog-fucking-wild making and consuming gin. They also started putting turpentine and other terrible shit in it, because... hey, why not? As you might imagine, gin was starting to get a pretty bad rap (they started calling it, I shit you not, "Mother's Ruin").
Finally, the government began levying the same high taxes on gin joints. So, what happened next? If you guessed "people starting fucking shit up", you win the prize. The riots led to the slow repeal of the new laws. In the meantime, gin moved to the black market and kinda laid low for a few hundred years. Flash forward a few centuries and British colonists in tropical areas begin using gin to flavor quinine, an anti-malaria compound. This was dissolved in carbonated water... otherwise known as tonic water. The G&T is born. Brits also (allegedly) started combining their daily lime ration (used to fight off scurvy) with gin, thus creating both the awesome moniker "Limey" and the gimlet.

Gin Drinks
A martini is a mix of gin, a dash of vermouth (a fortified wine) and garnished with an olive. The recipe is one part vermouth to five parts gin, mixed over ice and strained into a martini glass. Martinis were first mixed in the late 1800s, but didn't rise to prominence until prohibition. Gin was produced heavily during prohibition for the same reason it was able to fuck up England in the mid-1700s: it's really goddamn easy to make. Gin was made by the bathtub-full, and combined with sweet vermouth to mask the taste of being made in a fucking bathtub. Once prohibition ended, martinis got drier and drier due to the availability of good quality gin. Martinis come in two well-known versions: standard and dirty. A dirty martini has a bit of olive juice spooned into the final product, making it look, well, dirty.

Gin and Tonic
The origin of the gin and tonic (a.k.a. G&T) was covered above. Since we don't have to worry about malaria today (assuming you don't live in sub-Saharan Africa anyway), modern-day tonic contains very little to no quinine, and it's used entirely to flavor. A proper G&T is one part tonic to one part gin, poured over ice in a highball glass and garnished with a lemon or lime. I like my G&T with a shot of lemon or lime juice and no garnish, because fuck fruit.

A gimlet (origin covered above) is another classic gin cocktail. The standard recipe is four parts gin to one part sweetened lime juice (usually Rose's Lime Juice) in an old fashioned glass.  I'm not a big fan of anything that requires that I buy a certain brand of mixer, so I usually go with four parts gin/one part lime juice/one part simple syrup.

Tom Collins/Gin Fizz
The origin of the name Tom Collins is up for debate, and I don't even want to get into here. It had it's heyday beginning in the late 1800s. A Tom Collins is two parts gin, one part lemon juice, a dash of simple syrup, and soda water to taste served in a Collin's glass (or a highball). A gin fizz is made with the same ingredients save one: three parts gin, two parts lemon juice, one part gomme syrup (an extremely sweet simple syrup mixed with gum arabic), and soda water to taste. It's also commonly served with multiple fruit garnishes, including orange slices and cherries. I'm inherently against "fruity" drinks, but I have a soft spot for ol' Tom Collins

A Final Thought
You might notice that most of the mixed drinks given above haven't been really popular since the 1950s (in the case of the martini) or before. As time has gone on, the wide spectrum of alcohols has been whittled down to just a select few "popular" beverages, and gin has, by and large, fallen out of favor with the modern drinking dumbfuck public. Some people see gin as an old man's drink. Fuck those people. Gin is and always has been a badboy liquor, favored by revolutionaries and villains for hundreds of years. Expand your horizons and give Mother's Ruin a shot.
Also, I would be remiss without acknowledging the inspiration for the name of this series: it comes from the hilarious Married to the Sea webcomic created by Drew of Toothpaste for Dinner fame. The specific comic is right here. They used to offer it on a shirt, but that ship has sailed.


  1. Love it!
    I love the classics, although, unfortunately I can no longer drink.
    Bloody Mary's make me think of my dad and sunday brunch.
    Kamikazes just make me drunk thinking about them.
    Looking forward to the tutorials.

  2. Ah gin, one of my great love affairs. There is nothing like Hendricks with cucumber.
    However, it really is a tad inaccurate to speak of peasants in the gin-craze. It was mostly urban slummers getting fucked up on gin.