Toronto restaurateur and food + beverage icon Jen Agg (of Cocktail bar and Grey Gardens fame) puts it quite well – “Gin is vodka’s smarter, classier, more worldly older sister.” Her words, not ours!
If you’ve never enjoyed gin before, that has to make you at least a little curious doesn’t it?
Don’t get us wrong, we love a good vodka – so much so that we distil two kinds of it – Crazy Monkey vodka and Northern Temple vodka. But if you’ve ever been acquainted with a well-made gin cocktail, you know it’s truly something magical.
Perhaps you prefer the classic juniper and citrus notes that our London style Top Secret gin brings to a classic martini. Or maybe you’re more interested in sipping a gimlet elevated by the spruce tips and cedar leaf nuances of our Hidden Temple gin. Whatever taste profile you’re after, we wanted to give you the lowdown on the fantastical flavourings and history behind this stupendous spirit.
History of Gin
‘London Dry’ has become the benchmark that most gins are gauged by, which is no surprise considering it’s England’s national spirit. But something you may not have known is that it found its way to England from the Netherlands during the Thirty Years’ War in the 1600’s.
It’s said that the Dutch would use the elixir to boost morale before going into battle. This Dutch beverage was dubbed ‘Genever’, which ultimately became the shortened ‘gin’ name we know today.
Here’s a neat tidbit – Genever is still available for purchase in the Netherlands, Belgium, and neighbouring parts of France and Germany. So if you’re ever travelling Europe, be sure to stop in to fill the craving for a bit of Dutch Courage.
Needless to say, the English became infatuated with it and spent the next 100 years or so dialling in their own more palatable version of the spirit. Gin in England has a heroic underdog story, making it’s way from essentially being the Englishman’s moonshine, distilled with very little regulation and nearly outlawed for over-consumption, to the premium top shelf product that we know today.
But what gives gin its peculiar taste of herbs and flora?
Ingredients That Make Gin: From Juniper to Botanicals
Aside from the universal use of juniper berries that provide a delightfully fruity and floral notes, distillers will spend years honing their own blends of botanicals to add a unique flavour to the mash. This makes just about every gin available unique in it’s own way.
We’re throwing the word ‘botanicals’ around a lot. But what does it mean?
Think of botanicals as another way of saying ‘natural flavourings. From spices like coriander or cinnamon, to fruit and citrus, to almonds and peppercorns.
As an increasing number of small-batch distilleries gain popularity, they’re discovering the endless botanicals surrounding them just waiting to be bottled. This has led to some pretty wild infusions like sansho pepper in Japan, and even seaweed in Newfoundland.
How is Gin Distilled? The Distiller Makes the Difference
If the chef is the one to credit for a restaurant’s Michelin Star, then the distiller should be the one credited with crafting an award winning gin. The distiller has the final say on what flavours mingle together in any given recipe and is responsible for ensuring every batch is consistent in flavour and quality.
Mash it Up!
The mash is the starting point and base of any great gin, and where every distiller starts. Most commonly made with a variety of grains, the mash is cooked to break down the ingredients and kickstart the fermentation process. In our case, the mash proudly starts with Canadian apples.
Fun with Fermentation
Not only do the apples bring a distinct sweetness to our gins, they also contribute a wonderful natural sugar content that works in tandem with the Distillers Yeast added at this stage. The two work together to convert those sugars into alcohol. A number of factors lengthen fermentation (like these bloody frigid Ontario winters) but this part of the process generally takes anywhere from 7-14 days.
Distilling the Gin
At this point, it’s crucial that all the solids are meticulously strained from the liquid. Any solids that remain will continue the fermentation process, irreparably altering the flavour of the final product. You may be surprised to learn that at this point, the ‘gin’ is actually vodka. It mostly comes down to the botanicals and time that turn it into that beautifully eccentric and sophisticated older sister that Jen mentioned earlier.
How is Gin Flavoured?
Although we can’t tell you too much about it (for obvious reasons) our Top Secret gin is our take on the classic London Dry style. It brings those refreshingly fragrant notes of juniper and citrus to the forefront. We’ve designed it as an invitation to martinis and gin & tonics to dance on your tastebuds and make your cheeks tingle with every sip.
As for our Hidden Temple gin, we consider it as a ‘Canadian Dry’ style, exploring the Canadian wilderness with wild Ontario botanicals. It brings the flavours of the great outdoors right to your glass. The result is prominent spruce and cedar notes reminiscent of a walk in the woods, softened by the gentle aroma of bergamot and the citrusy sweetness of grapefruit. It transports you to a cool morning in the wilderness where you can feel the freshness of nature fill you as you inhale.
What Cocktails Can I Make With Gin?
We’ve got your Gintroduction covered! Firstly, if you’ve got a bottle of gin kicking around at home already, here are a couple of cocktail recipes we’ve put together to get you started that are as easy to prepare as they are delicious:
If we’ve piqued your interest, but you don’t know where to start, we’d recommend checking out our Gin kits to ensure you have a great first experience.
- For a simpler introduction – Gin & Tonic Essentials
- For the curious cocktail enthusiast – Hidden Temple G&T Kit
Want to get creative? Why not grab yourself a bottle from the shop and start crafting your own concoctions? If you’re looking to learn a bit more about the process, or just want to try some tasty gin, book a tour + tasting at the distillery! We’ll help you find what’s right for you.