For World Gin Day tomorrow, we’re taking a look at French gin. When you think of gin, you most likely think of the UK. While a G & T is probably the UK’s national drink, gin has long been made in France and before the UK produced it themselves. Find out about the history of gin, how its made as well as some French gin recommendations.
What is gin?
Put simply, gin is a juniper-flavoured spirit.
How is gin made?
There are three different styles in which gin is made today:
Pot distilled – this is the earliest style of gin. Barley or other grains are turned into a fermented grain mash (malt wine). It is then redistilled with flavoured botanicals to extract their aromatic compounds.
Column distilled -High proof neutral spirits are distilled from a fermented mash or wash of agricultural origin (grain, sugar beets, grapes, potatoes, sugar cane, sugar, etc.). The resulting spirit is then transferred from the column still to a pot still with juniper berries and other botanicals.
Compound – neutral spirits are flavoured with essences, natural flavourings or natural botanical ingredients which are left to infuse in the neutral spirit. There is no redistillation.
OriGINS of Gin
Sorry for the bad pun, we couldn’t resist.
Italian Benedictine Monks
Benedictine monks in Salerno, Italy used distillation to make alcohol which in turn was used to dissolve and preserve medicinal plants including juniper. Treatments compiled in the named Compendium Salernita, around the year 1055, include a tonic wine infused with juniper berries.
As a medicine
The 1269 Dutch publication “Der Naturen Bloeme” included a chapter on juniper as a medicinal herb. It was used to treat conditions of the stomach, kidneys and liver.
Later, people wrongly thought that juniper cordials and elixirs would prevent them getting the Plague.
In 1775, King Louis XVI authorised the making of gin at the Citadelle of Dunkirk. This later became the official royal distillery, housing 12 copper pot stills. French genièvre (a predecessor of gin) quickly gained a reputation as a favoured spirit. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, French genever was often smuggled into England.
You may have heard of the brand Citadelle who make both Gin and vodka today. This is not the same Citadelle from 1775 but rather is named in its honour. The Citadelle gin brand that we know today originated in 1996.
That said, Citadelle was not the first juniper made spirit to be made in France. Juniper flavoured distillates were made by Huguenot refugees in Flanders, over the French border in Belgium in the 1560s and were also available in parts of Northern France at the time.
What about the name gin?
The word “gin’ is thought to be derived from either the Dutch ‘genever’ or French ‘genièvre’ meaning juniper.
French gins to drink for World Gin Day
Cerbaco & Spirits of France
Manu from Cerbaco recommends two French gins for Gin Day.
Which French gin do you recommend for World Gin Day and why?
I recommend the Gin from the Distillerie des Terres Rouges, a magnificent Gin in the style of “London Dry” (dominant juniper berries and coriander) with a pronounced perfume and wonderful taste. It’s the only gin served at the three hatted restaurant Six Penny in Sydney. A haute couture gin.
What would you serve with this gin?
Serve with a good tonic, which is light in quinine, like Capi dry.
Which other French gin do you recommend for World Gin Day?
I also recommend the Gin from the Drouin family, in Normandy: Christian Drouin Le Gin Blanc. Made from apple alcohol, which is traditional to the region, local plants complete the picture with elderberry, vanilla and ginger.
What would you serve with this gin?
Serve in a Martini with a good pour of Dolin Dry, a vermouth from Chambéry!
Mind Spirits & Co.
Mikael Gillard from Mind Spirits & Co recommends Audemus Pink Pepper Gin for Gin Day.
Distilled at 40° in a glass Still (Rotovap).
An intensely aromatic and bold gin!
When you first try a sip of Pink Pepper Gin, it’s the fresher, spicy notes of pink peppercorns, juniper and cardamom that are prominent.
When diluted or served chilled over ice, the spirit evolves and the patisserie notes of vanilla, tonka and honey come to the forefront. On the palate the gin is full bodied and intensely aromatic – thus it’s perfect for sipping or for enjoying in cocktails.
Pink Pepper Gin is hand crafted and intricately designed to evolve over time, both in the glass and in the bottle.
A truly exceptional gin.
Awards: Double Gold at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Happy World Gin Day. Which gin will you be drinking? Have you tried French gin before?
If you’re interested in French spirits, you may also like the following articles: