It’s been a while since I wrote my last post. For no plausible reason.
Anyways, this post is about Gin or the Dutch Jenever. While searching for Jenever-based cocktails, guess what I found:
Gin—or at least the precursor of gin as we now know it—was invented in 1650, when a Prussian-born physician and anatomist at the University of Leiden in Holland, one Franciscus Sylvius (né Franz de le Boë), experimentally infused distilled grain spirits with juniper berries for medicinal purposes. The resulting potion, which Sylvius recommended as a cure for cold feet and insomnia, turned out to be good enough to drink.
The Dutch word for juniper, and by extension for the alcohol infused with it, is jenever, or genever—of which our word gin is a corruption. Jenever remains a popular tipple in the Netherlands (see Dutch Gin Joints). The cheap stuff is head-crushing firewater; but at its best, it can be a remarkably complex and subtle spirit, reminiscent of good eau-de-vie (in the case of young jenever) or even scotch (which aged jenever sometimes resembles).
But gin as most of the world knows it today—cocktail gin—is quite different from Dutch jenever. Its evolution began only a few years after the happy experiment of Dr. Sylvius. English soldiers fighting in the Netherlands saw their Dutch counterparts drinking jenever on the battlefield, and dubbed it “Dutch courage” for the way it seemed to inspire fearlessness. And when they went home, they took it along.
William of Orange, the Dutch stadtholder, all but guaranteed jenever’s success when he became King William III of England in 1689: He promptly banned imports of French brandy—France and Holland were at war at the time—and levied high import duties on distilled goods from Germany.
Wow! The gin was invented at University of Leiden! I knew the Dutch made a good variety of gins. But clearly they do not market this invention of theirs. When we visited Schiedam (known for its gins) accidently in search of polders, I kept looking for breweries but could find no traces. And as I am sipping the fine Jenever gifted by ex-colleague, it does make me feel good! 🙂
So next time you pass through Schipol, don’t forget to pick one for me 😉