The history of Gin starts with the Dutch spirit Genever, which is now a pretty well-known fact. But what caused this transition? Was the idea stolen? Were they just inspired? Did soldiers bring the “Dutch Courage” back home? None of that, as it had a political reason. In 1688, the Dutch cityholder William III invaded England, to take the throne together with Mary Stuart. This became known as the Glorious Revolution, to prevent England from getting a catholic king James II, father of Mary Stuart. James II had built a strong relationship with king Louis XIV of France, but with this happening Louis started a trade-war against England. The English at that time drank mostly alcohol from France and this became unavailable from one moment to the other. An alternative spirit was quickly available from The Netherlands: Genever. For tax reasons this needed to be re-distilled for which a variety of botanicals, but mostly juniper berries were used. The name Genever changed over time to gin. Only with the 1736 Gin Act it was stipulated that the basis needed to be pure grain alcohol.
The name of the cocktail I created to explain this transition is the Dutch 88, referring to 1688, the year of the Glorious Revolution, and of course a wink to our football-team of 1988 who claimed the European title that year. At that time, only 100 % Maltwine genever was produced. Maltwine is the exact same basis as is used for single malt whisky. I developed this cocktail while working on a drinks strategy for Boomsma Dry Gin, which was launched recently. The Lillet is in the drink to salute Louis XIV, who basically forced the English into the wide-open arms of Genever.
The Dutch 88 is actually a twist on the Vesper Martini, where the vodka has been replaced by the 100 % maltwine genever, but it is just perfect to explain the historical ties between Genever and Gin.
60 ml Gin
20 ml 100 % Maltwine genever
10 ml Lillet Blanc
Stir in a chilled mixing glass and strain into a deepfrozen cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The Glorious Revolution has become one of the most important events in the history of both England and The Republic of the Netherlands. Together, they fought some expensive campaigns against France but these were mostly funded by The Dutch. The Republic was on the verge of bankrupcy and when even the financial and trade companies moved to London the country needed to withdraw from the global stage. This was also the start of The Netherlands as an agricultural nation which it has been until very recently. Genever and Gin have lived two seperate lives, but Genever remained the world’s most sold spirit until prohibition started. This, together with World Wars and the rise of, for example, vodka, has lead to a nose-dive of this Dutch spirit. Last week this lead to the bunkrupcy of several classic Genever brands like Legner and Floryn. The craft of making artisinal genevers (in Holland called “jenever” by the way) is fortunately making it’s way back, hopefully leading to a revival of the ancestor of gin!