Distinctly Elegant, Playfully Wicked: The Troublesome Story of Gin

We may take it for granted these days, but the gin we enjoy as refreshing G&Ts and delicious cocktails has a patchwork history that’s as intriguing and complex as the botanical spirit itself.

Gin’s journey from medicinal elixir to global cocktail staple is a tale of transformation, crime and a whole lot of juniper.

Its ascent to fame, speckled with periods of both reverence and infamy, takes place over centuries.

Today we pour through the pages of history, unravelling the evolution of the spirit, from humble origins to the illustrious heights it enjoys now.

So sit back, relax and serve a stiff glass of your favourite G&T – you may need one when you hear the stories I’m about to tell…

Humble Origins of Gin

Let’s start at the very beginning.

This takes us back to the apothecaries and monasteries of the Middle Ages (16th century) where it was first distilled as a medical tonic.

A Dutch doctor by the name of Franciscus Sylvius de la Boe is credited as being the father of gin. Sir de la Boe distilled a schnapps made of Juniper berries, known for their healing powers at the time.

This medicinal tonic was known as “Genever/Jenever”, the Dutch word for “Juniper” laid the groundwork for modern gin, being used to treat everything from the plague to liver diseases.

However, it didn’t shoot up to popularity until the 30 Years’ War (1618 – 1648) when Genever truly made a name for itself. It became a favourite amongst soldiers in combat for its warming properties and courage-inducing effects, famously termed “Dutch Courage”.

Mother’s Ruin

Like many great things throughout history, genever found its way into the hands of the English, becoming the drink you and I know and love – London Dry Gin.

Fast forward to 18th-century London, and the city found itself in the grip of the infamous Gin Craze.

Ever heard gin being called “Mother’s Ruin? This period of time is the reason.

The spirit’s accessibility and affordability made it the drink of the masses, igniting a fervour that spiralled into social unrest.

Streets were awash with the spirit, public drunkenness was rampant and death from consumption of the low quality liquor was seen daily.

Gin became a symbol of hedonism and despair, leading to moral panic and a series of legislative acts attempting to quell its consumption.

These efforts, including the notorious Gin Act of 1736, aimed to curb gin’s pervasive influence but instead fueled elicit production and a game of cat and mouse between distillers and the law.

The Refinement of Gin

As the dust settled on the Gin Craze era, gin began its journey from the shadows of infamy to the limelight of elegance.

The transformation didn’t happen overnight but was a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the spirit.

The introduction of the continuous still in the 19th century marked a pivotal point, allowing for more consistent and higher-quality distillation.

This technological advancement, coupled with stricter regulations, began to erase gin’s tarnished reputation, paving the way for a drink known for its complexity and sophistication, enjoyed by the affluent of society.

The Cocktail Era

The early 20th century marked the golden age of cocktails, and gin, with it’s newfound refinement and it’s globalisation, found itself at the heart of the movement.

Classic cocktails like the Martini, Southside and the Gin Fizz not only celebrated gin’s versatility but also solidified its place in the cocktail canon.

The unique blend of botanicals in gin provided an ideal base for experimentation, leading to the creation of timeless recipes that continue to delight enthusiasts to this day.

Of course, we need to touch on gin’s role in the Prohibition period of the United States, where it was a key player in illegal “speakeasies” – underground bars serving alcohol – that popped up across the major cities.

During this time, gin became associated with organised crime, and some of the most wanted men in America, including the nefarious bootlegger, Al Capone.

Still, this time in history has inspired a great deal of gin culture, including both our bar’s interior at Naught, our menus and even the entire ethos behind our gin (more on this later).

Gin’s Decline and Resurgence

However, gin’s prominence waned post-World War II, overshadowed by the rise of vodka and other spirits.

It wasn’t until the late 20th century and early 21st centuries that gin experienced a renaissance, thanks in part to the craft distilling movement. 

Distillers began experimenting with contemporary, unique botanicals, breathing new life into the spirit and attracting a new generation of gin lovers.

This period saw the emergence of gins that were not only a nod to tradition but also a bold step into new, uncharted territories of flavour and aroma.

Naught’s Contribution to Gin’s Evolution

Gin’s patchwork history weaving through centuries of fluctuating fortune is not only something we understand at Naught, but are totally and utterly inspired by.

Our gins merge the innovative and the traditional, ensuring we pay homage to the incredible, rich heritage and the distillers who came before us while putting our own spin on things.

Nestled on the door of the Yarra Valley, Naught stands as a testament to the modern distiller’s art, embracing both the shadowed alleys of gin’s past and the bright, promising future ahead.

You may have heard our motto “Distinctly Elegant, Playfully Wicked,” which is in many ways an homage to the checkered past of gin as much as it is the characteristics of our gin.

Our approach to gin from the very start has been to create a premium product that is accessible and enjoyable to all.

Whether you’re a gin connoisseur, eager to add to your back-bar collection, or someone trying their first nip, Naught offers a spirit that is velvety smooth, approachable and delicious.

We’ve been very fortunate to see the impact of our gins on the world stage, winning ‘Best Gin in Victoria’ 3 years running by Melbourne Royal, as well as multiple international awards.

Every sip of Naught gin is an invitation to explore the botanical flavours that have captivated hearts across the globe, from the gin-soaked streets of London to the underground speakeasies of the US and even the little leafy town of Eltham.

Rich in Flavour, Richer in History

Gin, with its tumultuous past and dazzling resurgence, remains a symbol of resilience and adaptability. From its origins as a medicinal tonic to its status as a craft cocktail staple, gin’s journey is a fascinating study of the evolution of taste, culture, and refinement.

Naught Gin distils this journey into each bottle, offering a sip that is as much about honouring the past as it is about embracing the future.

Our distinctly elegant, playfully wicked creations are a celebration of all that gin has been and all it has yet to become.

As we continue to explore the boundaries of gin’s possibilities, we invite you to join us in this deliciously complex adventure.

Whether you’re a seasoned gin aficionado or a curious newcomer, there’s a place for you at Naught — where every glass tells a story, and every story is worth savouring.

Dive into The World of Naught

Experience the blend of historical depth and modern flair with Naught’s award-winning gins.

Visit our website today and add one of our world-renowned gins to your collection. And while you’re there, make sure you sign up to our newsletter for exclusive updates, cocktail recipes, and insights into the enchanting world of gin.

Here’s to the next chapter in gin’s extraordinary tale — if history is anything to go by, there’s no telling what’s coming next in the world of gin…

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