As a self confessed food and drink geek with a love of history, I find anything tasty with an interesting story behind it all the more intriguing. Everything about the history of gin, as we know it today, from its origins in seventeenth century Holland, all the way to Snoop Dogg dropping references to Tanqueray in his depiction of laid back life in 90s Compton is up there with the most fascinating.

Even one of the most archetypal of British drinks, a simple Gin and Tonic, can trace its origins to the shores of India. When troops of the British East India Company were stationed there in the 1700s and were in desperate need of a prevention for malaria, and other tropical diseases, they turned to quinine, mixed with water, sugar and lime to counter the bitterness. As the troops were already given a ration of gin for its medicinal properties (and as a means of staving off mutinies), a combination of anti-malarial ‘tonic’ and the spirit made perfect sense: prevent malaria and enjoy the benefits of some strong alcohol? They’d have been mad not to.

The addition of various botanicals (on top of the juniper berries) and flavours to distilled gins, ranging from Bombay Sapphire’s finely balanced recipe which includes nearly a dozen different botanicals, to the infusion of rose and cucumber in Hendrick’s, leads to some of the most complex tastes and greatest variety of flavours found in spirits, meaning that gin cocktails will taste entirely different depending on the brand used. I love that you could have a hundred different Martinis, each with its own subtle variation in flavour.

Knowing that the history and craft behind one of my favourite drinks is so diverse really does make every sip that much better. But it isn’t just me, there’s no hiding from the fact that gin has been the subject of a resurgence in popularity in the last five years.

Gin & It, based at the Wulugul Pop Up in the Streets of Barangaroo, Sydney, is a testament to the remarkable rise in fashion of this amazing drink. The bar stocks nearly 200 varieties of gin (one of the largest selections in the country), showcasing both commercial and artisan distilleries from across Australia, more exotic locations such as Sri Lanka and Argentina, as well as a huge selection of UK based gin producers.

Gin & It

The bar serves a mix of classic drinks with their own twists. Including the eponymous Gin and It:  a fresh, elegant combination of gin, Cocchi, homemade orange bitters and sweet Italian vermouth, a cocktail which itself outdates the more recognisable gin Martini.

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By far the most interesting of the drinks I tried, and something entirely new to me, was the Smoked Bombay Sapphire Gin & Tonic. The bar staff hand smoke the gin in apple cedar wood, and I was slightly apprehensive that the smoke flavour would be overpowering, but in fact, the smoky aromas bring out different aspects of the botanicals, really highlighting the citrusy lemon and juniper notes that Bombay is famed for.

This felt like the perfect drink for early autumn, reminiscent of chilly afternoon walks and bonfires in the garden. Drinks are at their best when they can be immediately evocative of a different time or place, so to me, a drink that conjured up those feelings of nostalgia was perfect. If you’d rather another G&T variation, adding a splash of St. Germain elderflower liqueur to the mix is my go-to drink in the summer. 

This remarkable spirit encompasses everything I love in a drink; a fascinating backstory, real artistry in production, and the fact that it makes for an incredible starting point in some of my favourite cocktails.

What are the stories behind some of your favourite drinks? Any cocktails that you can’t go without at certain times of year? Or maybe you know about an exciting new bar that you think everyone should try out. Let us know in the comments!

Gins To Try

Elephant Gin

Elephant Gin is handcrafted with 14 botanicals including 5 rare African botanicals, resulting in a taste that is complex but strikingly smooth.

Aviation Gin

Aviation Gin, from Portland Oregon, is full of delicious lavender and citrus notes in a creamy, smooth, rye-spirit base.

Monkey 47

Monkey 47 is a complex Gin that has great balance between 47 unusual regional botanicals. Blended with natural spring water to maintain purity.

The Broadside

Intense botanical tones and lifted citrus notes, West Winds The Broadside Gin is a perfect example of what high proof spirits can offer.

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Bartender currently based in Sydney NSW. Lover of all things food and drink related, with a weak spot for a bit of history. Traveling the world on a gap year, one country (and plenty of local beers) at a time.