A large variety of cocktails can be made with gin, from the simple gin and tonic and the iconic martini to the historic drink called the Pegu Club. The liquor’s distinctive taste comes from juniper berries, and it was distilled in the mid-17th century in Denmark for the first time by a physician seeking to ease stomach problems. Today it is a main ingredient in a diverse assortment of drinks that are consumed around the world, including the Gin Fizz, Gin Rickey, Tom Collins, Pink Lady and Gin Sour.
Two kinds of drinks, the gin and tonic and the Pegu Club, have close ties to the colonial British. The gin and tonic gave the colonials two reasons to enjoy the refreshing cocktail: first, it was cooling in India’s heated climate, and second, the tonic contained quinine, which fought malaria. British colonists also enjoyed a drink called the Pegu Club, a cocktail named for their gathering spot in Rangoon. A few cocktails made from this liquor have colorful names, including White Lady, Red Devil and Negroni.
Some of the drink names are also intriguing, leading one to wonder at their origin, such as Satan’s Whiskers, Fallen Angel, The Last Word, and Vesper. Other names are based on locations, such as the Singapore Sling, Long Island Iced Tea, Alabama Slammer, Texas Tea, Tokyo Tea, Baltimore Zoo or Old Etonian, named for Eton College. The Old Etonian was a popular choice in the 1920s in London. Planter’s Punch was also quite popular at the time in England and other locations, and it was a favorite of actress Tallulah Bankhead.
A number of types of distilled gin are on the market, and some are flavored with unique ingredients to give them a special flavor. Hendrick’s, for example, is made in Scotland and flavored with rose petals and cucumbers. Another brand, Magellan, is flavored with iris blossoms. There are also organic types, a triple-distilled type and another type that is flavored with licorice. Many brands are made with various assortments of spices and herbs, which are sometimes referred to as botanicals and can include coriander, angelica root, cinnamon and anise. The manufacturers’ secret liquor recipes can contain more than a dozen of these botanicals, or less than half a dozen.