Gin was first distilled in Holland in the 16th century, but it obtained its quintessential British link in 1689 when King William III of England (who was also Prince William of Orange) implemented the Act for Encouraging the Consumption of Malted Corn, which resulted in the greatly accelerated production (and consumption) of what has become known as London dry gin. By contrast, American dry gin, sometimes called “soft gin” because of its lower 80 proof, came later. In its basic form, gin is composed of a neutral alcohol base, to which botanicals—most notably juniper—are added before distillation.
Gin was all the rage in the Roaring Twenties and even during Prohibition, which gave rise to the term “bathtub gin” because that was where much of the illicit form of the spirit was produced. After Prohibition’s repeal, gin production became much more refined, although it was kicked out of the martini glass in favor of vodka during the Cold War and the James Bond craze of the 1960s.
Today, however, gin is experiencing a dramatic renaissance, thanks to the growing trend of retro cocktails and the spirit’s consequent rediscovery by a new generation of mixologists. Here are some of the most innovative brands, both old and new.