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GENIÈVRE, JENEVER, JUNIPER                   
November 2016 Issue | Vol. 4, No. 20                                          GIN'S ANATOMY: What makes gin tick?















 
 
 
 

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Genièvre, Jenever, Juniper. Any way you say it, juniper has enough history behind it to make it recognizable in just about any form—which, today, happens to be gin. But the spirit preferred by the likes of Queen Elizabeth II and Madonna didn’t come on the scene until several centuries after the first recorded appearance of its main herbal ingredient, juniper berries. The Schola Medica Salenitana (Medical School of Salerno), Italy’s top med school from the 10th to 13th centuries, recorded a collection of herbs and remedies on a parchment called, today, Compendium Salernitanum. The parchment featured Juniper berries for several uses, from mixed with wine as a diuretic to an embalming ingredient. Both still remain relevant—juniper berries make powerful diuretic and too much rotgut gin can adequatly embalm—some call it pickle—the liver. Though gin’s aficionados know no match for a very dry Martini made, as described by Winston Churchill, “. . . with ice-cold gin, and a bow in the direction of France; or a couple fingers’ worth of quality gin poured over ice, some bartenders are wont to think gin does much better with a few other ingredients. Reason? Other ingredients tend to arouse the botanicals the distillers add to the juniper-heavy spirit. All those thoughtfully added herbs and spices give each crafted gin its own flavor in the same way they do food in the kitchen. Juniper berries have what ‘s best called an edge. The botanicals round out the juniper berries’ sharp edges. But they can also do more. This goes back to the apothecary days, when medicine and spirits were one.