Mother’s Ruin the story of gin & how to make it at home

Can you make gin at home? Well, you can make gin you just can’t distil it at home that’s illegal. However, you can make some phenomenal flavoured gins at home and you can convert vodka to gin at home.

a beautiful martini made from artisan gin - clear drink with ice and cucumber garnished with a sprig of rosemary

Never having been a gin drinker I was intrigued by all the new artisan gins available in Europe. I do recall a few unfortunate gin moments in my younger years though. I always hated the taste of tonic and that whole notion of a gin martini, fortunately, by-passed me. But, then I tasted some of the new flavoured gins and I was hooked.

Small batch craft gins are everywhere these days and these new artisanal gins are winning over gin haters all over the world. Artisan Gins have moved into the mainstream and now folks are even attempting to make their own craft gin at home.

A short history of gin

I do love the names Gin has gone by in yesteryear though – mother’s Ruin, Cuckold’s Comfort, and Dutch Courage for example. Redolent (literally) of those nasty Victorian alleyways, Jack the Ripper and the mean streets of London back in the day. History has given Gin some pretty colourful nicknames.

Mother's Ruin by Hogarth artisan gins

Of course, there is also the N. American history of bathtub gin, and gin smuggled in from England to lift the spirits of Americans during Prohibition. Thank the goddess those days are now over and even I can be convinced to enjoy a new kind of gin.

The British have always big gin drinkers and have quaffed their fair share of it over the years. These days hand made, small batch produced gins are being created all over the United Kingdom and Ireland.  This quiet revolution has been taking place across the globe but here in Britain, the idea of sustainable, environmentally friendly farm to table foods has impacted the spirit field.  

The field to bottle revolution has changed up the spirit markets and folks are tasting gins infused with rhubarb, roses and other flavours.  At the Country Home show, there were several artisanal gin and vodka producers.  I was an avowed non-gin or vodka drinker, prior to tasting these products, but the quality and flavour have made me change my mind.

The word gin itself comes from the French ‘genièvre’ and Dutch ‘jenever’, both of which mean ‘juniper’.

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By ChrisWeesp Wikimedia

Simply put gin is a colourless, or  ‘neutral’ spirit, that can be made from fermented grain or molasses, and flavoured with juniper berries. Over the years various herbs, fruits and spices, aka botanicals, have been added to the mix to enhance the flavour.

Hendrick’s gin is recognised for its rose and cucumber flavouring, Tanqueray for its grapefruit, coriander, angelica root and liquorice flavours, and Beefeater of liquorice and Seville oranges.

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In the 18th Century, gin was the drug of the poor. Slum ridden Georgian London was hell and for a few pennies, the poor found escape from hunger and cold through gin. During WWII, gin still being the British drink of choice was called Mother’s Ruin, because many a poor girl had a few too many and succumbed to the ‘charms’ of a soldier.

Considered the quintessentially British spirit, gin was actually created in Holland where it was medicinal. The Dutch created something they called “genever”. the British tried to imitate the drink when back in the UK and gin was the result. Gin has become legendary in food culture and it seems like there’s a new flavour introduced every day.

The rise of Artisan Gins

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Now gin is back thanks to the slow food movement’s encouragement to grow, make and buy local. The traditional ‘G&T’ is still one of the most popular drinks in England, but these days it is made with an artisanal gin and tonic. With the popularity of gin on the rise, new brewers have set out to make artisan gin not only as pure as possible but also with the addition of flavours such as rhubarb, elderflower, and raspberry.

I also love a good gin cocktail and when you combine hibiscus a traditional Mexican drink with gin you have an unbeatable Hibiscus Gin sour.

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Gin nights at specialist bars are all the rage and can be found from one end of the country to the other. In London, the place to really understand and learn about gin in is at the Ginstitute, in Portobello Road, where gin fans can create their own personalized sipping gin. The Ginstitute provides the botanicals from cassia and juniper to coriander and orris root for you to create your own flavoured gin and you get to take a bottle home with you.

artisanal gin bottle

How to make gin at home

  1. Sterilise 1-litre or around 33 oz jar with boiling water and add 70cl (23 oz) vodka
  2. Add your botanicals –  40g (1/3 cup) juniper berries, 10g (2 taps) coriander seeds, 1/2 cinnamon stick, 1/2 liquorice root, 2 cardamom pods
  3. Infuse for 24 hours in a cool dark place. Have a taste — the juniper flavour should be developing
  4. Add 1 piece each of orange and lemon peel with the bitter white pith removed
  5. Infuse for 24 hours. Shake once. Don’t over infuse.
  6.  Taste again. If you like it, sieve out the botanicals and strain through a coffee filter.
  7. Develop in the jar for 2 days. Filter again and you should have a lovely amber gin.
  8. To finish, simply add your tonic and garnish. It’s gin o’clock!
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This is really known as compound gin as you can’t actually distil your own gin at home.

How do I make flavoured gin at home?

Start with a sterilised bottle or jar and then add your fruits, herbs, spices and leave to infuse for a day or so. To turn it into a homemade gin liquer just add sugar.

How to make flavoured gin at home

Start with a good plain gin and you can use almost any fruit but take care with citrus as they can be quite strong. If using herbs and chillis start with small amounts as they can also overwhelm your homemade gin. A general rule is to use one-third fruit to gin as your ratio.

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Infused water with fresh organic berries.

How long does it take to make flavoured gin?

The longer you leave the gin, the stronger the flavours that develop will be. The best advice is to keep tasting because if you leave it too long it may become bitter and nasty.

Strongly flavoured fruits, berries and vegetables will probably take around a week to infuse their flavours but herbs and spices such as mint, chillies, vanilla and the like will infuse quicker.

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Once you are happy with the taste of your flavoured gin use a coffee filter to strain out the fruits and herbs and then taste again. If you are using fruit like raspberries keep the fruit soaked in the gin and use it to top icecream or a creme brulee to add a distinctive boozy element.

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What gin should I use?

Use a good everyday gin for infusing with the flavours you like. Gordon’s or Beefeater works well and they are not artificially flavoured avoid those as they just won’t work as well for infusing.

Keep your gin in a cool dark place and if sealed properly it will keep for several months. Bring it out when you want to impress your friends with your gourmet or artisanal gin.

Which gins are you drinking these days?

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