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  • Darren Barber

    Email Darren Barber

    How gin went from misunderstood spirit to hottest 'new' thing in drinks


    While there’s some debate and mystery surrounding its origins, the accepted wisdom is that gin was first created in Holland in the 16th Century. This unique drink has certainly evolved over hundreds of years, but it’s only in recent times that this much-misunderstood spirit has made a spectacular comeback.

    In fact, gin is on its way to replacing vodka as Australia’s white spirit of choice, with research last year showing the average number of monthly gin drinkers has grown from 633,000 in 2010 to around 860,000 in 2016.

    Sometimes described as “the vodka for adults”, gin has a distinctive smell of juniper which sets it apart from its clear, odourless neighbour at the back bar.

    With a gin revival in full swing, we’ve seen an explosion of micro-distilleries popping up over the past few years. Of course, one of our favourites is Mt Uncle Distillery, located just a short drive away on the Tablelands. The Mt Uncle team are bringing some brilliant boutique gins to the market and are fast gaining recognition on a national and international scale.

    Inspired by some of the nation’s best gin bars such as The Barber Shop, Gin Lane, Dutch Courage, Frisk Small Bar, Hains & Co, Moya’s Juniper Lounge, and Stillery, we decided to launch Gin Social at the Hilton Cairns to bring the world’s top gins to a local audience.

    Our menu at Gin Social features over 40 gins to choose from (along with other spirits, wines and beer of course). And that’s just the beginning for Gin Social – there’s more to come as we grow and evolve the bar over time.

    What is gin and how is it made?

    Gin is made from the same base ingredient as vodka. What separates gin from vodka is the inclusion of juniper berries and other botanicals in the distillation process.

    To extract flavours and aromas from their botanicals, most gin makers soak their botanicals in a neutral spirit - a process called maceration. Some gin makers stop here, which results in a gin called bathtub or infused gin.

    In order to make a cleaner, smoother gin, most gin makers distil this macerate in a pot still. This creates what is known as a dry gin or distilled gin.

    What’s the best way to taste gin?

    First of all, make sure you taste the gin straight and at ‘old room temperature’ (about 12-15 degrees). Next tip is to swill it around in your mouth - good gin like the varieties you’ll find at Gin Social will have an assertive warmth, but no burn. Finally, add a splash of cold water, then sip and swish it around in your mouth. The water encourages the release of the botanical flavours.

    But if you’re new to gin and all that sounds a bit too hard, just order a gin and tonic. We won’t judge you!

    Choice of tonic is crucial

    A great tonic is just as important as choosing your gin, as it is usually two thirds of the drink. One of the main causes behind why people have an unfortunate aversion to the famous G&T is because of poor quality tonics, warm mixers or wrong ratios.

    Thankfully, we have a variety of high-quality tonics available these days, with Fever-Tree (one of our favourites at Gin Social) leading the charge with a large portfolio of flavours including Elderflower, Mediterranean and Lemon Tonic. Australia is also producing some fantastic tonics with brands like Capi popping up in bars all over the country.

    Soda as a tonic alternative

    If the thought of tonic is just too much to overcome, why not try a gin and soda? Soda is a great partner for gin as it allows you to take in more of the flavours of the spirit.

    Next time you go to order a vodka and soda, try swapping out vodka in favour of a gin and soda. You may be surprised at how great it tastes. If all else fails though, just ask one of our knowledgeable bar staff at Gin Social for a recommendation – they can point you to one of their favourites or tailor a drink to your specific tastes.

    One thing’s for sure: we bet you’ll be surprised by how quickly you’ll be converted to the refreshing flavour of a high-quality gin, no matter how you have it.

    WHAT: Gin Social cocktail bar
    WHERE: Hilton Cairns
    WHEN: Open 4pm ‘til late seven days a week
    MORE: ginsocial.com.au