Gin: The Steampunk Spirit

At the International Steampunk Symposium 2014, the Steampunk Chronicles announced the winners of their Readers’ Choice Awards. In the category of “Most Steampunk Drink” Gin was the clear winner. Gin has a long and interesting history. There are a lot of legends, anecdotes, and misconception about this amazing liquor. Come with me on a little journey to learn more about this most versatile and exciting drink!

Gin House 680

First, a little history into this quite controversial libation. So far as my research has shown the earliest known time that gin appeared was back in the early 17th century in Holland. There are some who debate that the Italians made it even earlier. (With any type of spirit I’ve researched there is almost always a hotly debated argument on the provenance of said liquid.) Originally it was produced and sold as a medicinal product used to treat gout, gallstones, and stomach maladies. It didn’t taste very good. So juniper was added to make it more palatable. The oil of the juniper berry was often used to treat stomach and kidney problems. Time went on and genever began to grow in popularity, not just as a medicine, but as a way to get buzzed. Soldiers would drink a dose of the stuff before combat. This is where we get “Dutch Courage” from.

Eventually gin made it to Britain. To say gin became popular there might be a bit of an understatement. Gin was easy to make, and there was nothing to stop anyone from distilling their own and selling it. Things got out of hand and so those in power decided to make regulations. The Gin Act was enacted in 1736. Home-made gin became illegal to make and sell. They taxed the gin. What was something all classes could get access to became harder to get because it got more expensive. People rioted, giving rise to the Gin Rebellion. People opposed to gin began writing papers, making flyers, and spreading the word about the gin craze. They cited the mothers would neglect their children for gin. Gin was evil and led to all kinds of sin. It became apparent that the Gin Act was, ultimately, unenforceable. In 1742 the Gin Act was repealed. New policy was made that made it easier for people to make gin, while controlling quality. This led to gin gaining a more respectable image over time.

Gin starts life off as a neutral spirit. There are no real rules on gin making. For example, bourbon must contain at least 51% corn mash, but gin has no such regulation. There is really only one hard and fast rule to making gin. It must have juniper in it. Doesn’t matter exactly how much, but the juniper most be noticeable to the palate. From that point the method of distillation, and the botanicals used are up to the maker. Gin can be pot distilled, column distilled, or even just plain infused. (You can make your gin at home by simply infusing a neutral grain spirit, like vodka, with juniper and other fun things.) The nice thing about this means that individual gins can be vastly different from one another. Gin likely has the greatest variation in taste than any other spirit! (I’m not counting flavored vodkas here.) From Adler Berlin Gin to Zuidam there are literally hundreds of gin brands out there, and each one is distinct from the other. I firmly believe that there is a gin out there for almost everyone.

Almost everyone… some people just cannot abide the taste of juniper, so even the least juniper forward of gins is still unpalatable. (New Amsterdam gin downplays the juniper and brings a very citrusy tone forward, for example.) For the rest of us who not just like, but love the base flavor of gin there are so many to choose from. What’s more, gin is quite versatile in cocktails. From a simple martini to a complex flip there exists a plethora of drinks available to enthusiasts. Here are a few recipes that I happen to enjoy. I include the gin I prefer to use in them.

Martini (they way I like it):

3 oz. gin (Hendricks, Bombay Sapphire, Aviation, and Oxley’s are some of the gins I love best for this drink)

2-4 drops dry vermouth

2-3 dashes orange bitters

Lemon twist

Chill a martini glass. Fill a shaker 2/3rd the way with ice. Pour in the ingredients, minus the twist and stir until thoroughly chilled. Strain into the chilled glass and garnish with the twist.



1 1/2 oz Plymouth Gin

1/2 oz Maraschino Liquor

1/4 to 1/2 oz Creme d Yvette or Creme de Violette (based on personal taste)

1/2 oz lemon juice


Mix ingredients in a shaker, add ice to shaker, stir until well chilled and strain into a martini glass that has been chilled. Drop the cherry into the glass gently.


The Negroni

1 part gin (I really enjoy Hendricks in this, but feel free to play around)

1 part Sweet Vermouth

1 part Campari

Build in a glass over ice and stir well. This drink is really bitter with sweet overtones.
The Courtesan (A Calamity Labs original!)

1 part Roses Lime Juice

1 part Creme De Violette

1 part New Amsterdam gin (Hendricks is also good in this, so too Bulldog.)

Layer in order in a pony glass. (Layering can be done by slowly pouring or drizzling the alcohol over the back of a spoon into the glass.)



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