Do You Have a Bottle of Gin in Your Medicine Cabinet?

When it comes to spirits, gin might just be the most polarizing liquor of them all. Let’s take a look at the medicinal roots of this drink, and see which countries are the biggest gin cheerleaders today.

The origin of the spirit

Gin is widely believed to have been invented in Holland in the 16th century by Dutch physician, Franciscus Sylvius. It was originally used for medicinal purposes as it was thought to improve circulation and help with other ailments.

The name “gin” comes from the Dutch word for juniper, genever, which is the ingredient that gives gin its distinctive piney flavor. It’s fitting that gin is named for juniper, since that’s what defines the spirit — in order for a drink to be classified as gin, the predominant flavor must be juniper.

A medical treatment

Using alcohol as a medicinal treatment might sound counterproductive, but there is evidence that drinking gin in moderation can have some benefits. The juniper berries that give gin its flavor also contain antioxidants and flavonoids, which can help fight infection, reduce inflammation, and aid in digestion.

Several common gin cocktails have been created to fight illness throughout history. The Gin & Tonic was invented in India in the 19th century in an effort to avoid malaria. The quinine in the tonic water was the disease-fighting component of the drink, and the gin was added to mask the bitterness of the tonic water.

The Gimlet was also created in the 19th century with a medicinal intent. The British Royal Navy mixed gin and lime juice to prevent scurvy, and thus, another classic gin cocktail was born.

Who loves gin the most?

Despite gin’s Dutch roots, the popularity of the drink is widespread. The English were introduced to the spirit during the Dutch War of Independence in the 17th century. They brought the drink back with them and it was such a hit that gin is now the national spirit of England.

But even though it’s officially England’s national spirit, the country can’t hold a candle to the largest gin-drinkers in the world. The Philippines make up the largest gin market, reportedly accounting for about 43% of worldwide gin consumption.

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