Gordons Special Dry London Gin, London
There can be few more identifiably English drinks than Gordonís Special Dry London Gin, the number one selling gin in the world. Strangely it was, however, developed by a Scot, Alexander Gordon, albeit his distillery was in Londonís Clerkenwell . And in a strange loop of fate the gin is now produced in a distillery in Fife .
Gordon came up with his recipe in 1769, aiming for a gin of real quality in a market that was still dominated by the cheap and rough gins satirized by Hogarth in his 1751 print Beer Street and Gin Lane, and legislated against in the Gin Act of the same year. His gin was triple distilled for purity, and in addition to the juniper berries that give the drink its classic taste (and via the Dutch version of the word, genever, provide the root of the English word gin) he used coriander seeds, liquorice, orris root, and the peel of both oranges and lemons, with angelica root as Ė according at least to the producers Ė the binder for the other botanicals.
In Britain Gordonís uses an easily recognizable green bottle to give the drink a particular identity here - elsewhere clear glass and even plastic are used - and over the years the brand has entered British cultural as well as drinking life: a reference point for Gilbert and George ; cited by Ian Fleming in Casino Royale; seen very clearly in quantity in The African Queen and many other movies since. During the Raj Gordonís was exported in large volumes to India, mixed with the malaria prophylactic quinine tonic originally to make the bitter drug bearable but soon because it was found the two were a match made in heaven.
There is still something enormously satisfying about sipping a gin and tonic, or a Gordonís and tonic as the producers would prefer: the clink of ice cubes (just a couple or the thing is unpleasantly diluted when they melt); the fizz of the tonic; the lemon or lime slice providing a little nudge to the ginís already insistent flavour; and the kick of good gin. Along with penicillin, TV, telephones and decent road surfaces, Gordonís gin is another example of Scottish genius in action.