National Gin Day

Gin is well known as a British product, we see Beefeater all over the place. It is, after all, London’s national drink and many famous gins are produced here.

However, the first known date for the production of gin was in 17th Century Holland.

It was sold in chemist shops to treat stomach issues, gout and gallstones. The first known mention of it is in 1269 in a Dutch publication.

It was also known for treating urinary tract infections, heart failure and gonorrhea. Today, however, it is believed it may affect your blood pressure and possibly irritate your stomach and intestines. Another concern is for diabetics with its possibility of your blood sugar dropping too low. Usual medication lowers it but so does the juniper so it’s a double whammy. Keep in mind, these are all possibles so speak with your doctor.

Gin made from Juniper Berries. The full recipe has been kept secret for 250 years.

Interestingly, pregnant women should not consume juniper berries as it could cause a miscarriage. If you’re trying to become pregnant or are breastfeeding, avoid it as well. Large amounts for anyone is not recommended either. The volatile oils in the berries could cause mild toxicity symptoms such as diarrhea, kidney damage, convulsions and DNA damage.

Traditional dosage was between 2 and 10 grams of berries or 20 to 100 milligrams of essential oil. If you’re making a tea, limit yourself to 1 to 2 cups per day of steeped berries or twigs from the juniper plant. Take a break from it after 2 weeks. Again, talk to your doctor especially if you currently take any medication.

History, Continued

The English discovered gin during the 30 years war in the 17th Century while fighting in Holland. The Dutch soldiers were drinking Jenever to boost morale before a battle. Hence, the term Dutch Courage.

150 years later, the English produced their own version and have grown since to become a huge gin producer. To browse the many varieties, visit the Gin Guild.

The Royal Navy mixed it with lime to combat scurvy and they mixed it with the tonic water for its benefits of quinine which battlled malaria. See previous Gin and Tonic post for a refresher.

Aside from the grain that is distilled to produce gin, such as barley, juniper berries is a main ingredient.

Other common ingredients are coriander, citrus peel, cinnamon, cucumber, rose, lavender, lemon peel,  black pepper, almond, or licorice. Any variations of these can be blended with the distilled grain to produce gin.

There are versions with as little as 3 ingredients and a Scottish version, The Botanist Islay Gin, with 31! The Citadelle runs a close second with 19.

60 million cases  of Gin are sold worldwide every year. About 45% of that is consumed in the Philippines.

You’ll easily find a London gin at the liquor store but if you are looking for the Dutch version, keep an eye out for Genever which is basically the same. LCBO carries Bols Genever.

As a reminder, try Jack’s Tonique which is available in Ontario and Quebec. Visit their site for all retailers, which is rapidly expanding, and establishments that use it for mixing their drinks.

How Else To Enjoy Gin

Earl Grey tea with Gin and tonic.

Chamomile tea with honey and lemon, oh, and gin.

Lavender syrup, if you can find it, with elder flower liqueur and gin. Add some lemon to cut the sweetness. Elder flower is an awesome mix and will compliment any home liquor supply.

Try a refreshing gin and sparkling wine or champagne.

Shake gin with mint and cucumber for a fresh summer drink, top with club soda.

Drop into your favorite local bar and your server will surely come up with a delicious concoction for you.

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on June 10, 2017


Who Created The Gin & Tonic?

Ei8hteen @ 18 York St.

The Lovely Gin and Tonic….

Happy G & T Day! In this version, pictured left, it is made with the colorful Jack’s Tonique, made local, in Quebec, by Joel Beaupre and Mathieu Guillemette.  It has a crisp, unique bitter taste but rich and delicious. My tastebuds quickly accustomed to the unusual flavour and I, soon, realized I downed it quite easily.

An official Gin Day will arrive later in the year when I will explore Gin’s exact origins.

Today will be dedicated strictly to G & T.

The Savoy’s Version With Mint

Compare this robust colored version with the clean and clear one that is most commonly made with carbonated tonic water.

With a little help, we can spread the word of more flavourful and healthier Tonics, such as Jack’s, to use instead. You only use an ounce or 2 max per drink so the 500ml bottle will last quite awhile. Mix that with 1 1/2 ounces of gin and top it with club soda and it will be a beautiful rich, golden color, as above.

Quinine – Pro or Con?

One of the ingredients in the final product of tonic water/syrup is cinchona bark. By boiling this bark, quinine is created. There are health benefits to this, however, too much of it can be hard on the system. It has been known to treat leg cramps, lupus (an autoimmune disease) and arthritis.

Quinine can help to relax muscles and ease muscle spasms. Originally, quinine was administered as an anti-malarial drug in the 17th Century.

On the other hand, a large build up of quinine can be serious with side effects ranging from headache to vomiting. People have been hospitalized with symptoms lasting a few weeks. Keep in mind, they didn’t have just a couple of gin an tonics on a Friday night. They overdosed on it.

From what I’ve discovered, it’s easier to overdose on it if you’re trying to make your own at home. In many of the cases, cinchona bark powder, and too much of it, was used. The powder is harder to filter so you end up with more grains in your actual drink. Leave this to the professionals. Today’s tonic water has very little quinine.

The Food and Drug Act banned quinine treatments in 2010 due to it’s serious side effects. Now there are restrictions on the amount of quinine allowed in tonic. If a doctor had prescribed it, the recommended dosage might have been 500-1000 mg.

In the carbonated drinks, do not exceed 2.48 mg of quinine per ounce of liquid. Therefore, if a gin and tonic is 1.5 oz of gin and 4.5 oz of Schweppes tonic water, you’re looking at 11.16 mg of quinine.

Now that I was concerned about the quinine content in homemade tonics, I emailed Jack’s Tonique to inquire.

Joel Beaupre promptly responded to assure me the levels were safe.

“The amount of quinine in our artisan tonic slighty fluctuates from batch to batch as we steep it from a natural bark that contains the quinine. Too many variables are involved to give a definite number. That being said, we use very little bark and have a low level of quinine compared to the big brands!”   -Joel Beaupre

I can’t wait to try their new Ginger Beer! The only sweetener they use in their soda is pure Quebec honey. Again…..healthy!

Who Made the First Gin & Tonic?

Now I have THAT out of my system, we can get on to Britain, home of the Gin & Tonic.

Gin originates from London and word spread to the British Army of tonic’s benefits. In the 17th Century, quinine was used to combat malaria. A British officer realized alcohol, gin in particular, would help the bitter tonic to go down easier. Little did they realize it would save hundreds of lives.

However, the tonic had already been discovered. In the 1630’s an Augustinian Monk found a tree with possible remedies, in the forests of the Andes Mountains. He published a notice regarding the treatment, burying it in a work on the Augustinian Order.

“A tree grows which they call the fever tree, in the country of Loxa, whose bark of the color of cinnamon, made into powder amounting to the weight of two small silver coins and given as a beverage, cures the fevers and tertiana; it has produced miraculous results in Lima.    

                                                  -Antonio de Calancha, Monk of the Augustinian Order

The bark from this tree, known as cinchona, or Jesuit’s Bark, was boiled to gain the medicinal properties of what is now called quinine. Some cinchona tree species grow to about 18 feet and span 1 to 2 feet in diameter.

Juniper Berries, The Super Food

Gin is produced from these berries which combat bacteria and can be treated for rheumatism, arthritis and cystitis. It can help with bloating and water retention and improves digestion since it increases saliva and digestive enzymes.

If crushed, it can be used topically on wounds as an antiseptic.

However, excessive use of the berries could lead to kidney irritation.

Today’s tonic contains artificial sweetener so it is much more pleasant to drink.


Any establishment in Ottawa will serve up a Gin and Tonic but if you’re looking to try the homemade tonic before you purchase the full bottle, visit the following and make sure you ask the server to make it with Jack’s Tonique. 

12 restaurants in Ottawa serve it with Jack’s including the following:

Ei8hteen – 18 York Street

Two Six Ate – 268 Preston St.

The Soca Kitchen – 93 Holland Ave.

Erlings Variety – 22 Strathcona (at Bank St)

When you’re ready to purchase a bottle of the tonic, choose from 14 different establishments including:

Also At Most of These Locations

North of 7 Distillery – 1733 St. Laurent Blvd.

The Red Apron – 564 Gladstone St.

Viens Avec Moi – 1338 Wellington

Thyme & Again – 1255 Wellington St.

The relatively new company, Jack’s Tonique, has launched their products from its origins in Quebec to as far east as New Brunswick and to western Canada, with much of the concentration in Montreal and Ottawa.

I discovered another tonic and have yet to find an establishment that uses these Split Tree tonic in their drinks. But you can still purchase the bottle at these locations, as well as Thyme & Again.

Everything in Moderation! Cheers!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on April 9, 2017