Mike Parker

Gin, like many alcoholic beverages, has a long and storied history, not all of it savory. In fact, ‘gin’ has been used in combination with other words to describe a variety of socially reprehensible concepts. A ‘gin joint’ is a disreputable bar, ‘gin soaked’ refers to a drunk who reeks of alcohol, ‘gin lane’ is a slum. The consumption of gin rose dramatically in England during the early 18th century, in part due the the high levy on imported distilled spirits. It was a particular favorite of the poor due to its relative low cost, and the fact that it could legally be distilled in residential homes., which created it own set of social ills.

The much-maligned spirit that started its life as a medicinal agent is enjoying something of a resurgence of popularity, as the main ingredient in such cocktails as the Gimlet, the dry Martini, the Gin Ricky and the Bloody Bulldog.

But what about the Sloe Gin Fizz? Ah, there’s an interesting question. The truth is, gin and sloe gin are two different types of alcoholic beverages.

Gin, in the United States, is legally defined as “an alcoholic beverage of no less than 40% ABV (80 proof) that possesses the characteristic flavor of juniper berries. Gin produced only through distillation or redistillation of aromatics with an alcoholic wash can be further distinguished and marketed as distilled gin." The bottom line: gin is a spirit.

Sloe gin is manufactured by infusing gin with sloe berries, the distinctly awful-tasting fruit of the blackthorn bush (which is a member of the plum family). The process typically includes adding sugar to help extract the juice from the sloe berries. The result is a liqueur which is sweeter than gin, and lower in alcohol content; typically in the 15-30 per cent by volume range. Sloe gin is also bright red, unlike traditional gin which is transparent. The bottom line: sloe gin is a liqueur.

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