The name comes from "genievre," French for juniper.
Gin is a flavored white spirit. All gin is flavored with juniper berries, and usually other botanicals, like lemon, coriander, angelica, licorice roots, bitter almonds, and orange peel. Each distiller guards the secret of his own botanicals, since they provide the only characteristic distinguishing one brand from another.
Gin originated in Holland in the late 17th century and was brought to England by the returning soldiers around the turn of that century. It had been created as a medicine by a Dutch chemist, who had distilled from grain a spirit that he flavored with juniper berries. It was thought to have real medicinal properties, so it was sold only in druggist shops. English soldiers tasted it and liked it and decided that it would make a tolerable substitute for the brandy that the enemy French produced. Taxes on French wines and brandies were apparent, and at the same time it was allowed that anyone who applied to the excise bureau could set up a distillery. Soon the English had created the spirit similar to the jenever and shortened the name to gin. Since they were so deprived of the French spirits, the English production of this new, cheap fire-water grew within 40 years from half a million gallons a year to 20 million gallons.
Gin is not a spirit to be aged and can be drunk within a half hour of being crafted. London, or dry gin needs to be mixed with something to soften it. Popular cocktails constitute mixing gin with tonic or water and without a doubt, in the ever popular martini.