Thursday, October 7, 2010

Juniperus horizontalis--Juniper--Cupressaceae

Remember the movie, Casablanca? "Of all the gin joints in all the world, she had to walk into mine."? That was Humphrey Bogart speaking of Ingrid Bergman. "And you must remember this: a kiss is just a kiss, a smile is just a smile." What a song!

Anyway, gin is usually made from fermented wheat or rye, which is distilled and then flavored with juniper berries and other herbs and spices. Originally, the juniper berries were used because they were believed to have medicinal properties. American Indians used them as a diuretic, and to treat stomach aches and colds. In ancient Greece, they were used to increase physical stamina. I guess they thought it worked like steroids! They were also used to treat rheumatism and arthritis. Some websites say it suppresses the appetite, some say it stimulates appetite. Scientists in Britain have found that it reduces blood sugar and can be used to treat diabetes. Juniper is a conifer, and its berries are the only conifers parts that are used for flavor. Juniper berries are also used to flavor meats and vegetables.

Gin was popular during the prohibition because no aging was necessary. If you are trying to hide production, you don't want casks sitting around in a huge warehouse. So why was it called bathtub gin? Seems like everyone thinks it was because it was made in bathtubs. I used to think that, too. But no. It was because it was put into tall bottles, that needed to be topped off with water, and they wouldn't fit under the sink faucet, so they topped them off in the tub. Live and learn!

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