Photo: Demián Camacho Santa Ana
Besides being a great addition to your beef marinades, juniper berries have long been used for medicinal purposes: fighting off infections, stimulating the kidneys, and even serving as an early Viagra. References to juniper use in health tonics have been found as far back as the 1200's. Franciscus Sylvius de la Boe, a professor at a Dutch university in the 1600's, often gets credited for mixing juniper with alcohol, creating the world's first gin -- however, juniper and alcohol had already made friends at least a hundred years earlier according to old Dutch distilling records.
Genever is one of the earliest styles of gin. Since 2008, the EU has granted genever a protected status, regulating where and how it can be made. Most genever comes from Holland; however Belgium and Department 59 (Nord) Department 62 (Pas-de-Calais) of France as well as the Nordrhein-Westfalen (bordering Belgium and Holland) and Niedersachsen (north of Nordrhein) areas of Germany are also allowed production rights. Genever styles range from a light almost vodka-like flavor to sweetened, fruity, almost liqueur-like bottlings. I spent a month in Holland last year "studying" genever, so let me just say there's not space here to outline in detail all the wonderful variations of this spirit. The brands you might find in the US include Zuidam, Boomsma, Schlichte Steinhäger, and the big daddy Bols.
More after the jump...