Appears in
Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

By Andrew F. Smith

Published 2004

  • About

Gin, a juniper-flavored distilled spirit (though many other botanical ingredients are now used in its production), takes its name from genièvre, the French word for “juniper.” Until recently it seemed certain that Dr. Franciscus de la Boe, aka Dr. Sylvius, a seventeenth-century professor of medicine at the University of Leyden in the Netherlands, was the first to document a recipe for such a grain-based, juniper-flavored spirit, but it turns out that this simply isn’t true, and there’s a good chance that the story was conjured up by some marketing maven in the last half of the twentieth century. There are Dutch manuscripts from the 1500s that refer to a beverage called genever—the Dutch word meaning “juniper”—so we now know for sure that the drink was readily available in the Netherlands long before Sylvius took the job at the University.