What is a juniper berry…and why is it not even a berry?!

What is a juniper berry…and why is it not even a berry?!
March 22, 2016 Gin Lane

If you’re new to the world of gin, or having been drinking it for years but have never cared what it’s made of, read on…

The base flavour of almost every gin on the market is the humble juniper berry. While gin is flavoured with other botanicals (herbs, spices, fruits etc) it is the juniper that gives it that distinct gin-ness.

The juniper berry is the female seed cone produced by the various species of junipers. It is not a true berry but a cone with unusually fleshy and merged scales, which give it a berry-like appearance.

These cones come from a handful of species, especially Juniperus communis, and aside from giving gin its distinctive flavour, they are also used as a spice, particularly in European cuisine. For example, the Swedes love using juniper berries in their food!

Most juniper berries are grown in Europe too with only a very small amount grown in Australia (on Kangaroo Island). So, while we love to promote local, I’m afraid that the base flavour, with a few exceptions, is almost exclusively imported. Sorry!

There you have it. That’s a quick snapshot of juniper berries. Not actually a berry and not just a gin flavour. 

Note: Try freezing lightly crushed juniper berries into an ice cube tray (before the water freezes of course!) It’s a nice visual touch to your G&T and as the ice melts it release an extra juniper hit.

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