The origins of gin go back to the Dutch genever in the 17th century. Wilhelm von Oranien-Nassau brought this with him to England when he climbed the English Tron in 1689. The tax-free gin (that's what the juniper schnapps was called in England, because people had difficulties with the pronunciation of the word genever) had it easy compared to the highly taxed French spirits, and it was also stipulated that gin could only be distilled from English grain. The consequences for the English population were devastating. Mass alcoholism forced the government to intervene with the Gin Act in 1751. Quality standards were introduced and high taxes ensured that demand was curbed.
There has been a real gin boom for several years. Classic cocktails like Juleps, Smashes, Flips, Martinez, Dry Martinis and of course the Gin & Tonics are all the rage in bars.