On my recent trip to Ghent, Belgium, I came across Proof, a newly opened shop and tasting room that carries a variety of the best and rarest spirits from all over Europe. Its most interesting bottles are the gins being produced by new distilleries in Flanders. (This represents a local renaissance, since jenever, the juniper-flavored liquor from which gin evolved, was born in the Low Countries during the 13th century.)
By the end of the 19th century, gin had become so popular in Belgium that it was having a deleterious effect on worker productivity, which resulted in a 1919 law banning its sale in cafés. This statute, which was calamitous for Flemish gin production, wasn’t repealed until the 1980s, by which time only a handful of distilleries remained. Now a new artisanal gin movement has developed.
The two outstanding Flemish gins are Ginderella, seasoned with wild botanicals — Herb Robert, Japanese knotweed and lesser swine cress among them — gathered from parks in Ghent, and Save The Queen, which is flavored with raw honey from urban hives.