Gin is a liquor that gets both its name and flavor from juniper berries and is one of the most versatile spirits in the world today.
These dark blueberries grow in many parts of the world, and their aroma is pine-like and spicy. Check out the price comparison below.
What is Gin?
Jenever (name derived from juniper) originated in the Netherlands to treat conditions such as gallstones, indigestion, and gout. The cheap medicine was made from distilled malt wine and herbs and was sold in pharmacies. When jenever was introduced to the British in the 1500s, gin was born. This drink became popular with soldiers, earning the nickname “Dutch courage.”
In the 1700s, gin production was done in homes (bathtub gin) and was so popular among the public that the government had to intervene. The government increased taxes to reduce consumption and prohibited production unless you purchased a £50 license (which amounts to roughly $137,000 today).
Curiously, more women than men got hooked on this liquor, and it had quite a bad reputation — it was even referred to as “Mother’s Ruin” by some people. Because they couldn’t get enough of the juniper-based spirit, it led to unpleasant behaviors such as mistreatment of children, pawning off family members, and even prostitution.
How It’s Made
Gin is made by distilling any grain base to create a neutral spirit. The liquor goes through fermentation and then distillation, usually done multiple times to remove most of the flavor. Water is added to the end product to bring the alcohol level down to 40 percent, and then it’s blended with botanicals such as citrus, coriander, black pepper, and of course, the juniper berry to create the desired taste.
Gin is made in three ways:
- Distilled gin – the botanicals, including the juniper berries, are distilled together with the fermented base spirit
- Redistilled gin – the distilled base spirit goes through a redistillation process, this time with the botanicals like lemon peel, etc.
- Compound gin – the base spirit is mixed with the botanicals
The star of this liquor is juniper berries. Many distillers include this in their initial mash (made from grains like rye, barley, or wheat) to bring out the pine flavors even more. Without juniper berries, there is no gin.
Botanicals are added once the mash is ready. The array of botanicals used for flavoring is extensive — citrus peel adds zest, coriander is nutty and spicy, cardamom is aromatic, licorice gives a sugary flavor, and nutmeg is warming.
Regional Gin Style Guides
Several styles of gin are available, depending on the region they’re from. These present a distinct flavor profile unique only to that region.
London Dry Gin
Contrary to the name, this dry gin does not have to come from England. This is gin at its face value — no artificial ingredients added in the distillation process. Only water, sugar, and neutral grain spirits are added after distillation.
Gin lovers adore the iconic blue bottle of the Bombay Sapphire with its citrus notes and fragrant spices. This brand of dry gin is known to be an excellent quality gin and has been around for over three decades.
A bottle of Plymouth gin has to come only from Plymouth, England. A bottle of this good gin is produced by one of the oldest distilleries in all of the UK. It tastes pretty similar to the aforementioned variant but more earthy — due to the infused angelica and orris root.
New American/Western Gin
These gins are made everywhere in the world. Although the juniper flavor is still present, this gin is more liberal — they allow other flavors (like citrus and ginger) to take the front seat. New Amsterdam, from Modesto, California, is a sweet gin with the fresh flavors of orange, lime, vanilla, and the traditional juniper.
Old Tom Gin
Old Tom gin got its name from the Tom Collins cocktail made from gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water. It is often described as the sweet gin and works well in mixed drinks and cocktails.
Best Brands Information Price Guide
|Hendrick’s||Scotland||Standard||Modern||41%||Starts at around $27|
|Gordon’s||USA||Budget||London dry gin||40%||Starts at around $13|
|Tanqueray||England||Standard||London dry gin||47%||Starts at around $22|
|Piger Henricus||Canada||Premium||Traditional dry||43%||Starts at around $45|
|Bombay||England||Standard||London dry gin||47%||Starts at around $22|
|Boodles||Scotland||Standard||Traditional dry||45%||Starts at around $21|
|Beefeater||England||Budget||London dry gin||47%||Starts at around $18|
|Monkey 47||Germany||Premium||Modern||47%||Starts at around $69|
|Seagram’s||USA||Budget||Traditional dry||40%||Starts at around $12|
|The Botanist||Scotland||Premium||Traditional dry||46%||Starts at around $40|
|New Amsterdam||USA||Budget||Traditional dry||40%||Starts at around $11|
|Bulldog||England||Standard||London dry gin||40%||Starts at around $25|
|Plymouth||England||Standard||Traditional dry||41%||Starts at around $30|
|Nolet’s||Netherlands||Premium||Modern||47%||Starts at around $44|
|Aviation||USA||Standard||Genever||42%||Starts at around $30|
|Bluecoat||USA||Standard||Modern||47%||Starts at around $30|
|Roku||Japan||Standard||London dry gin||47%||Starts at around $25|
|Opihr||England||Standard||London dry gin||40%||Starts at around $28|
|Malfy||Italy||Standard||London dry gin||41%||Starts at around $24|
|Sipsmith||England||Premium||London dry gin||41%||Starts at around $45|
Just like whiskey or beer, the laws governing gins depend on where they’re made. Different requirements are present in the EU, USA, and Canada legislation, but they all share one commonality: the gin’s taste should predominantly be of juniper, and there is an ABV of no less than 37 percent.
Factors That Affect Price
Gin’s price range is wide, from more budget-friendly gins such as USA’s New Amsterdam and Gordon’s to the more expensive gin like Monkey 47 from Germany. Although gins are made from similar base ingredients, some factors make some gins higher in price than others.
Gin doesn’t particularly need aging since the flavors are already added to the distillation process, unlike other liquors such as whiskey. Some gins are aged up to six months before they’re bottled, but most don’t require this step.
Some botanicals infused in the gin are rare and exclusive, thus the heftier price tag. Germany’s Monkey 47 takes woodsy to a whole new level — this full-bodied gin smells like someone bottled the entire forest. Monkey 47 gets its name from the 47 exotic botanicals acquired from the Black Forest in Germany — expect an explosion of flavors with each sip.
Small, craft-style distilleries have emerged in the past years to produce an unusual gin with a wide range of premium ingredients that is incomparable from mass-produced gins.
The Botanist, produced in the Bruichladdich Distillery in Scotland, includes 31 botanicals locally foraged from the Isle of Islay. Mix in this gin with some orange or lime juice and cinnamon syrup, and you’ve got yourself the recipe for a gin gimlet cocktail.
1. Can you drink gin straight?
Yes, you can drink your gin straight. Like with other spirits, each sip will let you detect and appreciate the unique flavors without the distraction of other flavors.
Gin Mare is a London dry gin infused with Mediterranean botanicals, including Arbequina olives. It is herbal with a hint of spice at the finish and is excellent for drinking neat.
2. Is gin stronger than vodka?
No, it’s not. Gins usually have an ABV of 37.5 percent, which is slightly lower than vodka’s ABV. Vodka is considered one of the strongest drinks, with an ABV ranging anywhere from 40 to 90 percent.
3. What mixes well with gin?
Lots of flavors mix well with gins but none as popular as the gin and tonic water. Some would even argue that gin and tonic water taste better together than they do individually. Soda water can also be substituted in the same recipe.
Fresh ginger ale is a worthy contender. The gin buck is a simple cocktail made with only three ingredients: gin, ginger ale, and lemon juice, and served with ice.
And, of course, the classic martini, James Bond’s favorite drink. Stir together equal parts gin and dry vermouth (we recommend Sipsmith and Dolin) and garnish with an olive or cucumber to make a delicious martini.
4. Does gin go well with cola?
Yes, and they make delicious cocktails! Use the correct ratio for your recipe (one part gin to two parts cola), so the flavors complement one another. You can add a lime wedge to balance the sweetness.
5. Can you drink gin on the rocks?
Yes, of course! If you want to enjoy the unique flavors of your gin truly, there’s nothing wrong with drinking it without any additional flavoring. Just like drinking it neat, drinking gin on the rocks lets you savor the subtle nuances in your palate with just the slight dilution of the ice cubes.
Choosing & Ranking Your Gin
If gin is unfamiliar to your palate, it can be quite intimidating to get into. Choosing and ranking your favorite gin is ultimately personal. Plenty of various botanicals and flavor profiles, each reflecting the unique craftsmanship of the distiller, is present in popular gin brands.
It’s also not safe to assume that just because the price tag is cheap, it automatically means bad gin!
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds!