Bombay sapphire gin on a table with plants in the background Beside the bombay bottle is a cocktail glass with a lemon and straw in it. Ice on the table in front of the bottle.
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Everything You Need to Know About Gin

You’ve probably heard of gin, but what exactly is it? In this article, we’re going to go in-depth about everything there is to know about gin. Along with a step-by-step process of how it’s made, we’ll also tell you some of our own favourites!

What is Gin?

Gin’s dictionary definition is that of a neutral grain spirit with a predominant juniper flavour re-distilled with botanicals. The only thing that all gins have in common is the juniper berry, but gins come in a variety of ways through that distinctive pine-y’ taste. There is no prescribed ratio, no amount of juniper required by law; the description simply states “predominant juniper flavour.” Other popular gin botanicals include coriander, citrus peels (bitter orange, lemon, grapefruit), angelica root and seed, licorice, orris root, bitter almonds, nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise, to name but a few.

The four main Gin styles:

Glass of gin with lemons in it and 2 straws. Plant in the background on a black table

London Dry Gin:

A style called London Dry Gin is the one that is best known as “gin” and most widely available. Interestingly, a London Dry does not have to be made in London but is created by re-distilling its juniper flavour with botanicals from neutral spirits (grain alcohol), with nothing added after the re-distillation process. Many cocktail historians and urban cocktail legend suppliers claim that the source of the term “dry martini” does not come from the amount of vermouth applied to the drink but from a shortening of the “London Dry Martini” order.

Dutch Genever:

The Dutch Genever is another gin style, and history says it’s the first style. A genever starts with a malted grain mash instead of beginning with a neutral grain spirit, more like whiskey. The method is ideal for barrel-ageing, although producing English gins is a very fast process, often taking no more than one day. Lately, the soft yellow spirit has made a comeback.

Old Tom:

Glass of gin with lemons in it and 2 straws. On a black table with a oak wood background

Old Tom gin is yet another style which, until recently, has fallen out of favour and out of production. In the course of re-distillation, Old Toms are distinguished by sugar that makes them sweeter than a London Dry.

Compound Gin:

The last gin style, compound gin, was arguably the most prevalent in the early days of gin development when it was the lower classes and out-of-work beverage of choice. Compound gin derives its flavour from essences that, without re-distillation, are applied to neutral grain spirits. One of those “essences” was turpentine in the cheapest swill. But even this gin style is getting somewhat of a modern-day revival. Hendricks is a type of compound gin: signature cucumber and rose petal essences are too delicate for the process of re-distillation and are re-distilled with neutral spirits after the other more traditional botanicals.

Glass of gin with a straw in it.  The glass in on a picnic table with a napkin underneath it. Tropical background with palm trees

The history of gin:

Gin was originally produced as a medication, just like many things (Coca-Cola and heroin immediately spring to mind). It was marketed to treat illnesses such as gout and dyspepsia by “chemists.” Consumed in large enough quantities, it likely did help ameliorate perception of the symptoms associated with these issues and many others, such as “Coward’s Fist,” though only for a few hours at a time. Gin gained popularity in the Thirty Years War, when British soldiers fighting on Dutch soil were bolstered by, you know, drinking gin, giving them “Dutch Courage.”

It didn’t take long for gin to make its way across the English Channel. Gin quickly gained popularity in England in the latter half of the 17th century and in the early years of the 18th century, cementing the connection that it still enjoys with that country. Yes, some experts estimate that as many as a quarter of London households made their own gin regularly by the year 1720. The time in the history of the storied city was known as “The Gin Craze,” an era that was so amazing Parliament had to pass no less than five major legislative acts over 22 years in a vain attempt to curb the consumption of gin by the population Gin has seen a resurgence of popularity in the modern era as mixology has gone mainstream. 

three 26 ounce bottles on a table in a tropical location. Beach and ocean in the background

Many types of gin, such as Bombay Sapphire, a variety made with no less than 10 “botanicals,” like juniper and lemongrass, can be enjoyed neat or on rocks. Other gins are ideal for cocktail mixing. Tanqueray comes immediately to mind: for almost 200 years now it has been distilled according to the same basic recipe. And this makes it a relative rookie for the record. Since the early 1700s, many distilleries have produced the same type of gin. And there you have it the complete history of Gin.

How is Gin made?

Step by step:

Step one:

A Neutral Alcohol.

The vast majority of gin is made from grain or molasses to provide a neutral alcohol base. For grain alcohol, mash usually consists of a mixture of grains like corn (75%), barley (15%) and other grains (10%) like rye. Many gin producers buy this neutral alcohol from a separate entity instead of making it in house.

Glass of alcohol with ice and a lemon in it. Black background

Step Two:

Production methods.

Distilled gin’: this process allows high-quality gins to be made. Distillation happens in abundance, still using a pot still. This is still heated by steam through resistance in the boiler’s base. This puts neutral alcohol in the furnace, which is reduced to between 45-60%. When the alcohol begins to boil, the tastes of the berries and the aromatic plants impregnate the steam. The distillation heads and tails are less pure and are recycled and then re-distilled, while the middle cut is transferred to the bottling center to be diluted and bottled.

Infusion flavouring: it involves inserting all the flavoured herbs, juniper berries, and spices either in a cotton pouch hanging in the still above the liquor, or in a’ perforated compartment’ at the top of the still. Upon contact, the infusion occurs and the alcohol vapour is impregnated with flavourings released by the aromatic plants.

Bombay sapphire gin on a table with plants in the background Beside the bombay bottle is a cocktail glass with a lemon and straw in it. Ice on the table in front of the bottle.

Maceration flavouring: Involves the maceration in neutral alcohol of juniper berries, aromatic plants, and spices at 45 percent, either by allowing everything to soak freely in alcohol or by inserting everything in cotton bags for 24 to 48 hours. Before distillation, several distilleries process the mixture to isolate the medicinal plants from the alcohol. Some distill the whole solution, creating a drink that is especially spicy.

Compound gin’: this method is based on combining neutral alcohol (usually from molasses) with either a concentrated gin flavouring (cold compounding) or synthetic juniper berry, spice and aromatic plant essences (compound essence). There is no redistillation when using this method. It is used primarily for bulk gin production.

Bottle of stockholms branneri dry gin on a log

Step three:

Diluting and filtering

Once the alcohol has been diluted, it is left to sit in the vat for a few hours, then its alcohol content is gradually reduced to the target percentage by dilution. Cold filtration can be achieved by cooling the spirit to-2 ° C, then going through a cellulose screen to eliminate any suspended particles. Certain methods for filtration, such as activated carbon, can also be used by allowing the spirit to pass through a carbon layer.

Top Gin Picks by The Daily Drink Staff

In no particular order:

Bombay Sapphire:

Bombay Sapphire is an omnipresent and easy-to-drink gin, but that’s not to shame its quality. The distillery “vapour infuses” flavours such as juniper, licorice, and almond in the liquor as it vaporizes and increases in the still. This may not be the most exciting gin on the market, but that’s not why you drink it — you’re drinking it because it’s familiar, and with it, you can make a great martini. Two other terms are available: Bombay Sapphire East, made from Asian botanicals, and Bombay Dry Gin, made from only eight botanicals. Bombay Sapphire is among the most common gin for us over at The Daily Drink.

Six bottles of bombay sapphire gin lined up on a white table

Gordon’s:

Gordon’s was reputed to be the favourite gin of Hemingway, whether you’re drinking it from a plastic handle or a more sophisticated 750ml glass bottle, this brand is simplistic, satisfying, and inexpensive. You’ll find big juniper notes to round things out with some garden herbs and black pepper. For any event, it’s the ideal martini gin. Gordons is yet another gin some of our staff love to enjoy regularly.

Case of gordons london dry gin on a shelf. Yellow bottles of gin

Beefeater:

Beefeater is a popular dry gin from London, with a juniper-and citrus-forward recipe dating back to the 1860s when James Burrough began distilling gin in London. For 24 hours before distillation, the botanicals are steeped in a neutral grain spirit. Besides the original Beefeater, there is also Beefeater 24, made with extra botanicals such as Japanese sencha and Chinese green tea; Burrough’s Reserve Edition 2, resting in red and white Bordeaux barrels to pick up colour and flavour; and the new, the strawberry-flavoured Beefeater Pink.

All different sizes of beefeater gin on a tile floor. 23 total bottles of gin

Plymouth:

Plymouth Gin has been produced since the late 18th century at the historic Black Friars Distillery. Juniper, lemon peel, and angelica root are included in the botanical blend, resulting in a basic but sweet spirit that works well in many cocktails. Consider the Navy Power, which is bottled at 57 percent ABV, if you’re looking for something that packs a little more punch, allowing it to shine more when mixed with other ingredients.

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