A gin and tonic is one of the most common and beloved drinks around the world, and certainly one of the most popular in the U.S., it is impossible to deny. Those who love their gin are lucky because there are so many varieties out there to choose from. The old classics that have been used for generations are still as popular as ever, and new versions continue to be made every year.

Because there are so many to choose from, it is easy to find one you will like. Regardless of whether you like it on the rocks, or in a classic martini, there is bound to be something you will love. Before getting yourself a bottle, however, there are some important features of gin to keep in mind if you really want to find the perfect one for you. If you want to learn more about the best gins on the U.S. market, the below article will be of help.

Key Facts

  • Gin is typically made in Holland and Eland. Dutch gins are stronger and tend to be referred to as “juniper flavored drink.” It technically isn’t gin, but is actually equ-de-vie with a juniper berry aroma. It’s very strong and tends to taste awful.
  • There are so many different kinds of gin. They all have unique flavors and aromas. There are citrus, fruity, herbal, spicy and floral aromas. Keep the flavoring and aroma in mind before choosing a gin.
  • Gin is unique among spirits because it is not very often consumed straight up. While it has a unique taste, people don’t generally like it straight. Most people prefer it in a cocktail or mixed drink.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about Gin

Gin has been around for a long time. First consumed in London, it is one of the world’s best-selling and most beloved spirits. Below are some commonly asked consumer questions to give you a better understanding of this drink and to make getting the right one for you easier.

Next time you find yourself in a bar, don’t think twice, ask for gin
(Source: Feseko: 99690276/ 123rf.com).

What is gin?

Gin was actually inspired by a Dutch liqueur called jenever, which is flavored with juniper berries. It is high in alcohol (between 37 to 47 per cent). It is made by distilling unmalted barley, which is then flavored and aromatized with cardamom, angelica and other herbs. Its unique scent is thanks to iris, orange peel, and cassia bark.

There are a number of variations, however, based on the fermentation/production process. Gin is, perhaps, most famous for being the main half of the gin and tonic cocktail. This drink is made by mixing gin, tonic, ice, and often a slice of lime.

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The gin and tonic’s history dates back to British colonialism, and its main ingredients – tonic (which originally contained the malaria-fighting compound quinine) and lime (which helped prevent scurvy) – were included for both health and taste purposes.

Where is gin made?

Gin is originally a Dutch drink, and the first records of juniper berry distillation are Dutch. Following that, German physicians began using juniper liqueur for medical reasons. From there it made its way to England, where it was distilled in both Plymouth and London, eventually going on to become the world’s favorite cocktail.

Every location that distilled gin had its own method. In Holland and Germany, for Instance, it was made by distilling steam from pure alcohols. In England, it was made in the traditional way. In Plymouth (England) sulphuric acid was added, Bombay Saphire is flavored with almonds, liquorice and lily root from Florence (Italy). As you can see, each gin is different.

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Thanks to its popularity, gin is now made artisanally and in small batches in distilleries around the world, including some very good ones right here in the U.S.

How is gin made?

Dutch malt is produced from a third of crushed, fermented and rectified malt. Alcohol is added and then distilled. Flavorings and aromas are then added to the mixture and it is distilled a second time. This creates a product with an alcohol percentage of between 43 and 44 per cent. Quite a strong gin!

British gin, on the other hand, is made by adding to the mixture a high percentage of alcohol, and thus the gin loses its flavor. This is then diluted with water and left in containers that contain flavor and aroma intensifying agents. Just as it is in Holland, British gin is then distilled a second time. After a number of additional reductions, you get the British gin that is so popular in the U.S., which has an alcohol content of between 40 and 47 per cent.

What’s gin made of?

Gin is made from unmalted barley and juniper. Gin’s main ingredient is the famous juniper berry. The juniper flavor is what gives gin its signature flavor. Most of the popular gins are also made with blackthorn berries.

The big distilleries then mix the base product with other natural flavors and aromas to enhance this liquor. In England, it’s common to use strawberries and other ingredients. These include things like angelica root, coriander, almonds, cardamom, cassia root, aniseed and orange peel. Lemon or coriander is used to give a touch of citrus.

Winston ChurchillFormer British Prime Minister

“The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”

How many types of gin are there?

Gin is a highly personal gin, and people either love it or hate it. It is clear in color, and a taste that works well with many combinations. It is hard to know just how many different gins there are in the world, but below is a list of the different types, according to experts:

  • Juniper-flavored spirits: This is actually juniper-flavored eau-de-vie. They are considered to be gin, although they technically are not. To make this drink, eau-de-vie is flavored with juniper berries. Common or red juniper berries are used.
  • Gin: This is made with common juniper berries and ethyl alcohol from sugar cane. Its main flavor is that of juniper berries. Botanical aromas are then infused during distillation.
  • Distilled Gin: Distilled gins differ from the above gins because they are aromatized prior to distillation. It must also have a minimum alcohol content of 96 per cent.
  • London Gin: Also known as London Dry Gin. This is the most commercially successful gin around the world. It is dry and lacks colorants, sweeteners, and additives. These gins are flavored using traditional stills. Like distilled gin, it is distilled after being aromatized and flavors.

Gin is ideal for mixing with mineral water and a little lemon
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How do you drink gin?

Unlike most other spirits, people don’t typically drink gin straight. Some of the high-end gins, however, are consumed straight by true gin lovers, usually with a slice of lemon, lime, or cucumber. These gins tend to be much smoother and contain more aromas and natural flavors. Because gin is both dry and fresh, it is a great liquor to mix.

Gin is used in the famous dry martini that James Bond drinks. It is also found in the popular Gin Fizz. A Gin Rickey is a simple combination of gin with soda and ice, which is further mixed with orange juice and lemon soda. However, we can not forget the most famous of them all, the Gin and Tonic.

Ernest HemingwayFamous American Writer

“Don’t you drink? I notice you speak slightingly of the bottle. I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure. When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like gin?”

How can I tell it is a premium gin?

By just looking at the bottle you should be able to tell a premium gin from a normal one. It is that easy. Most of the bottles of premium gin look like works of art. Another primary difference is price.

As with many drinks, water is a primary ingredient. Premium brands use high quality filtered water. Some get their water from isolated springs and glaciers. This is just one of the differences between normal and premium gins.

How many gin botanical bases are there?

Another way to categorize gin is by their botanical bases. The “botanical base” is the combination of ingredients used to aromatize a gin. Each region, brand, and type of gin uses different ingredients.

Although some products are used for all types of gins, some are used only for one type. Below is a table containing the different types of botanical bases out there:

Botanical bases for gin Aroma Flavor Nuance
Classic Juniper Fresh and dry Juniper
Predominately citrus Citrus aromas prevail Sweetness Grapefruit, orange, lemon, mandarin and lime
Herbal Botanical with notes of grass and a very intense aroma Fresh and pleasant flavor Mint, basil, rosemary and thyme
Floral Mild floral aroma Intense and sweet flavor, less dry than others Lilies, roses, violets, geranium and jasmine
Fruit Pleasant aroma of berry fruits Flavor of red fruits and berries Grape, strawberry and apple
Spicy Wide range of aromas Intense spicy flavor, with cinnamon Cinnamon, pepper, angelica root and nutmeg

What other uses does gin have?

Gin is much more than just a simple drink. Gin is also great for cleaning glass, so having some around the house is practical. It is also one of the ingredients in English meatloaf. Gin is added to the mixture because it evaporates less than water, thereby keeping the meatloaf texture more consistent.

Gin is also a good aftershave and disinfectant. As previously mentioned, gin was also used to treat malaria and the limes helped prevent scurvy. It can be used to fight colds and the flu, and it has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties too.

Shopping Criteria

Below we will delve into some of the most important shopping criteria to keep in mind when buying a bottle of gin. Knowing what to look for and which criteria to apply to your purchase will let you get the best bottle, at the best price. There is so much selection on the market, that knowing how to wade through it all is important. These main criteria are:

  • Type of gin
  • Botanical classification
  • Presentation
  • Beneficial properties
  • Opinions
  • Use
  • Distillery
  • Alcohol content

Type of gin

As previously explained, there are a few different kinds of gin on the market. The first kind is more of a juniper-flavored brandy than a true gin.

The second kind of common gin is that made of common juniper berries and flavored with botanicals. It is made with 96 per cent distilled alcohol and is of agricultural origin. This gin is distilled and flavored throughout the production process.

The last type of gin is London Dry Gin, the most commercialised and consumed. It is the usual dry gin, free of colorants, sweeteners and additives. The aromas are added by using traditional botanical products.

Gin and tonic is a cocktail made with gin that has gained major popularity in recent years
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Botanical classification

The taste and aroma of gin are a factor that you can’t ignore when making your choice. In classic gins, the primary flavor is juniper berry. It doesn’t have to be, nor is it often the only one. Many gins combine citrus flavors like lemon, orange, tangerine, and grapefruit. These flavorings make gins better suited for drinking straight up or with a twist.

Herbs are also common flavorings. There is a wide range of different herbal flavors and essences which can be added during the production process. Some of the more common are mint, thyme and rosemary. They make for strong-flavored gins.

Finally, there are also floral flavored gins, although these are much rarer. These can have things like lily and jasmine to give them sweet, light touches. Some gins have fruit tree flavors, and are sweeter than the others.

Presentation

One of the main differences between premium and normal gins is in the presentation of the product. As we know, image is important. It is a factor that influences the price and overall quality of gin. Brands such as Tanqueray or Hendricks take the presentation of their products very seriously. These packages are usually eye-catching and well-designed.

A second aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked is quantity. Another aspect you shouldn’t overlook is quantity. Most often we find gin in 24 or 34-ounce bottles. Some brands make a 25.4-ounce bottle, though it isn’t the norm. Gin doesn’t go bad, so you can buy a larger quantity and it will keep indefinitely.

Beneficial properties

Gin was a medicine before it was a fashionable drink. It is composed of juniper along with plants, spices, flowers and fruits. It was originally used as a remedy for the common flu and cold. Over the years it has always been used as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.

Gin is also an effective remedy against colic and menstrual cramps. It is good at helping soothe a toothache, for relieving gum inflammation, and for combatting stomach swelling. As mentioned, English colonial soldiers used quinine in gin and tonics to help ward off malaria.

Opinions

Always take into account what other consumers have to say about the product you’re purchasing. Many come from experienced gin drinkers who will be able to give you a good idea of what you’re buying. Don’t just rely on product descriptions, as it’s only ever going to be positive.

While taste is subjective, you will still find comments, on aggregate, quite useful. Go over them carefully before purchasing your bottle of gin, as you are likely to get information from commenters that you wouldn’t get from the distillery itself.

Use

Gin is a beverage with a very distinct taste. They tend to be dry liquors, although many have had nice tastes and aromas added to them. They don’t tend to be drinks that are consumed straight up. Some brands, however, make gins that are nice by themselves but accompanied by a piece of lemon peel or cucumber. The most popular way to drink gin, however, is still in a mixed drink.

If you want a good gin for an evening with friends, don’t choose a premium bottle. These are very expensive and are usually better reserved for special cocktails. A London Dry Gin is ideal for mixing with tonic. Many have very unique flavors, so you don’t have to add to many extras.

Distillery

Some brands and distilleries are particularly well known. Tanqueray or Hendricks are some of the most consumed and most respected gin brands. Both make top quality liqueurs and have hundreds of years of experience. Both use time-tested recipes to make a great dry gin. The newer distilleries tend to want to improve upon and innovate the old production process. The old ways continue to be the most popular, however.

Some newer distilleries offer pink gin, which has become incredibly popular. Such gins often have additional flavoring and aromas. It has become quite trendy for new gins to have different colors added to them.

Alcohol Content

Gin usually goes through several distillation processes. In some cases, the original product exceeds 96% alcohol. Agriculturally sourced alcohols are used to make gin, which means this drink is made via the fermentation of vegetable grains. These gins are quite fine and have that distinct traditional taste.

The most common alcohol content for a bottle of gin is between 37% and 47% alcohol. Alcohol content will influence the price of the gin. Higher alcohol content typically means a more expensive bottle of gin. Overall, a great spirit with a high alcohol content that makes a fabulous mixed drink.

Summary

Gin is a uniquely flavored drink, and it speaks to a person’s personality if they’re a drink drinker. The one thing to keep in mind with gin is that it is hard to drink straight. A gin and tonic with a slice of lime, on the other hand, is ideal.

Choosing the best gin is something you should do with care. Always let your tastes and instinct make the decisions for you. If you are looking for something a bit more intense, opt for something with fruit, herbal, or floral flavorings. You can choose your gin based on its unique flavor profile, the price, or simply because it has a nice bottle. Whatever you decide on, if you apply the above criteria to your decision, you will get a great gin that you’ll be quite happy with.

If you enjoyed this buyer’s guide to gin and found it helpful, share it with friends and family on social media. Additionally, you can drop us a comment below and let us know what you think.

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