Gin: What Is It & How Is It Made?

New to gin? Read our expert guide find out everything you need to know to become a true gin connoisseur.

What is Gin?

Gin is a juniper-flavoured spirit with a minimum alcohol by volume (ABV) of at least 37.5% in the EU or 40% in the United States. It is produced from a neutral-flavoured base (this can be made from a range of ingredients including corn, rye, barley) which is then infused with a unique combination of botanicals.

What Are Botanicals?

Gins are mixed with a combination of botanicals to give a distinctive flavour. Most gins have somewhere around six and twelve botanicals; however, some brands boast up to 30. The sheer variety of unique botanical combinations available make gin one of the most diverse and versatile spirits on the market. Some examples of commonly used botanicals include:

• Spices: Cinnamon, Cardamom, Ginger, Nutmeg
• Roots: Angelica, Orris, Liquorice
• Seeds: Coriander, Angelica, Carraway
• Herbs: Basil, Sage, Rosemary
• Flowers: Chamomile, Lavender, Elderflower
• Fruits: Lemon, Orange, Sloe Berries

Gin: A Cocktail Essential

Ever since the invention of cocktails in the 1860s, gin has remained a drinks cabinet essential. Favoured for its versatility and ability to mix well with other ingredients, gin is a key component of countless classic cocktail recipes. In fact, drinks experts attribute the rising popularity of gin to that recent cocktail revival that has taken place over the past decade. What’s more, the emergence of hundreds of new craft distilleries around the world means that today’s mixologists can flavour their cocktails with a diverse array of craft gins.

The 3 Methods of Gin Production

    1. Compound Distillation (Non-Distilled):
      Compound distillation is the simplest method of making gin. It basically involves flavouring the gin with natural flavours without redistilling it. Gin produced by this method is also called “Bathtub Gin”, as this was the method of choice for many Americans during the Prohibition era.
    2. Pot Distillation:
      The base spirit is added into a copper pot still and then the alcohol levels are reduced with water. The spirit is then distilled a second time with botanicals to give it a unique flavour. This is the oldest method of producing distilled gin and is still used by many brands today.
    3. Column Distillation:
      The most modern gin production method, column distillation is the preferred method for large-scale production. You start off by creating a very concentrated spirit which is then redistilled by placing juniper berries and botanicals in a pot still.


A brief history of Gin

The 4 Types of Gin

1. London Dry
The most popular style of gin in the world, most gins are made in the London Dry style. London Dry gins are known for their pungent juniper flavour which tastes “dry” (i.e. not sweet) due to the lack of sugar. Although this style originated in London, it is now produced by brands all over the world.
2. Plymouth Gin
Sweeter than London Dry, Plymouth gin has quite an earthy taste. This is a result of the high amount of root ingredients. Up until 2015, this style of gin had to be made in Plymouth due to a Protected Geographical Indication.
3. Old Tom
Old Tom gin boasts a sweet flavour which comes from the addition of malts or sugar in the re-distillation process. Popular in the 18th and 19th century, this gin eventually fell out of fashion but is now making a comeback due to the growing interested in vintage cocktail recipes.
4. Genever or Dutch Gin
The forefather of London Dry, Genever (or, “Dutch gin”) can be traced back to the 16th-century Netherlands. Rather than using a cereal grains mix, Genever is made from malt grains such as barley, wheat, spelt and rye. This gives the spirit a darker colour and a whiskey-like flavour.
European law mandates that this style of gin can only be produced in the Netherlands or Belgium.

via GIPHY

Discover More About Gin

“Fortunately there is gin, the sole glimmer in this darkness. Do you feel the golden, copper-coloured light it kindles in you? I like walking through the city of an evening in the warmth of gin.”
– Albert Camus, French philosopher & writer

If you are interested in learning more about gin, then you should take a look at our infographic below. This useful guide provides a comprehensive beginner’s guide to gin and goes over everything you need to know about the juniper-flavoured spirit. It also includes recipes for five classic gin cocktails including Gin Martinis, Gimlets, Negronis, Tom Collins and Aviations.

Scroll down to the infographic below, “The Savvy Cocktailer’s Guide to Gin”, to find out more.

The Savvy Cocktailer’s Guide to Gin

Liked this? Read our beginner’s guide to wine.

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