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Feeling Ginspired? A Beginner's Guide to Gin, Gin Styles and Which Gins to Try First!


Ah, gin – the juniper-infused elixir that has been a favorite among cocktail enthusiasts for centuries. But what exactly is gin? At its core, gin is a distilled spirit that derives its primary flavor from juniper berries. The beauty of gin lies in its versatility; it serves as the canvas for a myriad of cocktails. Compared to other types of spirits like whisky or rum, gin tends to have a slightly earthier accent and lighter body.

How is Gin Made?

Gin, like all great spirits, begins with a base of neutral alcohol. The magic happens when botanicals, led by the juniper berry, join the party. These botanicals can be infused into the gin either through direct maceration (steeping in the spirit), or vapor infusion, or both!

These botanicals can include herbs, spices, fruits, and roots, creating a botanical orchestra that plays across your taste buds. While traditionally juniper was added to be the most dominant flavour in the spirit, these days, more contemporary gin distilleries are differentiating their gins based on the other unique botanicals they curate and throw into the mix (think cheese, gunpowder tea and even seaweed!).

Types of Gin Styles: And Popular Picks In Each Category! 

Gin comes in different styles, each with its own character. Here are the primary types you might encounter:

London Dry Gin

This classic style is known for its crisp and dry taste, and the hallmark of any true London Dry Gin is the dominance of juniper in its flavor profile. Contrary to its name, it doesn't have to be made in London, but what it does mean is that no sugar or additives can be added to the gin during distillation, ensuring that the purity of only the chosen botanicals shines through.

A popular London Dry Gin to try is Tanqueray London Dry (read our review here), celebrated for its bold juniper flavor and citrusy undertones. Another craft gin to try is the Never Never Triple Juniper Gin (read our review here), which in fuses the bright and earthy qualities of juniper using three different distillation processes.

Sloe Gin

Technically seen as a gin liqueur, Sloe Gin is a unique and sweet variation in the gin family, crafted by infusing sloe berries, a close relative of plums, into a base gin, typically a London Dry. The berries undergo a patient maceration process, imparting a tart and fruity flavor to the spirit. After infusion, sugar is added to achieve a balance of sweetness and tartness. Known for its versatility, Sloe Gin shines in cocktails like the Sloe Gin Fizz and Negroni, while also offering a pleasant sipping experience on its own.

Monkey 47 Sloe Gin (read our review here), Sipsmith Sloe Gin and Elephant Sloe Gin are great options for  that are perfect for sipping. As a bonus, try the Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin (read our review here). This is not really a sloe gin, as its made by steeping shiraz grapes in their classic dry gin, but it's nonetheless a beloved pick that will appeal to any sloe gin enthusiast.

Old Tom Gin

A bridge between Genever and London Dry, Old Tom is a slightly sweeter style that has been making a comeback in the cocktail scene. Named after the iconic tomcat-shaped plaques that once adorned British pubs, Old Tom Gin was popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, as sugar was often added to mask the harshness of inferior distillates. Today, the sweetness is a deliberate choice, creating a more approachable and versatile spirit that stands out from the crisp dryness of London Dry Gins. 

Give Bathtub Gin Old Tom a go for a taste of this traditional yet versatile variant. Meanwhile, Del Professore Old Tom Gin is also another good choice for an Old Tom that has a balanced sweetness without becoming too cloying!

New Western or Contemporary Gin

Breaking away from tradition, this style emphasises non-juniper botanicals, resulting in more diverse and experimental flavour profiles. Hendrick's Gin (read our review here) is a prime example, with its infusion of rose and cucumber, offering a delightful and delicate departure from the norm. Meanwhile, Monkey 47 (read our review here) is a German gin brand that’s known for using a whooping 47 different botanicals to evoke the flavours and scents of the black forest. Another brand that is associated as a vocal proponent for New Western style gin is incidentally also Aviation Gin (yes, the gin brand owned by Ryan Reynolds). 

Navy Strength Gin 

Historically, this gin had to be high-proof to ensure its flammability would not be compromised if spilled on gunpowder. Today, it's appreciated for its bold flavors. A good option is the Plymouth Navy Strength Gin, a robust choice for adventurous palates, or the Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin, which has some punchiness that’s well balanced with peppery, orange accents. 

Ways to Serve and Drink Gin

Gin is a chameleon that adapts to various mixers and garnishes. Whether you prefer a classic Gin and Tonic, a refreshing Tom Collins, or an elegant Martini, gin plays well with others. Here are a few ways to enhance your gin experience:

Gin and Tonic: The classic. Mix your favorite gin with tonic water over ice and garnish with a slice of lime or a sprig of fresh herbs.

Martini: Stir or shake gin with dry vermouth, and garnish with an olive or lemon twist. Adjust the ratio to suit your taste preferences.

Negroni: Equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Stir over ice and garnish with an orange twist. 

Gimlet: Mix gin with lime juice and simple syrup. Shake over ice and strain into a glass for a zesty and refreshing cocktail.

Bonus Tip From A Pro: How To Pair Your Gins! 

When experimenting with garnishes or different tonics to pair with your gin, while the immediate impulse may be to pair a citrusy gin with a citrus garnish, consider pairing your gin with a tonic or garnish that is on the opposite spectrum of flavour instead? 

Yana Keller, head bartender and gin researcher at Atlas Bar, shares: "for example, if you have a citrusy gin, I wouldn’t recommend pairing it with a tonics like Yuzu Tonics or Indian Tonics that has a lot of citrus characters. Rather, something more savoury might work. Another example is if you’re drinking a fruity gin, rather than adding more fruit to it, you can think about adding a bit of spice to enhance the other botanicals in the gin. I might add a ginger ale instead of tonic water to a fruity gin." 

| Read more: How a Gin Researcher Curates the Gin on Atlas' Gin Tower, The World's Largest Collection of Gins

Remember, the joy of gin lies in the exploration. Don't be afraid to experiment with different mixers, ratios, and garnishes until you find your perfect pour. Cheers to your newfound gin journey!

 

Happy sipping!

@lotusroot518