A Beginner’s Guide to Gin
It’s a love of craft spirits that unites us here at Sip & Share, and it appears gin is a firm favourite amongst our members. We’re not gin experts expecting you to be connoisseurs on the subject. We just love sharing new brands with you and learning more about this versatile spirit. We’re on a gin discovery together.
So let’s go back to basics and start with a good old gintroduction!
Where’s gin from?
Gin, in some kind of form, has been around since the Middle Ages. It’s based on a drink called Jenever made from juniper berries and is the traditional spirit of Belgium and the Netherlands.
Originally sold as herbal medicine, British soldiers drank it for ‘Dutch Courage’ during the 30-year war and brought it back to the UK.
What’s it made from?
All gins start off as a neutral spirit made from usually a grain – wheat, barley or rye. This spirit is then infused with a range of botanicals to add specific flavours.
Despite the diversity of gin available, all gin contains juniper. It’s the one botanical that must be added to make the drink gin.
What are the popular botanicals?
After juniper, distillers have an almost free range of botanicals they can use in their gin. But some botanicals are more popular than others.
Coriander seeds are the second most used botanical after juniper. They add a citrusy, nutty flavour with a little spice.
Angelica root is also commonly used. It provides an earthy flavour to the gin.
And we all know that citrus is a great flavour to add to gin. Lemon peel is also regularly used to add a sweet, zesty flavour.
Types of Gin
There are 5 main categories of gin.
London Dry Gin
This gin is the one most people think of when they think gin. It originates from England and is the gin most commonly used in a classic G&T and Martini. Confusingly, it doesn’t have to be made in the capital for it to be a London Dry Gin. Distillers do have to follow some quite strict guidelines, though, for it to be a London Dry.
The base spirit must be distilled to a neutral spirit of 96% AV, and all the flavours must be added through distillation. Flavours should be natural so nothing synthetic can be added, and nothing, apart from water and a tiny bit of sugar, can be added after the distillation process.
To see some of the London Dry Gins we have on offer, click here
Old Tom Gin
Notoriously popular in the 1800s, Old Tom Gin is sweeter than other gins. Juniper is still the core ingredient, but there doesn’t seem to be any other rules to making it. Some are aged, some aren’t. Some have sugar added, some don’t. No matter how it’s made, Old Tom Gin is perfect for cocktails due to its softer flavours.
According to the gin rule book, this gin can only be made in Plymouth. It’s drier and earthier than London Gin but also sweeter due to the citrus flavours. There are 7 botanicals in Plymouth Gin – juniper, cardamom, coriander seeds, orris root, dried orange peel and angelica root.
New Wave Gin
There’s now a new breed of distiller creating exciting and different types of gin. Focusing less on the juniper flavour, these craft distillers’ experiment with other aromatics like floral botanicals, citrus flavours and even cucumber.
Here are a few we currently have in our shop
Often described as a cross between whisky and gin, Genever is always made from grains like rye, malted barley or corn. Again, the predominant botanical is juniper – genever is Dutch for juniper.
How to mix?
Tonic water has become the mix of choice when drinking gin. But did you know you can move beyond the old G&T and experiment with other mixers? Here are some of our faves:
- Ginger beer – great with a spiced gin
- Lime – who doesn’t love a gimlet?
- Grapefruit juice – more zesty citrus flavours
- Pink lemonade – refreshingly perfect for summer drinks
- Soda water – similar to tonic water but more zest and less bitterness
- Elderflower cordial – delicate and floral and an excellent alternative to white wine
- Tomato juice – add some lemon juice and a dash of Worcester sauce, and it’s a Red Snapper
Where to start?
There’s so much more to gin, and knowing where to start and what to choose can be tricky. That’s why so many people stick with the gin and tonic they’ve always drunk.
But at Sip & Share, we say experiment. Try new gins. Try new mixers. It’s all part of the fun.
Follow us on Instagram, and you’ll see Kate talking to distillers and brands, doing live tastings and just exploring the different gins on offer.