Our 2021 Gin guide to help you up your drinking game
Do you like gin, but know absolutely nothing about it? We want to help you better understand gin and also, give you the confidence to enjoy your gins and sound like a pro. Check out our easy-to-follow gin guide to getting started.
Special thanks to Tim Laferla from Gin Loot. Read the show notes from the recent interview with Tim.
Before we jump into the specifics, we thought it best to give you a little bit of knowledge about what gin really is in terms of alcohol.
Want to get started on your gin journey, if you’re in Australia, check out our friends at Gin Loot. Get gift cards and more, with a wide and curated selection of some of the tastiest and most exciting gins.
What is gin?
For those who love gin, it has its own distinct flavour and aroma, but do we really know what gives it that uniqueness that we’ve all grown to love. The answer is pretty much the same for almost all the gin in the world – juniper, which is a small, berry-like botanical. In fact, gin has to have juniper in it to be labelled as ‘gin’.
How is gin made?
Behind the scenes on how gin is made
However, the process of making gin does vary a lot depending on the style of gin you want. We won’t bore you with too many details, but enough to know the difference and sound like a real pro.
The process usually begins with a base alcohol that’s distilled – most likely vodka. This liquid is then blended with juniper and other botanicals – citrus, floral or herbal depending on your preference. There are hundreds if not thousands of variations. These natural ingredients steep in the alcohol, releasing their flavours before being distilled again, resulting in a fusion that is gin.
The different processes are as follows:
STEEPING: The original method for making gin, steeping remains a popular choice. This is the use of pots and stills to condense heated alcohol and let the botanicals infuse and then re-steep until you get the desired strength and flavour.
VAPOUR INFUSED GINS: Similar to the steeping process, vapour infused gins also use pots and stills but rely on the alcohol vapours infusing with the botanicals that are suspended over the heated alcohol. It usually creates a lighter flavour to the gin.
VACUUM DISTILLATION: One of the latest methods of distillation, it uses lower heat to ensure a different flavour profile through intact botanicals.
Now, let’s talk about the different types of gins out there.
What are the different types of gin?
What are the main differences that people should know about gin?
- Dry Gin / London Dry Gin – no reference to the actual place (London Dry Gin can actually be made anywhere in the world). To be classified as a London Dry Gin, all botanicals must be distilled, with Juniper being the strongest flavour and nothing other than water added after distillation.
- Old Tom Gin – an old school style of gin that now is similar to London Dry but lightly sweetened.
- Navy Strength Gin – usually a dry style of gin bottled at above 57% (overproof)
- Sloe Gin – a fruity flavoured gin, often quite sweet. Sloe (Hawthorne) Berries are macerated in gin and sugar to give Sloe Gin it’s signature taste.
- Gin Liqueur – not truly a gin, often a much lower alcoholic strength and lots of added sugar.
Tips on picking a good gin?
- It’s all about understanding the flavours you like. A lot of gins will put the botanicals and flavours on the bottle so simply pick out the ones you like!
- Unlike whisky and wine, where you’re trying to pick out abstract flavours like “vanilla, toffee, cherries, citrus peel, etc.” – ingredients that are not in the product. In gin, it is much simpler, because it’s real flavours from real botanicals. So by knowing the botanicals it’s much easier to have an idea of what it actually tastes like.
- Of course, all gin technically must taste like Juniper – a lot of people describe it as pine. Although I tend to steer away from that description as not many people go around chewing on pine! I usually liken it to woody rosemary stems. So all gins will have an element of that in their flavour profile. London Dry Gins tend to be the most juniper heavy.
- Steer away from the real cheap ones. As taxes on spirits tend to be generally quite high after you remove the taxes a lot of those entry-level bottles only have $1-2 left to spend on the actual ingredients, you can’t get good quality ingredients at that price point!
Entry-level option to try
- For the person who doesn’t really like gin: Bombay Sapphire. It gets a bad rap amongst the gin snobs for the light flavour profile, but credit, where credit is due, has to go to Bombay Sapphire. If you’re more of a vodka drinker then Bombay Sapphire is the perfect gateway gin to get you started. Bombay Sapphire paved the way for the gin revolution we know today, turning the vodka craze of the 90s and 2000s into the gin boom of modern times. It’s made in a way that makes it much lighter and easier drinking, and very versatile in any mixed drink.
- Old Reliables: Beefeater and Tanqueray. If you’re in a pub or bar with a limited gin choice you can never go wrong with Tanqueray or Beefeater. These are the gold standards for what London Dry Gin should be at a reasonable price.
- For the new and curious: Hendrick’s Gin – another gin you can find everywhere, which paved the way for the craft gin revolution. That little slice of cucumber transformed the way we think about gin and all the different realms of possibility. People focus on the cucumber but for me, the actual flavour is more about the rose. Go for this if you’re new to gin and like floral flavours.
Tim’s personal favourite gins
I may be biased, but I truly believe that here in Australia we produce some of the world’s best gin that can compete with the best. Here are some of my favourites, in no particular order…
- Applewood Australian Gin
- Never Never Triple Juniper Gin
- Ester Spirits Strong Gin
- Threefold Aromatic Gin
Tips on how to look like a pro
- Gin is a very versatile spirit that you can drink in many different ways. Find your favourite way to drink it – whether that be a specific cocktail, gin and tonic, other mixer or simply on ice then customize it. You can customise it with;
- Calling for specific brands of gin
- Different garnishes
- Different mixers
- Ask for a specific garnish outside of your usual lemon or lime wedge. If you’re not sure what is going to work, ask for a grapefruit or orange wedge. Both work amazingly well with pretty much all gins and are sure to impress with your gin know-how. You can use this no matter what mixer you go with, or even if you want to drink it simply on ice.
How to pair your drink with food
- Gin is a light and generally quite a delicate spirit. Most gin drinks make the ideal aperitif` or served with lighter dishes. You can use the same rules as you would when pairing a white wine.
- The exception to this rule is sweet flavoured and sloe gins. Sip these on ice as a digestif after dinner, or with dessert.
Glasses to drink gin in
- Drink out of whatever you like! But here are the two most common;
- The Highball.
- The traditional straight up and down glass is great for a drink that will stay fresh for as long as possible. The straight up and downsides and narrow surface area, much like a champagne flute, help your drink to stay fizzier and not go flat as fast.
- The Copa
- A big goblet stemmed glass, kind of like a wine glass.
- With the big surface area, it is great for releasing all the aromas from the different botanicals. But there are a couple of words of warning with this glass;
- 1) they tend to be massive – and while we all love gin this can be tempting to completely fill it, but all this will end up in is a warm, watery drink. Only fill it ⅓ of the way, the rest of the space is for all those aromas
- 2) measure your tonic! Otherwise it’s very easy to put too much tonic and drown out the gin, then you won’t even taste the gin.
How to store gin
- That’s an easy one. Gin is made for drinking, so don’t store it for too long ;)
- As with any gin store in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight
- Flavoured gins that have natural colour can change colour over time – the colour breaks down slightly.
- This doesn’t impact the taste, it will still taste great, but keeping it out of the sunlight will particularly help that.
- Anything goes, drink your gin however you like it.
- Some tips for a better gin and tonic.
- Use good quality gin
- Use good quality tonic
- 1 part of gin to 3 parts of tonic water as your starting point – this is a good balance of the two. Don’t drown your gin in tonic water.
Our Aussie listeners and readers can check out the great selection at Gin Loot and grab your first or 50th bottle of gin delivered right to your doorstep. Making a purchase helps us keep this podcast going.
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