Quick Guide to Gin

Here are the key things you should know about gin! There’s been a lot of fuss over gin recently and it’s easy to see why: not only do you have a whole range of high quality styles to explore but the branding is truly on-point.

The main three things to remember when it comes to qualifying gin are:

  • It must have a juniper dominant flavour
  • It must be of agricultural origin (flavours, spirit base, etc.)
  • It must be bottled at 37.5% ABV and above

According to many experts, gin can be traced back to an Italian monastary over 1000 years ago, it was originally called Genever and popularised by the Dutch. However, it was soon taken home by the British and shortened to “gin” before being adopted as our own spirit.

Gin is a distilled spirit that is redistilled and flavoured with botanicals (from the term botany). Botanicals include juniper, herbs, roots, spice and nuts. Common botanicals are lemon peel, cinnamon, almond, bitter orange peel, angelica root and liquorice root. This leads to a whole array of different flavours.

The botanicals are harvested and dried before the oils are extracted to be distilled.

Cold compound gin is a distilled spirit mixed with botanicals and left for a few days to infuse before being diluted with water and bottled. Meanwhile distilled gin is alcohol and water boiled at 78.37C (alcohol’s boiling temperature) along with the botanicals, which pass on flavour. The vapour distills upward and then condenses into the spirit.

Sometimes this process can result in a “cooked” flavour from the botanicals so distillers looking for a gentler method will pass the vapour through the botanicals. The vapour is then passed on to the condenser before the final spirit is drawn off.

The first part of the spirit (20 litres or so), called the head, is ignored as it tends to have the more volatile alcohols in it and unwanted flavours. Once the first citrus or juniper fresh note is nosed by the distiller, they will then draw off the main part of the spirit called the heart. This will have all of those infused botanical notes. Generally the spirit here is double bottling strength at around 85-90% ABV. After about 6 hours when the distiller stops getting the notes they want they switch over to the tails.

Both the head and tails of the spirit are either redistilled or discarded.

Finally water is added to dilute the heart spirit – the new gin – to bottling strength.

Great gin cocktails

Enjoying gin can be as easy as a slice of lime and a good choice of tonic. Here’s some of the best gin based cocktails anyone can master at home:

Gin and Tonic

The classic “mother’s ruin” cocktail is simple and still the best way to enjoy high quality gin. Simply stir together in an ice-cold glass one part gin to two parts tonic, squeeze in a lime wedge and garnish with a slice of lime.

Gin and Mint

Swap the tonic for an elderflower pressé with the same measurements. Pour 50ml of gin into a cocktail shaker and push two sprigs of fresh mint leaves and a slice of cucumber into it with the back of a spoon. Add ice and shake well. Then strain into a highball glass and top up with 100ml of elderflower pressé. Great one for summer!

Bee’s Knees

Popular choice during the prohibition! A simple mixture of honey (about a spoonful) into a cocktail shaker with 50ml serving of gin, a squeeze of lemon over the top, add ice and shake well before straining into an iced cocktail glass. You can water it down a little if it tastes particularly strong!

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