Trying new things can lead to great discoveries; the same is true for gins. Gin is a spirit. It’s neither a liqueur nor vodka, whiskey or brandy. It is made from grain alcohol and flavoured with juniper berries, citrus peels and other botanicals. Once upon a time, gin was an inexpensive replacement for more expensive spirits such as brandy and whiskey (the name gin comes from the Dutch word for juniper berry: genever).
It has come a long way from the juniper-flavoured rotgut of old. Now there are so many flavours and profiles to choose from that you’re bound to find one that suits your taste buds perfectly.
An acquired taste.
Gins are known for being a very aromatic spirit. That’s because it’s made from a wide range of botanicals, and those botanicals impart not just flavour but also smell to the final product. Some gins are made with more aromatic ingredients than others; you can find everything from citrusy and floral flavours to warm, spicy ones.
The most common base spirit used in its production is neutral grain spirits (vodka), which gives a clean taste that lets all those aromatics shine through. But some producers will use other neutral spirits like bourbon or even wine as the basis for their gins, which gives different flavours depending on what kind of liquid they started with.
Sweetness levels vary, too: some gins have an almost dry profile thanks to their use of fortified wines as base liquids and spices like coriander seeds that add some bite without sweetness; others are sweeter thanks to added sugar or fruit juices (like lemon). You’ll find plenty of options when trying out new kinds of gins—there’s no correct answer regarding what you prefer, but there are plenty of wrong ones.
A good mixer.
Gins mix well with a wide range of other ingredients. They can be combined with juices and tonic water to make the classic gin and tonic and can also be mixed with other spirits to create new cocktails.
A great cocktail base.
Gin is a great cocktail base because it’s neutral. It has no flavour, so it doesn’t clash with other flavours in the drink. It also doesn’t mask other ingredients in the same way that vodka or white rum would. It’s strong enough to stand up to them but not too strong to overpower them.
This is why gins can be used in so many different cocktails. They’re versatile enough to blend well with most liquors, vermouths, bitters and fruits.
On the rocks.
So you’ve decided to give gins a try. But there are so many types of gins out there that it can be hard to know where to start.
Let’s go over some basics about how to drink this spirit. You don’t have to drink it straight up! Many people love it straight up, on the rocks, with a twist of lime or lemon (the traditional way). But if you prefer your spirits mixed with something else (or just want an excuse not to drink alone), then go ahead and make yourself a delicious cocktail.
Gins are for everyone.
If you like mixing cocktails, then gins are an obvious choice. They’re popular because they’re versatile and can be used as the base of a cocktail or simply mixed well with other ingredients. Some of our favourite ways to enjoy gins include:
- On the rocks
- Straight up (shots)
- With lime
Today’s gins have evolved into complex drinks that can be enjoyed in a martini glass or mixed into any drink you can imagine—from classic cocktails like the Negroni to modern sensations like the Aviation—and they’re worth exploring by themselves.