Gin has quite the sordid history. Nicknames such as “mother’s ruin” and “curse of the poor man” are just a few of the printable descriptors it’s gained over the years. However, the gins of today offer far better quality and more variety than the “bathtub gins” of the past.
Today’s gin is a spirit that derives its predominant flavor from juniper berries. Its base is primarily grain (usually wheat or rye), which results in a light-bodied spirit. Each gin is different and will typically have a
number of other ingredients, usually plant-based, that add to the flavor. Gin by law cannot carry an age statement and generally ranges between 80 and 94 proof.
There are three main types of gins:
- Compound gins are made from ethyl alcohol and flavorings. The spirit does not have to be re-distilled and the flavorings can be either natural or artificial. However, they do have to be approved flavorings.
- Distilled gins are produced by re-distilling a neutral grain spirit with juniper berries and other botanicals. Approved flavoring can be added after distillation and these can be either natural or artificial. Colorings may also be added.
- London Dry Gin (also known as “English” or “London Gin”) is made in a traditional still by re-distilling alcohol with natural flavors and the alcohol used must be of a higher quality than usual guidelines. Additionally, the flavorings must be approved and they must impart their flavors during the distillation process. Artificial flavors may not be used and no flavorings may be added after distillation. Furthermore, London Dry Gin cannot be colored. Unlike the name suggests, a London Dry Gin does not have to be made in London.
Three additional styles of gin are:
- Dutch Genever is distilled from malted grain mash and often aged in oak casks for 1-3 years. It is full bodied and has a taste more like whisky than a traditional gin.
- Old Tom is characterized by sugar in the re-distillation process that makes them sweeter than a London Dry Gin.
- Plymouth Gin can only be produced in Plymouth, England and is earthier with stronger notes of juniper than London Dry Gin.
So, the next time you’re drinking a martini, feel free to dazzle your friends with your gin knowledge. Who knows, you just might make a gin drinker out of them. And if they still won’t give gin a fair shake, don’t fret; you can’t “gin’em” all.