When it comes to spirits, there are none as unique as gin. When distilled, gin doesn’t have much flavor, save for the ingredients it’s made with. It’s not all that different from vodka. It’s the addition of juniper berries and various herbs and botanicals either in the distillation process itself (or a second distillation), through vapor infusion (the herbs and botanicals are hung in a basket in the still), or through maceration (adding the flavors to an already distilled gin) that give the gin its distinct, memorable aromas and flavors.
If you’ve ever had gin (or even sniffed it), you know the most potent ingredient is juniper berries. They are what gives gin its patented pine tree aroma and flavor. Other common ingredients include orris root, angelica root, orange peel, and licorice.
Since every distiller can put their mark on their gin by adding countless different herbs and botanicals, it’s an extremely versatile spirit when it comes to mixing into cocktails. London dry gin, artisanal gins, flavored gins, and everything in between, gin is a must-have for the home bartender.
Gin is the base ingredient in myriad classic (and contemporary) cocktails, including the iconic Gin & Tonic, Gin Gimlet, Rin Rickey, Martini, and more. It adds a piney, botanical flavor to every cocktail. That’s why you should always have a few bottles of gin on hand for mixing.
5. Gin Gimlet
While there are other stories about its genesis, the most often repeated story is of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette of the British Royal Navy. It’s believed that in the late 1800s, he was known to add lime cordial to his gin to get his vitamin C intake and fight the effects of scurvy at sea. Another surprisingly simple cocktail, it’s made with sweetened lime juice and gin. That’s it. Simple, sweet, and full of citrus (whether you’re concerned about scurvy or not).
If you don’t know a lot about the Martini, you might assume it’s made with vodka. Technically, that would be a “Vodka Martini”. The classic Martinis is made with London dry gin and dry vermouth. While its history is as cloudy as a Dirty Martini, many believe it was created in 1911 by a bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City.
3. Gin Rickey
The Rickey can be made with gin or bourbon, but we prefer the first version. Some believe it was invented in the 1880s in Washington, DC, by a bartender named George Williamson. Others believe it was created in the late 1800s for Democratic lobbyist Joe Rickey. This highly refreshing highball cocktail is made with gin, fresh lime juice, and sparkling water.
The Negroni isn’t for everyone. But those who enjoy this drink really love it. It gets its name from a name named Count Camillo Negroni. He invented the drink at Caffe Casoni in Florence, Italy, in 1919 when he asked the bartender for an American with gin instead of soda water. The bittersweet, herbal drink is made with gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.
1. Gin & Tonic
When it comes to gin, there aren’t any cocktails more well-known than the iconic Gin & Tonic. It’s as simple as it is flavorful. This highball cocktail is made with tonic water and gin. You can add a little flavor by garnishing it with a slice or wheel of lime. The drink originated in Holland in the early 1800s when gin was mixed with a quinine-filled tonic to fight malaria. British soldiers in India also drank tonic mixed with their daily ration of gin to combat the disease.
When picking the gin to mix with, it’s important to have a few bottles on hand. Stock your home bar with at least one (if not more) London dry gin, old tom gin, navy strength gin, and maybe a bottle of small-batch, artisanal gin. If you only have the budget for one bottle of gin (since you’ve been overspending on other spirits), you need to grab a bottle of well-made London Dry gin.
The piney juniper, botanical, dry aroma, and flavors work well in a variety of cocktails, including the classic Gin & Tonic, Gin Gimlet, Negroni, and more. While you can’t go wrong with a bottle of Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, or even Gordon’s, we suggest a bottle of Sipsmith London Dry Gin or No. 3 London Dry Gin.
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