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I’m a gin enthusiast — these are the 7 best gins for a martini

Manzanilla Martini on table
Rachel Harrison Communications

Perhaps the most iconic cocktail of all time is the martini. Though it comes in many variations, from vodka martinis to versions designed to pair with food, the classic recipe calls for just two ingredients: gin and dry vermouth. Made well, a martini is a classy, elegant drink which unlocks the beautiful pairing of gin and vermouth, bringing out notes of spice and citrus from each in a silky smooth sipper that’s impossible to put down. Made badly, it’s a boozy nightmare that tastes like watered down paint stripper.

Making a great martini starts, fundamentally, with a great gin. With no sweeteners or mixers to hide behind, there’s no room for a gin which is harsh or has off flavors. But it’s just these sparse conditions which allow a high quality gin to shine, as the martini is the perfect showcase for a complex, deep gin with a variety of botanicals. As a dedicated gin enthusiast, I have strong opinions about which spirits do and don’t belong in a martini, so I’ve rounded up seven of the best gins I like to use in this classic cocktail. These run the gamut from small batch specialties to those which are widely available, and from pricey rarities to affordable options, but they all have one thing in common: they’ll make a delicious martini.

The Best Gins for a Martini in 2024

  1. Buy Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin if you want fragrance and spice.
  2. Buy Sipsmith London Dry Gin if you want a classic London dry style.
  3. Buy Hendricks Gin if you want something smooth and cucumbery.
  4. Buy Tanqueray No. Ten Gin if you want something widely available.
  5. Buy The Botanist Gin if you want something subtle and sophisticated.
  6. Buy No. 3 London Dry Gin if you want something citrusy and crisp.
  7. Buy Brokers Gin if you want an affordable option.

Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin

If you want fragrance and spice

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Monkey 47 is a bucket list gin for many enthusiasts, and even putting the hype aside it really is worth hunting down a bottle. It comes from the Black Forest region of Germany, and if you’re fortunate enough to live in Germany then it’s easily available and not too expensive — but for the rest of the world, it’s more pricey to acquire. If you’re serious about your martinis, however, then this is an exemplary choice of gin. It’s smooth and supple in the mouth, and even though it’s got a hefty 47% abv it’s not harsh. Rather, that strength comes through in its spicy flavors, which have an almost lavender-like quality. Don’t imagine it’s all floral, though, as there are sharp berry notes here as well which keep it firmly on the tart side with just a subtle hint of sweetness.

The name 47 comes from the 47 botanicals which go into it, many sourced from the Black Forest itself, and its complexity and depth make it an ideal choice for a martini. Pair it with just a dash of dry vermouth, as this is a gin that can handle an extremely dry serving, then stick your nose deep into your glass and enjoy.

Sipsmith London Dry Gin

If you want a classic London dry style

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Sipsmith is everywhere in London, and for good reason: it’s smooth, easy to drink, and pleasing to many. That doesn’t mean it’s a simplistic or boring gin — quite the opposite — but it’s traditional enough in its formation that it will appeal to anyone who enjoys gin. It’s got the round mouthfeel that comes from the copper still, and it has the classic London dry flavor that’s juniper-forward paired with a zesty citrus sharpness. You’ll often see this as the gin for choice for gin and tonics in higher end bars and restaurants, but it makes a great martini too. If you love a hefty chunky of lemon twist as a garnish then you’ll enjoy the citrus notes here, and its smooth character and lack of sharp defects or off flavors make this a gin that can happily stand next to a wide range of dry vemouths for a great martini.

Hendricks Gin

If you want something smooth and cucumbery

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Another gin which is more often seen in a gin and tonic, Hendrick’s makes a surprisingly good martini too. The signature flavors of this well-known and widely loved gin are rose and cucumber, and that combination of floral on the nose and vegetal on the palate makes it a happy companion for many kinds of cocktails. If you like your martinis on the dirty side, or if you simply prefer an olive garnish (but hold the brine), then you’ll likely enjoy the fresh, green taste of cucumber found here. And while this is supposed to be a martini gins recommendation we’d be remiss not to mention that this gin makes an incredible negroni as well. Even though the subtitles of the flavors can be lost against the big flavors of Campari, the smooth texture of this gin continues to shine there too.

Tanqueray No. Ten Gin

If you want something widely available

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Practically ubiquitous in a certain type of higher end bar, Tanqueray No. Ten is one of those gins that can go well in almost any drink. It’s not likely to surprise or astound a seasoned martini drinker, but it’s hard to go wrong with flavors of juniper and citrus and no glaring harshness. If you’re just starting out with getting to know your gins and you’re looking for something that’s versatile enough to use in a martini and a wide range of other cocktails, plus is easily and widely available, then you can always turn to this bottle. It’s the kind of thing that you can find in liquor stores or even supermarkets, and you can happily mix it with whatever dry vermouth you have available to you for a pleasing, accessible entry into the world of the martini.

The Botanist Gin

If you want something subtle and sophisticated

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At the other end of the scale of gin experiences you’ll find options like The Botanist, a gin from Islay in Scotland — a location better known for its Scotch. But Islay abounds in flavors of all kinds, and a total of 31 botanicals go into this gin, of which 22 are native to Islay. There’s everything from birch leaves to orris root in here, along with zingy additions like liquorice root and peppermint leaves, so you’ll taste something new every time you take a sip. It’s complex but balanced, with no one flavor grabbing for your attention. Instead, you’re treated to a parade of different flavors which develop over time.

A gin this good is perfect for a martini, as it will match up with plenty of dry vermouth options and will continue to be a surprise and a delight with every mouthful. This is a top notch gin which deserves to be better known outside of Britain, so if you’re a gin enthusiast and you’re looking for something new to try then don’t think twice about snapping this one up.

No. 3 London Dry Gin

If you want something citrusy and crisp

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Similar to the Sipsmith, No.3 is a truly classic London dry style gin. But where Sipsmith leans toward a more lemony sort of citrus to go with its juniper, No. 3 has a more orange and grapefruit character. They both share a similarly smooth texture too, but No. 3 is a little crisper while Sipsmith is more velvety. So yes, the two are alike in many ways, and if you like one then you’ll probably like the other — but it’s also worth trying both if you’re a fan of the style. Personally, I slightly prefer No. 3 for its crisp qualities which I can only describe as the flavor equivalent of a freshly pressed white cotton shirt.

I wouldn’t pair this with a heavy or overly sweet dry vermouth as it is on the more subtle end, but with a light touch of something very dry like a Noilly Prat, it makes for a martini which is all class and delicate sophistication. This one is a true martini drinker’s gin, not flashy or loud but perfectly formed.

Brokers Gin

If you want an affordable option

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One of the great delights of gin is that it doesn’t have to be expensive to be high quality. Brokers is a great choice for an affordable luxury, coming in at under $25 a bottle, but tasting good enough to stand next to far pricier gins. It’s another London dry style, so you can expect the same heft of juniper accompanied by zesty lemon. There’s also some spicy notes to this too, coming from the coriander and orris root, so you’ll get a hint of pepper in the finish. It doesn’t have the long list of fancy botanicals that some of its more expensive counterparts do, but it’s a solid London dry that will make a perfectly serviceable martini. If your only previous experience with gins has been Gordon’s or Beefeater, then this is a great entry point into the world of higher end gins and all the delights that they can offer.

How We Chose These Gins for a Martini

A martini may be one of the all-time classic cocktails, with a simple recipe typically containing just two ingredients and water — but that means that mixing a great one is anything but easy. In a sweet, busy drink you can hide away or disguise of lot of unpleasant flavors or cheaper spirits (hence the eternal popularity of the Long Island Iced Tea) but with a martini there’s nowhere to hide. In a drink that is primarily chilled gin, that gin needs to be exceptional or it won’t be a pleasant drinking experience.

So the first and most vital quality in a gin to use for a martini is quality. If your gin has any off tastes or unbalanced flavors, these will stick out like a sore thumb in martini form. The good news is that you don’t need to spend a ton of money for a really great gin, as it is generally a cheaper spirit to produce when compared to spirits which need aging like whiskeys or some tequilas. You can get a solid bottle of gin for under $30, and if you go up to $50 you’ll find a wide range of delicious choices.

A good indicator that a gin is suitable for a martini is if it’s pleasant to sip neat. While neat gin isn’t most people’s first choice of drink, it’s absolutely worth trying a small taste of unadulterated gin at room temperature to really get a deeper understanding of its flavors and how it feels in the mouth. You don’t need to start knocking back gin straight (though there are people who like to enjoy high quality gins this way) but it’s instructive to learn how a gin tastes when it is warm and completely undiluted, as this will give you an indication of how it will play in a martini.

You’ll generally want to steer away from gins which are heavily fruity or berry forward for a martini, though citrusy gins can work well, and lean more toward those with savory or spicy botanicals. The vermouth in a martini, even though it should be a dry vermouth, will still bring plenty of sweetness of its own and you don’t need to add to that for the classic martini taste. That’s particularly true if you enjoy your martini dirty, with a dash of olive brine added, as this will work much better with a gin that leans toward savory, peppery, or vegetal flavors. As gin has become more popular in recent years, you’ll also sometimes come across bottles which are labelled as gin or gin liqueur and which can have ingredients like raspberry or strawberry syrup added after distillation. These tend to be extremely sweet, of dubious quality, and absolutely not something you want anywhere near your martini.

With those bases covered, you’re largely in the area of personal preference. Some gins have a particularly rich, almost glossy mouthfeel when they are chilled which can be very pleasing, especially if you’re more used to drinking vodka martinis which often have a similarly rich texture. Others can be more punchy and alcohol-forward, which will be off-putting to some people, but which others love as part of the distinctive hit of a martini.

You may also want to consider which dry vermouth you’ll be pairing your gin with as something like the classic Martini & Rossi tends to be more woody and herby, while something like Dolin is more spicy and fruity. Generally speaking, picking a gin with similar flavors to the dry vermouth you’re using will produce a more harmonious martini, but you can also get creative and try contrasting these elements in intriguing ways.

Whatever combination of gin and dry vermouth you end up choosing, there are some rules to always abide for the best possible martini. Firstly, martinis should always, always be stirred, never shaken (James Bond may be a super spy but he has no idea how to order a decent cocktail). And if you’re unused to making stirred drinks, you might be surprised by how long you need to stir for. It’s not just giving the ingredients a quick whisk to mix them together. Rather, you’re mixing gently to both meld the ingredients and melt some of the ice, adding the all-important water to the drink to balance it out. A good rule of thumb is to stir until your mixing glass is extremely cold to the touch — typically around 30 seconds or more.

And speaking of ice, this is another area to plan carefully. As it makes up a significant portion of your drink, your ice needs to be fresh and decent quality. Never use bagged ice or ice that has been sitting in the freezer for weeks, unless you want your martini to taste of old bread. Personally, I hate the taste of ice cubes from fridge door ice makers as well. Your ice doesn’t need to be crystal clear or made in a fancy ice tray, but it should be reasonably fresh (no more than a couple of days old), preferably in a large format, and made from clean tap water and nothing else.

As simple as it is on paper, mastering the martini is a lifelong endeavor for some, so be patient and don’t be afraid to experiment to find what you enjoy. These gins will be a good place to start, but within this simple template is a whole world of flavors to explore. Cheers!

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet

Georgina Torbet is a cocktail enthusiast based in Berlin, with an ever-growing gin collection and a love for trying out new recipes. When she's not in her other life writing about science she's sampling local craft beers, hunting down interesting Italian amaros, or making strange and experimental cocktails for anyone who stops by her compact but much loved home bar.

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