Gin is one of those spirits that has a lot of fans and a lot of detractors, many of whom just don’t know how to drink gin.
It’s a flavorful clear alcohol with a floral-citrus taste that some people love. For others, it’s harsh and tastes closer to a cleaning fluid than a good drink.
Even if you fall in the latter part of the spectrum, there are gin varieties out there that you would likely enjoy. There’s a gin for everyone, thanks to variations in distilling. If you’ve sworn off drinking gin before or love it and want to know more about it, you’ll need to learn the ins and outs of drinking this polarizing spirit
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The Main Types of Gin
Dry gin is the most popular type, or more specifically, the London dry gin. This spirit is flavored with citrus peels, juniper berries, angelica root, and coriander in most cases.
Other varieties of gin use the same basic flavor agents, but they may focus more on a sweet citrus flavor. These are known as sweet gins.
Old Tom Gin
A third common type is the Old Tom gin, named after a specific brand that is widely emulated. This type has a softer and more malty taste that is similar to Genever. It’s a great style to sample if you think you’re not a fan of gin.
Distilled & Re-Distilled Gins
Aside from sweet and dry gins, you’ll need to consider how the spirit is made. Both distilled and re-distilled gin are actually flavored by putting the botanical ingredients in with the spirit or mash as it’s distilled. Compound gin is also available, but those products are only flavored with extracts. Avoid compound gin whenever possible, looking for distilled gin over re-distilled spirits for a purer flavor as well.
Not all gin brands stick to just the standard combination of juniper, angelica, coriander, and citrus. Some use unusual citrus varieties like pomelos to alter the final flavor. Others introduce rosemary and other strongly scented herbs to bring more of a green flavor to the alcohol. Cinnamon and ginger varieties are very popular among people who don’t like the standard flavor of gin. Barrel-aged gin picks up extra flavors from the wine or whiskey barrels they are aged in, making the spirit more complex and great for enjoying neat.
How to Drink Gin Neat
One trick to make even the driest gin seem sweeter is to enjoy it at room temperature. Drinking gin which is warm makes it sweeter and less harsh, although it may make some of the botanicals taste more strongly than you prefer. The same gin that tastes great at room temperature won’t likely become your favorite for using chilled in cocktails. Make sure you are drinking gin from an impeccably clean glass, so there are no off aromas or flavors to distract you.
Drinking Gin On Ice
For a less sweet experience that highlights the zing of the juniper and the refreshing taste of other botanicals, enjoy your gin over ice. Cold ice or chilled tonic water keeps the gin from tasting too sweet or harsh. Place just two or three large ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass. Pour about a shot’s worth of gin over the ice at a time, swirling it to cool it quickly. Sip the gin slowly so the water has a chance to blend with it slightly, highlighting certain flavors and calming others.
Popular Cocktails with Gin
While gin can (and should) be tried neat, it’s primarily designed to uplift the other flavors in cocktail combinations. When trying new varieties, mix up a classic Martini or a Gin & Tonic to get the best flavor experience. These cocktails showcase the gin while still making it more expressive than it can be neat or over ice. Other popular gin-based cocktails to sample include:
- Tom Collins or Gin Fizz with club soda, lemon juice, and sugar
- Gin Punch mixed with fruit juice and some club soda
- Aviation with crème de violette for a gem-like purple color
- Negroni with Campari and Vermouth
When drinking gin that is new to you, pour a little of it into a cocktail glass with no water or ice mixed in. Sip just a bit of the liquor, letting it linger on your tongue as you inhale through your mouth. This will help you explore all the flavors it provides and decide how you feel about it. Gin today can be flavored with lavender, lemongrass, rare citrus fruits, and more, so you should definitely explore the variety rather than just declaring that you love or hate this complex spirit.