Gin is a distilled, white spirit made from a grain mash, usually barley, corn or rye, and flavored with juniper berries. These berries have a sweet/sharp piney flavor and are often combined with other herbs, spices, roots, peels and/or other plant substances to create a more complex flavor.
There’s a multitude of ingredients gin makers use and they often have their own secret combination of ingredients or botanicals that can range from four to 15 or more. Some common ingredients include citrus peels, cinnamon, coriander seed, ginger root, fennel seed, almonds, licorice root, nutmeg, star anise and more.
Gin isn’t aged and ranges from 80-proof to 94-proof. While it’s long since been heavily produced in the UK, it can be produced anywhere. There are three main types or styles of gin, and a fourth type traditional in the U.S.
Dry Gin, also referred to English Dry Gin or London Dry Gin, includes many popular brands most consumers recognize as gin. This type is made from neutral grains, so there’s no retention of the grain taste or odor. It’s a dry, clear spirit that lacks sweetness and typically contains 40% alcohol, making it 80-proof. Common brands include the classic Tanqueray, and Gordon’s, Plymouth, Old Tom, Beefeater, Bombay Dry and Bombay Sapphire, No. 3 and Martin Millers.
German Gin, also called Steinhager, is also made from neutral grains and a dry style. However, it’s unique in that it can only be flavored with juniper berries. Distillers aren’t allowed to add any other botanicals for flavoring. This makes it less complex than other types of gin and gives it a distinctly dominant juniper flavor. Outside of Germany, Schlichte Steinhager Gin is the one consumers usually encountered and readily recognized by its tall, brown ceramic bottle.
Dutch/Holland Gin, also called Genever or Schiedam, are thick and somewhat sweet with more robust flavor than dry gins. This is due to a strong, malt spirit base. It’s a low proof choice with two age classifications: Jonge, meaning young, which indicates it’s unaged, and Oude, meaning old, which means it was aged for at least a year in oak barrels, giving it a straw-colored hue. Common makers of Genever include Boomsa, Bols, De Kuyper and Zuidam.
Traditional American types of gin are loosely crafted as London Dry Style. They’re made for budget-conscious consumers, including the on-premise choice for well drinks. Leading brands include Barton, Burnett’s, Gilbey’s, Gordon’s, New Amsterdam and Seagram’s.