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The world of flavored gin is vastly growing, though not all that’s seasoned is created equal—so what exactly is the difference between flavored gin and “regular” gin, anyways? The experts have spoken.
“In short, the difference between flavored gin and ‘regular’ gin is that there’s another dominant flavor beyond juniper at work in the [spirit],” says Jake Sherry, owner and distiller at New York's Isolation Proof. He explains that flavored gins can get their flavoring from distillation, maceration and/or barrel aging. Sherry also notes that flavored gins are often associated with a color that is suggestive of the flavor of the ingredients, like pink gin.
Flavored gin is far from a new concept. In fact, its history dates back over seven decades. “Flavored gin has been around since the 1950s; however, today’s variations have a stronger color to appeal to consumers looking for visually enticing, as well as great tasting, mixed drinks and cocktails,” says Desmond Payne, master distiller at Beefeater Gin. Payne notes that discovery and experimentation continue to drive growth within the gin category and consumers are drawn to it, which allows consumers to remain excited by the category’s versatility and dynamism. “Flavored gin, in particular, has a sense of playfulness with colors, garnishes, glassware, and innovation,” he says.
Curious to learn more? Check out our go-to flavored gins for enjoying year-round here.
Best Overall: Sipsmith Strawberry Smash Gin
Region: England | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Strawberry, Citrus, Juniper, Mint
In the realm of flavored gin, Sipsmith has got quite a few to offer. This tasty, fruit-driven expression is produced with strawberries sourced from Hugh Lowe Farms in Kent, England, which is the exclusive grower for Wimbledon. The spirit is pot-stilled, vapor-infused, and uses a handful of other tasty botanicals. Expect juicy, fruit-driven flavors of strawberry, citrus, juniper, and mint to lead to a smooth, long-lasting finish.
The flavor doesn’t stop there, though. For those looking for alternative fruit-forward options, Sipsmith’s lineup has you covered. Check out the distillery’s Lemon Drizzle or Zesty Orange bottlings for more citrus-forward spirits. For those looking to dive deeper into the sloe gin category (that’s gin rested on freshly harvested sloe berries), Sipsmith has a bottle for you, too.
Best Budget: Bombay Sapphire Bombay Bramble Gin
Region: England | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Blackberry, Raspberry, Citrus Zest, Juniper
Ryan Wainwright, bartender and national brand ambassador for Bombay Sapphire, explains that there are many different ways to add flavoring to gins, including extracts, maceration, flavor compounds, infusions and even artificial flavors. “How the gins get their flavor is open to the creativity of the distiller or distillery—the sky's the limit,” he says. Bombay Sapphire’s take on flavored gin (Bombay Bramble) shows notes of blackberry, raspberry, citrus zest, and juniper.
When it comes to enjoying flavored gins, Wainwright has a few different options. “If you are grabbing a bottle that doesn’t have a lot of sugar in it, it’s pretty easy—use it as you would a gin. If you love a Gin & Tonic, you are good to go; simply switch up your garnish to match the fruit in your gin,” he says. For a Bramble, Wainwright recommends adding a lemon wheel and some blackberries into the mix.
Best Cucumber: Prairie Organic Cucumber, Mint & Lime Gin
Region: USA (Minnesota) | ABV: 45% | Tasting Notes: Cucumber, Lime, Coriander
Can’t decide between cucumber, mint or lime? With Prairie’s organic flavored gin, you don't have to choose. Crafted in the heart of Minnesota, this slightly higher-proof gin is produced with all-natural organic ingredients, including cucumber, citrus, and fresh mint, grown and harvested in the Midwest. On the palate, the gin is smooth and cooling, with slightly sweet undertones that lead to a refreshing finish. Whether sipping solo or mixing with a splash of tonic, you really can’t go wrong here.
Best Seasonal: Isolation Proof Winter Gin
Region: USA (New York) | ABV: 47% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Bergamot, Earl Grey Tea, Honey
For a flavor-packed gin that packs a serious punch, look no further than Isolation Proof’s Winter Gin. This seasonal gin is produced with an infusion of loose-leaf Earl Grey tea, raw honey from the distillery’s beehives in the Catskills and spring water from the hillside behind the “distillery barn.” Expect the sweet and spicy flavors of juniper, bergamot, tea leaves, and honey to lead to a warming, long-lasting finish.
Sherry reveals that his preferred methods for obtaining flavors in his flavored gins are distillation, maceration and/or barrel aging, based on which exact botanicals are being used (and which flavors he wants to come through on the finished spirit). “For example, I prefer extracting the flavor of allspice through distillation, which concentrates the essence of the spice that I love while leaving behind any bitterness or astringency,” he says, noting that for other ingredients, such as tea leaves or hibiscus flowers, he prefers implementing maceration, which extracts not only the flavor but also the color of the ingredient.
“We flavored our Winter Gin last year by macerating our ‘regular' gin with loose-leaf Earl Grey tea and a tiny amount of raw honey (from beehives on our property),” Sherry continues. He says the tea imparted signature bergamot flavors and a gorgeous rich brown color to the gin while the honey rounded out the tannins and slight bitterness from the black tea leaves. Currently, Sherry is working on a “Oaxacan gin,” which will use traditional botanicals from Mexico (river mint, avocado leaves and pasilla peppers). “This project is a collaboration between our distillery and Claro, a Oaxacan restaurant in Brooklyn—can you imagine a smoky mezcal-adjacent gin that is spicy and savory at the same time? I can!”
Related: The Best Gins
Best Pink Gin: Salcombe Rosé Sainte Marie Gin
Region: England | ABV: 41.4% | Tasting Notes: Strawberry, Orange Blossom, Pink Peppercorn, Rose Water
Pink gin is exactly what it sounds like—flavored gin that uses pin or red botanicals post-distillation to give the spirit its signature hue. In the world of this unique category, Salcombe’s expression is simply one of the best. Inspired by the Mediterranean flavors of the south of France, the company’s Rosé Sainte Marie expression is distilled and crafted with a variety of botanicals, including Macedonian juniper, angelica and strawberries. Additionally, this charismatic pink gin is crafted without the use of added colors, sugars or artificial flavors.
Salcombe's Rosé Sainte Marie pink gin gets its name from the famous lighthouse at the Old Port entrance of the French city of Marseille. Here, workers could regularly be seen loading herbs, citrus and other fruits onto boats headed to the ports of England. The bottle was also a double gold medal recipient at San Francisco’s World Spirits Competition last year—the only one in its category to achieve the honor.
Related: The Best Gins for Martinis
Best Gin Liqueur: Pomp & Whimsy Gin Liqueur
Region: USA (California) | ABV: 30% | Tasting Notes: Tropical Fruit, Jasmine, Citrus
Looking to enjoy a flavored gin without the burn of hard alcohol? This gin liqueur from Pomp & Whimsy is just the ticket. Dr. Nicola Nice, founder and CEO of Pomp & Whimsy, explains that products like hers are considered gin cordials, meaning that the gin has been made in liqueur form. “Rather than a singular dominant flavor in a flavored gin, the overall botanical profile is intensified through post-distillation infusion and the addition of a cane sugar sweetener,” she says. Nice explains that as a gin cordial, the spirit is also lower in proof than a flavored or dry style gin (30% ABV versus 40–45% ABV). Expect bright and zesty flavors of tropical fruits, jasmine, grapefruit rind and citrus to jump from this liqueur’s easy-drinking palate.
Nice notes that to make her gin liqueur, the team starts by crafting a classic distilled gin. “[Then] nine botanicals are infused into a neutral spirit base derived from organic sugar cane juice and redistilled to create a highly refined and elegant gin,” she says, noting that a second round of infusion with six additional botanicals follows. The final spirit is then twice filtered to ensure a clean finish, yet the rich natural color and aromas remain preserved. A dash of cane sugar is added at the finish to create a floral, fruit-driven finish. For those looking for something a bit more quaffable than the average higher-ABV spirit, this lightly sweet bottle is just the ticket.
Related: The Best Gins for Negronis
Best Unique: Empress 1908 Gin
Region: Canada | ABV: 42.5% | Tasting Notes: Earth, Wood, Green Tea
"Empress Gin has long been in our repertoire of favorite gins to drink,” says Cody Goldstein, creator of the cocktail program at Amor Loco, located in midtown Manhattan. Goldstein notes that this unique indigo-hued spirit gets its color from the mysterious butterfly pea blossom, a native flower to Asia, and that it also blends eight unique botanicals (each of which are micro-distilled in small batch copper-pot stills).
Goldstein reveals Empress Gin makes not only a delicious Martini but also garners some great attention. “It has heads turning as its vibrant color shines in the glass. Have some fun and add a citrus with a high pH (such as lemon or lime) and watch as the gin magically changes color from indigo to lavender-pink,” he suggests. Empress gin is naturally flavored and depicts notes of wood, earthy and fine green tea.
The characteristics of any given flavored gin will be heavily dependent on the main botanicals used to create it. For those who prefer their flavored gins on the more fruit-forward side of things, check out the lineup at Sipsmith (view at Total Wine), Salcombe (view at Total Wine), and Bombay Bramble (view at Total Wine). For more herbaceous, floral-driven expressions, look to Isolation Proof (view at Mash & Grape) or Empress (view at Total Wine). Curious drinkers looking for a slightly sweeter and lower-ABV product, Pomp & Whimsy (view at Total Wine) is where it’s at.
What makes a flavored gin—isn’t a gin already flavored?
“Typically, flavored gin is produced with gin as the base spirit, yet also has a certain fruit or botanical that heavily influences the distillate to drive the flavor,” says Ken Fredrickson, MS, co-founder of High Road Spirits. Fredrickson notes that this process often involves reducing the most dominant botanical in the base gin, such as juniper, to add more of a fruit or flavor.
Does flavored gin keep as long as regular gin?
Not really. The flavor profiles of flavored gins will develop (often for the worse) over time, albeit quite gradually. It’s recommended to enjoy opened bottles of flavored gin within one year from its first use. Note: Drinking flavored gins that are over one year old won’t necessarily make you sick—they just likely won’t taste nearly as good as in their earlier days.
Can flavored gin be enjoyed on its own?
Yes! Flavored gins can be enjoyed on their own, mixed into cocktail creations, or served with a dash of tonic over ice. “In the cocktail culture of today, gin is one of the most versatile spirits there is, and it’s a wonderful canvas for flavor experimentation,” explains Dr. Nice.
Sherry suggests leaning into the dominant flavor in the gin and pairing it with cocktails that have similar or complementary ingredients. We recommend doing all of the above—playing around with at-home cocktails, enjoying a riff on a classic G&T, and simply sipping solo—to really understand a flavored gin’s range of versatility.
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Vicki Denig is a wine, spirits, and travel journalist who splits her time between New York and Paris. Her work regularly appears in major industry publications. She is the content creator and social media manager for a list of prestigious clients, including Sopexa, Paris Wine Company, Becky Wasserman, Volcanic Selections, Le Du’s Wines, Windmill Wine & Spirits and Corkbuzz. She is a certified specialist of wine.
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