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Gin can be distilled from almost anything, including grain, fruit, potatoes, or grapes. But what defines this ever-popular spirit is the predominant use of juniper, which must be included in the mix of botanicals that flavor this important cocktail component.
Gin, a descendant of the Dutch spirit genever, has been around for centuries. Once known as “mother’s ruin,” gin has been experiencing a renaissance over the past few years, with large and small distilleries alike producing various styles like London dry, barrel-aged, and New Western.
Whether you are in the mood for classic cocktails like a Martini or Gin and Tonic or looking to make something more adventurous, here are some of the best gins out there to try now.
Best Overall: Sipsmith London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 41.6% | Tasting Notes: Lemon, Juniper, Pepper
Sipsmith, the London-based distillery, is making some of the best gin you can find right now.
“Sipsmith didn’t reinvent the wheel, but they managed to thread the needle by taking an innovative small-batch craft approach to making a historically spot-on, top-quality commercial gin,” said Alex Smith, partner at San Francisco’s gin palace Whitechapel. You can choose from the original London dry gin, the higher proof VJOP (Very Junipery Over Proof) gin, or some flavored options like Zesty Orange and Lemon Drizzle.
Best Budget: Hayman’s London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 41.2% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Orange, Coriander
“Hayman's is spicy, it's my winter London dry gin with an excellent aftertaste,” says James DeFrance, bar manager at Refectory Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.
This gin launched in 2008, the creation of descendants of the Burrough family behind Beefeater Gin. The core London dry gin is distilled in a pot still called Marjorie and is made from a recipe of ten botanicals. At less than $30 a bottle, this is a great budget gin to keep in your home bar.
Best Top Shelf: Hendrick’s
Region: Scotland | ABV: 44% | Tasting Notes: Cucumber, Rose, Juniper
“Hendrick’s really revived the gin category by thinking outside the box,” said Smith. This Scottish distillery helped to modernize and innovate the gin category with a floral recipe that includes prominent notes of cucumber and rose in the mix of botanicals used. “They injected a real spirit of creativity and inspiration into a category that was hanging on by a thread in terms of market sales and general popularity with the average drinker. They deserve top-shelf status for sure for their quality and their impact.”
Best London Dry: Beefeater London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 44% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Lemon, Almond
There are many well-known brands that make the classic London dry-style of gin, but Beefeater is one of the best and most ubiquitous. While London dry gin does not have to actually be made in London (or even in England), it does need to meet other requirements that govern the distillation process. In short, these gins need to be made from pure grain spirit, with no flavor or artificial additives added after distillation.
Beefeater’s nine-botanical recipe includes juniper, Seville orange, orris, and lemon peel, creating an easy-sipping gin that works well in any cocktail.
Best for Gin and Tonics: Bombay Sapphire
Region: UK | ABV: 47% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, White Pepper, Citrus
Another example of a widely available London dry-style gin is Bombay Sapphire, instantly recognizable in its light blue bottle. Along with the upfront juniper notes, you’ll find hints of almond, lemon peel, and licorice, making this a fantastic choice for the simple but refreshing Gin and Tonic. There are just enough floral notes in this gin to make it shine when combined with tonic water and a slice of lemon or lime.
Related: The Best Tonic Waters
Best for Martinis: Tanqueray London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 47.3% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Coriander, Licorice
Obviously, the company isn't going to give away their secret recipe, but the main botanicals in Tanqueray are thought to be juniper, angelica, coriander, and licorice, giving this gin a crisp, dry flavor that works perfectly in a Martini with a twist, a couple of olives, or any way you choose to make it. It's a very juniper-forward gin, which may taste familiar to you if you've tried other classic London dry gins before.
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Best for Negronis: Monkey 47
Region: Germany | ABV: 47% | Tasting Notes: Berry, Juniper, Cinnamon
The Negroni is another classic gin cocktail and one that deserves a flavorful and fragrant gin that can stand up to the bitterness of the Campari and sweetness of the vermouth. Monkey 47 fits that role perfectly.
“The long list of botanicals used in making this German gin is extensive, but really well balanced,” said Stephen Kurpinsky, a well-known San Diego bartender and former president of the San Diego chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild. “It’s natural in many traditional gin cocktails.”
Related: The Best Gifts for Gin Lovers
Best Botanical: The Botanist
Region: Scotland | ABV: 46% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Coriander, Sage
The Botanist is a Scottish gin made on Islay, the region best known for its smoky, peated scotch.
“The Botanist incorporates a whole lot of local flavors by using locally foraged botanicals around their distillery,” said Smith. “They managed to put quite a lot of botanicals together that work in a remarkably harmonious way. Sometimes local flavors mean ‘this won’t really taste like gin’ but that’s not the case with The Botanist. This gin is a rich and cohesive experience on the palate.”
The company uses 22 botanicals, including lemon balm, wild thyme, chamomile, red clover, and, of course, juniper.
Best Barrel Aged: Citadelle Reserve
Region: France | ABV: 44% | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Oak, Spice
Barrel-aged gin is a relatively small portion of the gin category, but it’s a very interesting one that can be used in a variety of cocktails or sipped on its own.
“Citadelle is a pioneer in the aged gin category,” said Smith. “They began aging gin commercially before anyone else, to my knowledge.” This process imbues the gin with notes of vanilla, oak, and spice that whiskey drinkers will find familiar. Smith believes Citadelle is one of the best out there. “Their approach was a complex solera system of barrels blended together, and it reveals a remarkable visionary and complex thinking when it comes to pushing the envelope of what gin should be.”
The gin is distilled with three unique botanicals—yuzu, genepi, and bleuet—among 19 others, and ages in five different types of wood barrels for five months. Then, the gin from among these barrels is blended to balance the flavor.
Best American: Dorothy Parker
Region: New York | ABV: 44% | Tasting Notes: Elderberry, Citrus, Juniper
There are so many distilleries making American gin these days, from craft distillers waiting for their whiskey to age, to larger operations intent on creating gin using local botanicals.
This American gin is made in Brooklyn by the New York Distilling Company, which named it after the famed poet and writer. This is a thoroughly modern gin with hints of classicism, made using a botanical blend that includes elderberries, citrus, cinnamon, and hibiscus, along with the requisite juniper.
Related: The Best American Whiskey Under $50
Best Navy Strength: Fords Officers' Reserve
Region: UK | ABV: 54.5% | Tasting Notes: Plum, Baking Spice, Juniper
Navy strength means gin that is higher proof (at least 114 proof), a throwback to the days when the British navy sailed the seas with gin stored onboard near the gunpowder. If the gin was high proof and leaked into the gunpowder, it would still light—hence, the name. Fords introduced its Officers' Reserve Gin in 2019.
“It is an excellently executed London dry gin made with mostly traditional old-school botanicals that is wonderful in its original all-purpose expression,” said Smith. “But then they decided to tantalize us with a more concentrated version that they rest in sherry barrels for a touch of authentic British Royal Navy flavor.”
Best Craft: St. George Terroir Gin
Region: California | ABV: 45% | Tasting Notes: Pine, Sage, Juniper
California’s St. George Spirits has been making excellent craft spirits in different categories for decades now. The trio of gins it produces are truly excellent, with the Terroir expression leading the pack. This offers a taste of California, made with Douglas fir, California bay laurel, coastal sage, and juniper of course, making for a piney and woodsy spirit.
Try this in a Martini to experience what using an altogether different style than London dry can bring to the drink.
Best to Drink Neat: Gray Whale
Region: California | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Mint, Lime, Juniper
While gin is not ordinarily considered a sipping spirit, there are a few bottles out there that taste great neat. California’s Gray Whale Gin is one of these, made with six sustainably sourced botanicals from the state: juniper, mint, limes, fir tree, almonds, and kombu. This combination of flavors results in a light and crisp gin that works well in any cocktail, but can also be enjoyed in a Glencairn glass, or perhaps in a tumbler with some ice.
Best Japanese: Nikka Coffey Gin
Region: Japan | ABV: 47% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Citrus, Sansho Pepper
Japanese whisky is a hot spirits category at the moment, but Nikka, an important player in that world, also happens to make a very good gin.
11 botanicals are used for flavor, including four different types of Japanese citrus. The name comes from the fact that the base spirit is distilled in a Coffey still, a continuous still that produces a different flavor profile and mouthfeel than the pot still. This is a floral and tangy gin and a great example of this growing Japanese spirits category.
Out of so many gins to choose from, Sipsmith (view at Drizly) offers the best choice in terms of quality and price. The core London dry style is accessible and flavorful, combining notes of citrus and spice with a classic juniper backbone. Use this in a Martini, G&T, or any other cocktail you can think of. And if you’re looking for a flavored gin, Sipsmith makes a few expressions that fit that bill as well.
What is gin made from?
Gin is made by infusing a neutral base spirit with botanicals, the most prominent of which must be juniper.
How is gin made?
A producer will start with a base spirit, either sourced from a larger distillery or made in-house. This neutral spirit is then infused with botanical flavor by redistilling it after steeping the botanicals in the liquid, or allowing the vapors during distillation to extract flavors from the botanicals hanging in a basket high up in the still. The spirit is then cut to proof before bottling.
What are the different types of gin?
There are several different types of gin, including: London dry (botanicals are added during distillation, only water and a touch of sweetener allowed to be added afterwards); Plymouth (only made at one distillery); New Western (juniper still present, but other botanicals take centerstage).
What is the difference between vodka and gin?
Vodka is by definition flavorless and odorless (although legal definition has changed a bit recently), while gin is full of flavor from the use of botanicals.
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Jonah Flicker is an experienced writer who has been covering spirits and traveling the world visiting distilleries to taste and discover for many years. His work has appeared in many different national outlets covering trends, new releases, and the stories and innovators behind the spirits. His first love remains whiskey, but he is partial to tequila, rum, gin, cognac, and all things distilled.