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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, with large and small distilleries alike producing various styles like London dry, barrel-aged, and New Western.
Our top pick is the Sipsmith London Dry because it's high-quality and mixes well into cocktails, making it particularly versatile.
Here are some of the best gins out there to try right now.
Best Overall: Sipsmith London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 41.6 percent | Tasting Notes: Lemon, Juniper, Pepper
Sipsmith might be a relative newcomer to the gin category, but the London distillery is making some of the best you can find. “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 or Lemon Drizzle.
"Sipsmith is one of my go-to Martini gins. It's savory, juniper-forward with a nice pepper spice finish, and complements an herbaceous dry vermouth in a 50/50." — Prairie Rose, Editor
Best for Martinis: Tanqueray London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 47.3 percent | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Coriander, Licorice
The Martini is a classic cocktail for a reason—it’s simple and delicious, and can be tailor-made to your specific preferences. But the key factor is using a good gin to make this drink, and you can’t go wrong with a classic London dry like Tanqueray. The main botanicals used are juniper, angelica, and coriander, 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. “Tanqueray’s ubiquitous juniper-forward taste makes it stand alone,” says Steva Casey, bartender at Atomic Lounge in Birmingham, AL. “I love how straightforward Tanqueray is; it makes a great Martini.”
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Best for Gin & Tonics: Bombay Sapphire Gin
Region: UK | ABV: 47 percent | Tasting Notes: Juniper, White pepper, Citrus
Another example of a classic and 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 & Tonic. There are just enough floral notes in this gin to make it shine when combined with just some tonic water and a slice of lemon or lime.
Related: The Best Tonic Waters
Best for Negronis: Monkey 47 Gin
Region: Germany | ABV: 47 percent | 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, bartender and U.S. brand ambassador for Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur. “It’s a natural in many traditional gin cocktails.”
Related: The Best Gifts for Gin Lovers
Best Budget: Hayman’s London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 41.2 percent | 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 10 botanicals. At less than $30 a bottle, this is a great budget gin to keep in your home bar.
Best Top Shelf: NOLET's Reserve Gin
Region: Holland | ABV: 52.3 percent | Tasting Notes: Saffron, Verbena, Spice
If you’re looking for a truly top-shelf gin, NOLET’s Reserve is a pricey but really delicious option. This limited release was created by tenth generation distillery owner named Carolus Nolet, Sr. While it’s really meant to be sipped, feel free to make a cocktail with it if you’re really feeling fancy. But the recommended way to enjoy this is to try it neat, and then maybe add some ice, to enjoy the notes of saffron, verbena, and other botanicals. And at 104.6 proof, enjoy this slowly as it does have some heat.
Best London Dry: Beefeater London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 44 percent | 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, it does need to meet other criteria regarding distillation proof, with no flavor or color 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.
“This iconic product is a great representation of the category, offering enough juniper, clean citrus, and my favorite classic addition: almonds. The almonds lend a nutty tone and more importantly, they add some body to the mouthfeel.” — Jonathan Stanyard, bartender
Best to Drink Neat: Gray Whale Gin
Region: California | ABV: 43 percent | 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 Botanical: The Botanist Islay Dry Gin
Region: Scotland | ABV: 46 percent | 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 works in a remarkably harmonious way. Sometimes local flavors means ‘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.”
Best Barrel Aged: KOVAL Barreled Gin
Region: Chicago | ABV: 47 percent | Tasting Notes: Spice, Citrus, Butterscotch
Chicago distillery KOVAL puts its flagship Dry Gin in its own whiskey barrels to create this barrel-aged version. This infuses the already-fragrant bouquet on the palate with notes of oak, vanilla, and butterscotch. This is a gin that is complex enough to sip neat, but it also works wonderfully as a whiskey substitute in drinks like an Old Fashioned and brings an extra layer of flavor to a Negroni.
Best American: Dorothy Parker Gin
Region: New York | ABV: 44 percent | 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 NY 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 Japanese: Nikka Coffey Gin
Region: Japan | ABV: 47 percent | 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.
Eleven 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.
Best Navy Strength: Fords Officers' Reserve
Region: UK | ABV: 54.5 percent | Tasting Notes: Plum, Baking spice, Juniper
Navy strength means gin that is higher proof. This is 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 percent | 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 woody spirit. Try this in a Martini to experience what using an altogether different style than London dry can bring to the drink.
Best Pink: Salcombe Rosé Sainte Marie Gin
Region: England | ABV: 41.4 percent | Tasting Notes: Strawberry, Lemon, Peppercorn
Salcombe Distilling is a relatively new distillery, but it’s been making waves in the world of gin. Even if you are dubious about the concept of pink gin, you will undoubtedly enjoy this rose expression. The backbone of this dry gin is Macedonian juniper, with fresh strawberries, citrus, and pink peppercorns, which infuse it with color and flavor. Try this one neat, or with some tonic water and a slice of fresh strawberry as a garnish.
Best NA: MONDAY Zero Alcohol Gin
Region: California | ABV: 0 percent | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Citrus, Spice
This NA gin also has no carbs, sugar, or calories, and is completely vegan. It’s a great substitute for any London dry gin you normally enjoy, with a blend of botanicals based around juniper that gives it a classic flavor. You can use this gin in any cocktail that requires the spirit, from a gin and tonic to a martini to a gimlet. The market has many different NA gin options, but this is definitely one to try.
With 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 to Look For
There are different styles of gin to consider these days, especially with the rapid growth of the craft distillery movement here in America. You may want a really traditional London dry style, heavy on the juniper, that classic British name brands will offer.
But if you’re looking for something with a wider array of botanicals, distilleries around the country, as well as some abroad, make their own new school gins. These all include juniper as a base flavor, of course, but often use spices and fruit that define the region in which they are produced. And consider price as well when deciding on a gin, because some of the best are the least expensive.
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 afterward); Plymouth (only made at one distillery); and 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 the legal definition has changed a bit recently), while gin is full of flavor from the use of botanicals.
Why Trust Liquor.com?
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.