Despite its name, London dry gin does not have to be produced in England’s capital city. It refers to a style of gin that is juniper-forward, as are all gins, and has no artificial ingredients added to the spirit.
Classic brands like Beefeater, Tanqueray, and Bombay Sapphire are what most people think of as London dry, and these are all great examples. But there are other brands making this style of gin as well, both in the UK and America (often called American dry gin here). This style of gin works very well in classic gin cocktails as well as more modern creations, and there are many different bottles to choose from. We asked some experts in the industry, including members of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, to offer their picks for the best bottles of London dry gin to buy now.
Bombay Sapphire Gin
Region: UK | ABV: 47% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Pepper, Citrus
“The distinct blue bottle is eye-catching, but it's the flavor that you'll remember,” says Kim Hunter, founder of Potent Pours. “Bombay's ten botanicals lend a great flavor to any cocktail. Throw in some muddled raspberries, fresh lemon juice, and a smidge of elderflower liqueur, and you've got a delicious summer cocktail.”
This is a classic London dry gin that has been around since the ‘80s and is a favorite of bartenders around the world.
Hayman’s London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 41.2% | Tasting Notes: Coriander, Nutmeg, Juniper
“Hayman’s is spicy. This is my winter London dry gin, it has an excellent aftertaste,” says James DeFrance, bar manager at Refectory Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.
Hayman’s was created by Christopher Hayman, the great-grandson of Beefeater Gin founder James Burrough. The gin takes two days to distill and infuse and is an affordable option that has a nice juniper-forward palate that is balanced by the use of various spices and citrus.
Highclere Castle London Dry Gin
Region: UK | ABV: 43.5% | Tasting Notes: Lavender, Citrus, Juniper
“The London dry gin I prefer when making my Terribly Attractive cocktail at Bar Margot is Highclere Castle,” says Thandi Walton, lead bartender at Bar Margot inside Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta.
“This particular gin’s orange-lavender forward notes and creamy oat finish paired with sweet yellow chartreuse, orgeat and lemon juice with the aromatic Peychaud’s bitters float make for a balanced cocktail that can be enjoyed all year-round.”
Best for Martinis
Tanqueray London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 47.3% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Coriander, Licorice
“This may be the most classic of all London dry gins,” says Steva Casey, bartender at Atomic Lounge in Birmingham, AL. “Tanqueray’s ubiquitous juniper-forward taste makes it stand alone. With only four botanicals, juniper is the star in Tanqueray. I love how straightforward Tanqueray is, and it makes a great Martini.”
Best Made in London
Region: UK | ABV: 45% | Tasting Notes: Lemon, Coriander, Juniper
“Fords is engineered for 360 degrees of cocktail compatibility, transparently made to be the bartender's gin,” says DeFrance.
This is a London dry gin that is actually made in London (as are a few others like Sipsmith). It was created by master distiller Charles Maxwell and Simon Ford of The 86 Co., specifically designed with bartenders in mind.
Best for Negroni
Tanqueray No. Ten Gin
Region: UK | ABV: 47.3% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Lemon, Orange
“Tanqueray No. Ten is pure summer,” says DeFrance. “it's my citrus mistress, uncomplicated, luscious, juicy.”
This makes it a great option to use in a Negroni, as the citrus undertones play well with the bitter from the Campari. The juniper is present here but plays a supporting role to the other botanicals used.
Best for G&T
Beefeater London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 44% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Pepper, Almond
“Time and time again, the best inexpensive bottle of London dry gin is Beefeater,” says Jonathan Stanyard of Feast in Seattle. “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.”
Try this one in a gin and tonic, as it has the perfect balance of botanicals to complement the bitter from the tonic and tang from the citrus.
Best for Beginners
Sipsmith London Dry
Region: UK | ABV: 41.6% | Tasting Notes: Lemon, Honey, Juniper
“Sipsmith offers a beautiful balance of taste and ABV,” says Casey. “I love this gin because they offer a variety of specialty flavors. Each flavor is unique and sets Sipsmith apart from other gin distilleries.” The London Dry expression is a great introduction to the category for novice drinkers with its mix of juniper and citrus flavors. “It puts the London in London dry,” says DeFrance. “It’s passionately designed to be excellent.”
Bluecoat American Dry Gin
Region: Philadelphia | ABV: 47% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Bitter Orange, Coriander
While there is no official American dry gin category, spirits that fall within this skew pretty closely to the concept of London dry, except maybe putting less emphasis on the juniper in favor of other flavors from the botanicals. Bluecoat is a great example of this, made at Philadelphia Distilling. This is a nicely balanced gin that works well in any cocktail you can think of.
Sipsmith V.J.O.P. Gin
Region: UK | ABV: 57.7% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Spice, Chocolate
This overproof gin from Sipsmith increases two main components—the amount of juniper, and the ABV. This makes the navy-strength gin a really bold spirit that amps up the flavor in any number of cocktails, from a Martini to a Gin & Tonic to a Martinez. The proof will soften slightly as you mix with other ingredients but still remains high enough to ensure a bold flavor.
Overall, Bombay Sapphire is your best bet for a London dry gin (view at Drizly). It can be easily found anywhere for a reasonable price, and has a delicate and complex palate, led by juniper, to work in any cocktail.
How is gin made?
Gin starts off as a neutral base spirit which is flavored with botanicals. The most predominant botanical must be juniper, with the rest being any combination or herbs or spices the producer or distillery can think of. The botanicals are infused into the spirit by either being steeped in the spirit, vapor infused, or a combination of the two.
What is the difference between vodka and gin?
The main thing that separates vodka from gin is the use of botanicals to flavor gin, led by juniper. Vodka does not use any botanicals, and is often distilled many times over to remove as much flavor and odor as possible.
What makes it London Dry?
London dry gin is defined as a gin that is infused with botanical flavor through re-distillation. No artificial ingredients are permitted, and no color or flavor can be added after distillation. The predominant flavor must come from juniper. And despite the name, it does not have to be made in London.
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Jonah Flicker is an experienced writer who has been covering spirits and traveling the world visiting distilleries 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.