We’re living in the golden age of spirits. Never before have there been more bottles of booze vying for a parking space on your bar cart. We lean on the pros to help you build a bottle list from scratch.
As a spirit category, gin has grown by leaps and bounds, with a more diverse lineup available than ever before. The key to stocking your home bar is to choose from a spectrum of different gin genres so you always have the right bottle on hand.
To help in the task, two titans of the gin world have offered their insight. From San Francisco's gin bar Whitechapel is bar manager Megan Daniel. "For my home bar, I like to have something from most gin categories, so I have endless options for cocktails," she says.
From St. Louis comes Natasha "Gin Girl" Bahrami, the owner of The Gin Room and founder of Ginworld. "As a home bar has increasingly limited space, you want to have a range of products that can fit your cravings to both experiment with cocktails recipes and imbibe at your leisure without having yet another trip to the liquor store," she says.
These are the five essential gins you should seek out.
Start with the basics—any gin collection needs a London dry and its traditional flavor profile. "You’ll want to anchor your home bar with a juniper-forward London dry gin for your classic cocktail fetishes," says Bahrami. "Gordon's London dry gin in a glass bottle is a staple at any successful home bar. Savory with a lightly sweet finish, this juniper-packed gin has the full botanical body to be the perfect companion to the equal parts of the classic bitter Negroni."
Now, take a modern approach to a classic London dry for a spin, from the folks who revived the category and sparked a gin revolution in the U.K. "Sipsmith is a great, classic London dry," says Daniel. "This gin is bright with botanicals, yet it still has a beautiful citrus quality."
Try this classic gin in a classic cocktail, the Martini. "Sipsmith makes a great Martini and even has enough body to stand up to vermouth in a 50/50 ratio," says Daniel. Experiment with a few gin-vermouth levels to find your favorite.
"Italy has been making waves in the gin category recently," says Daniel. Her pick from the Negroni-loving nation is Malfy Gin Con Limone. "Malfy is a gin with high lemon flavors, coming from an old limoncello family." With a flavor focus on lemon as opposed to juniper, this is another example of a gateway gin. "This gin does well in a Gin & Tonic, but it's also low in botanicals, so it makes great vodka drinks for the vodka lovers."
Next, it's time to up the ante and go big with a barrel-aged gin. "Sometimes you crave something brown and full-bodied yet full of botanicals," says Bahrami. "Barr Hill Tom Cat gin is distilled with pounds of juniper, softened with raw Vermont honey and aged in new charred oak barrels."
Thanks to the influence of the barrels, this is an ideal choice for whiskey drinkers. "This barrel-aged gin is a gem for your home bar, whether you want to sip it neat or substitute it for whiskey in your Manhattan or Old Fashioned," says Bahrami. "If you have those friends over that need a little extra push to move from whiskey to gin, this will win them over every time."
Before gin there was genever, which is why any well-stocked gin bar should include a bottle. "This wouldn't be a complete gin list if we didn't talk about the mother of gin," says Daniel.
"This is essentially a malted-grain-based gin from Holland, full of body and with notes of spice, bread and fleshy fruits," says Daniel. "I love making genever Negronis or a Saturn cocktail for my Tiki fiends." For the latter, the Saturn incorporates gin with passion fruit, lemon juice, orgeat and Velvet falernum, while for the former, Bols even makes light-bulb-shaped glassware for its signature Red Light Negroni. Now that's a bright idea that'll go well on any home bar.