If you’re weary of London dry or bored with modern versions that put juniper on the back burner, check out these creative gins. Crafted with wild botanicals, indigenous citrus and even a 15th-century recipe, they’re sure to turn on your tonic and stir up your Martini.
Based on the 1495 family recipe of a wealthy merchant from Germany’s Duchy of Guelders region, this gin from the Louisville distillery double-distills wine and 15th-century Hamburg-style beer from Monnik Beer Co. with sage, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, galangal, ginger, grains of paradise and juniper berries.
Head distiller Brandon O’Daniel describes it as “a rich, spicy, very full-bodied fruity gin [with] a unique spice-forward style.” A malt nose is followed by a smooth body and a finish of clove and other warm spices. “This is not a modern gin; this is an earthy, savory, oily gin,” he says. “It’s all character, all personality, and will make for very interesting libations.” It works in Glögg, a variation on the French 75 with orange juice and honey syrup, or in a Guelders Martinez with sweet vermouth, Luxardo maraschino liqueur and bitters.
Made in Washington, D.C. at the city’s first combination distillery-bar-kitchen, this gin uses two kinds of juniper, including a wild red-berry variety foraged from the West Texas Mountains. They get distilled with other botanicals—everything from orange and lemon peels to hops and orris root—along with the distillery’s house-fermented and -distilled rye vodka to evoke a bit of the mid-Atlantic with a dash of Texas, says head distiller Matt Strickland. The result is a spirit that’s bold, complex, subtle and seductive.
“This is a very complex gin packed with citrus, fresh picked flowers, cinnamon, and spice,” says Strickland. A rabid Negroni fan, he loves the gin in an all-D.C. version of the cocktail made with local products Don Ciccio & Figli Donna Rossa Amoroso and Capitoline Vermouth. “You’ll have yourself one of the most beautifully complex Negronis you’ve ever tasted,” he touts.
All the wild botanicals for this Irish gin are sustainably foraged by Geraldine Kavanagh from the Wicklow Mountains and picked by hand to leave roots undisturbed. They are then added to the still within hours of harvesting, slow-distilled in a copper pot in batches of less than 250 liters by stillman Rowdy Rooney and non-chill-filtered to retain pronounced botanical oil essences. The nose and front palate show spring notes of juniper and citrus, the midpalate is summer in bloom with honey and nectar, and the finish is autumnal and wintery, with fruit, spice and earth.
“This is a labor-intensive, thoughtfully crafted, small-batch spirit that captures the true essence and terroir of Glendalough,” says co-founder Donal O’Gallchoir. “It’s all four seasons of the Garden of Ireland in a glass.” He likes it with tonic and lots of ice, garnished with an orange slice and fresh basil or in a Bee’s Knees. “It makes a hell of a cocktail,” says O’Gallchoir.
Is there anything more romantic than the vision of heady lemon trees growing on the slopes of Italy’s Amalfi Coast? This crafty spirit captures the carefree lifestyle and bright citrusy flavors of that region’s most famous export: limoncello. Owner Elwyn Gladstone read two books on the history of gin that said it was first produced in 1050 AD in monasteries along the Amalfi Coast, when monks mixed a wine spirit with locally abundant juniper and other herbs. He began working with Torino Distillati, a family-run distillery that has been producing spirits for more than 100 years, to concoct several recipes.
This one steeps Amalfi sfusato lemon peels with juniper berries, which are distilled in a stainless-steel vacuum still at a low temperature to capture the most citrus essence. “The product does not taste like other gins,” says Gladstone. He says it’s best enjoyed in a Gin & Tonic with Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water or in an authentic Negroni. “Finally you can have all the ingredients [of a Negroni] from Italy!”Continue to 5 of 6 below.
The same meticulous attention to detail that makes Nikka whiskies so gorgeous goes into this gin from the Japanese producer, which comes from the Miyagikyo distillery near Sendai. Nikka’s blenders hand-pick its 11 botanicals, which include traditional ingredients like juniper berry, coriander and angelica root, a variety of Western and Eastern citrus fruits that lend sweet-tart flavor (lemon, orange, kabosu, amanatsu and shequasar) and sansho pepper and apple.
The spirit is distilled in three parts from corn and malted barley, then blended together for optimal taste and balance. “The long, dry, tingling finish is credited to the sansho pepper,” says Morgan Robbat, the CMO of Hotaling & Co., the company that imports the spirit. “It’s a beautifully blended and balanced gin.” Try it in classic cocktails like the Gimlet, Martini or Gin & Tonic.
It gets toasty in Texas. To quench parched palates (and appeal to the gin-averse), San Antonio’s Seersucker Distillery released two flavored gins, becoming the first company to blend all-natural juice into the spirit. “We are all about making the gin category more accessible to consumers, and that starts with taste,” says founder and master distiller Trey Azar.
“If we can introduce people to the interesting complexity via something they love to drink, they’re going to stay in the category and advance their tastes.”
The Lemonade gin starts with all-natural lemon juice and a touch of lavender to enhance the spirit’s light juniper taste. It’s soft and sweet on the palate and highly mixable. Azar likes it with a splash of soda, and its bright citrus also shines in a Bee’s Knees or French 75.