Gin has enjoyed a huge revival recently. It's usually served alongside tonic water (a carbonated water with quinine) with ice, and garnished with something to enhance the drinking experience. The juniper-led spirit also works wonderfully in cocktails. Notable drinks include the martini, negroni, bramble and white lady.
To be a gin under EU law, the spirit must be predominantly juniper-led (something that is being challenged with new flavoured gins), made from a neutral spirit (global gins don’t live by these rules) and have an ABV of 37.5%. There isn't a board of control that regulates gin like there is for cognac or tequila, therefore boundaries are a little blurrier. But it is widely agreed that the three points noted are what constitutes a true gin.
Gin is a flavoured spirit. Neutral (flavourless) spirits are usually distilled with botanicals. The botanicals are cooked in the spirit where they release oils and these turn into aroma and flavour. The common way to differentiate gins is to vary the botanicals. It's popular to use a unique blend of botanicals so your gin stands out from the crowd. The most popular botanicals are juniper, citrus (using the peel) and coriander seeds. Other spices, herbs and fruit are then used to enhance the flavour.
Navy strength gin is poured at around 54-57% abv. The strong gin has a history of being rationed on naval ships. Sloe gin is gin infused with sloe berries, while pink gin was originally gin mixed with a dash of Angostura bitters, but is now often flavoured with fruit and flowers to give it a blush-coloured hue and sweet, aromatic flavour.
Gin is available in most UK supermarkets, off licences, bars and pubs. The quality of gins available has improved dramatically over the last 10 years with the boom in new distilleries.
Choose the best
To decode the label is often a tough task. A London Dry is a style of gin using a traditional distilling method, it does not have to be distilled in London but if you’re looking for that classic flavour, you’ll find it here. Look for where the gin is distilled, if it tells you the distillery, you’re better off. Or else it could be a contract distilled gin, which may be tasty but is not unique.
For more help finding the right gin for you, read our expert reviews and buyer's guides:
Keep the stopper and it’ll store forever. Leave a pourer in the bottle and you’ll lose some booze to evaporation, known as the ‘angel’s share’.
Don’t cook it, drink it. Or use it in curing – gin works great for curing seafood, especially salmon. A splash in your dessert won’t hurt either. G&T drizzle cakes are simply divine. Try making our gin & tonic cake.