What is gin?
Gin is a juniper-led spirit usually served with tonic water (carbonated water with added quinine) and ice, often garnished with lemon or lime slices, or other aromatic herbs, fruits or vegetables. It also works well in cocktails, such as martinis, negronis, brambles and the white lady.
To be considered 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 and have an ABV of at least 37.5%. There isn’t a board of control that regulates gin like there is for cognac or tequila, so these rules can become slightly blurred, but it’s widely agreed that the three points noted are what constitutes a true gin.
Gin is made by distilling a neutral (or flavourless) spirit with botanicals, which release oils that add aroma and flavour. Distilleries use unique blends of botanicals to make different varieties of gin, but the most popular include juniper, citrus peel and coriander seeds. Other spices, herbs and fruit are then sometimes added to enhance the flavour.
Navy-strength gin is around 54-57% ABV, and has a history of being rationed on naval ships. Sloe gin is gin infused with sloe berries. While ‘pink gin’ originally referred to gin mixed with a dash of Angostura bitters, it’s now known as gin that’s been flavoured with fruit and flowers to give it a blush-coloured hue and sweet, aromatic flavour.
Learn how to make gin with our expert tips.
How to use gin
Try using it to cure seafood, especially salmon. Or, try splash in a dessert or bake – gin makes a good flavour base for our gin & tonic cake.
To stick with the traditional serve, learn how to make the perfect gin & tonic. Or, for something different, see more gin cocktail recipes.
How to store gin
With a stopper, gin can keep indefinitely. However, if a pourer is left in the bottle, some alcohol will evaporate over time.
Where to buy gin
Almost anywhere alcohol is sold.
Choose the best gin
London Dry is a style of gin made using a traditional distilling method; it doesn’t, however, have to be distilled in London.
Read the label to see if it mentions where the gin was distilled. If it doesn’t mention a specific distillery, it may be a contract-distilled gin (or, a product developed and produced by a distillery on behalf of an individual or company). Contract-distilled gins are still often very good, but are not as unique.
For more help finding the right gin for you, read our expert reviews and buyer’s guides:
The best gin
The best gin to buy as gifts
The best flavoured gin
The best pink gin
The best sloe gin