Why should you purchase gin?
Traditional dry gin offers arguably the most iconic flavor profile of any major type of spirit. However, there’s a wide variety of styles and flavors that have both subtle and distinct differences from what comes to most people’s minds when they first think of gin. For example, different types are better for powerful martinis than for gin and tonics, and vice versa. Choosing the right gin can make the difference between an OK cocktail and one that’s complex, interesting and memorable.
What is gin and how do you pick one?
Broadly speaking, gin is a neutral grain spirit (i.e., almost purely ethanol and water) that’s flavored with any number of botanicals. In fact, you can make your own DIY homemade gin using neutral vodka and whatever herbs, spices, fruit rinds or other aromatics you like. The stuff you get from the distillery is usually made a bit differently, though.
After infusing the neutral spirit with aromatics, the most noteworthy gins almost all distill the product again, which helps to balance the newly extracted flavors and also “locks in” the flavor profile, essentially preventing the subtle aromas from breaking down further during storage. By contrast, a homemade bottle of infused spirits will tend to lose flavor over time as the volatile aromatic chemicals break down.
That second distillation is a big part of the London Dry designation earned by many of the most popular gins in the world. Rather than denoting where the gin was produced, London Dry gin has a strict set of requirements that distillers must adhere to. Makers of London Dry gin must not use additional botanicals after the final distillation and can only add 00.1 gram of sugar per liter of distilled product.
London Dry gin also has to be distilled to at least 70% ABV, although it’s usually bottled somewhere around 45% ABV. Arguably most important is that a London Dry gin must have the predominant flavor of juniper, but interestingly, that “predominant flavor” clause is not objectively guaranteed. Overall, though, London Dry gins deliver the familiar pine-flavored bite that most people associate with gin. One thing to note is that while there are some requirements that London Dry gins need to meet, nothing is restricting the makers from using just about any aromatic botanical they want. Of course, there are many excellent gins that don’t fall under the London Dry umbrella, and some are even more interesting because their more subtle notes aren’t overpowered by juniper.
While you’re not likely to find many bottles of spirits heavily discounted specifically for Black Friday, there are some brands both popular and relatively unknown that offer good to great value for cocktail drinkers. To get updates on some of the best spirits, bartender kits and products of all types, sign up for the BestReviews newsletter, where you’ll find helpful advice from a team of experts.
Gins to watch for on Black Friday
Broker’s is a classic juniper-heavy London Dry gin that almost perfectly embodies what most people first think of when they think of gin. It won’t wow you with a ton of body or a complex bouquet, but it’s ideal for a simple gin and tonic or a straightforward martini. Possibly best of all, its great quality comes at a remarkably reasonable price.
There’s a relatively recent trend among Japanese distilleries to master the craft of distillers around the world, then produce the foreign-inspired spirit with a notable Japanese twist. Roku is the perfect example of the trend. It uses the enchanting notes of none other than green tea, citron and the inimitable Japanese cherry blossom to bring a delightfully herbal and floral flavor to your nose and palate.
If the traditional juniper flavoring is usually too strong for you, Oola might be just right. It’s not classified as a London Dry gin and indeed offers a more complex and balanced array of notes, starting with a heavily citrus nose, traveling through a floral palate and closing with a cardamom-inspired whiff of spice on the finish. While no gin is really meant to be a “sipping liquor,” this one is about as close as they come.
The folks at the Bruichladdich distillery behind The Botanist make some of the most sought-after Scotch and work with some of the most prestigious whiskey houses in the world. This novel offering takes nine classic botanicals and adds a whopping 22 additional aromatics sourced from right there on the island of Islay, resulting in a final product that’s remarkably complex and unconventional for a London Dry gin.
This could be the most iconic gin in the world. It uses a total of four botanicals: Tuscan juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and licorice root. It can be found in just about every cocktail bar in the country, and that’s not just thanks to good marketing. If you’re looking for an especially good deal, consider picking up the 11.75-liter bottle. Alternatively, if you want something a little less common that still has the underlying Tanqueray essence, consider Tanqueray No. 10, which is made in smaller batches and adds citrus and chamomile to the mix.
Until recently, gins made in Plymouth had their own special designation because while they share a similar character to London gin, they’re softer and more rounded overall, making them ideal for fancy cocktails like some types of martinis. Made by the oldest working distillery in England, it has a moderate body and is great for newcomers to the world of gin.
If you like your drinks so strong they can fight back, Beefeater 24 might be what you’re looking for. While some gins try to gently balance floral and subtle herbal notes, this one packs in as much spice and dark seasonings as it can. If you normally like to drink powerfully flavored whiskeys, this is a great gin to try out.
It’s not found in bars as often as many big-name brands, but bartenders and imbibers agree that Sipsmith is a near-perfect representation of a light-bodied London Dry gin. It’s moderately piney with a well-rounded and clear palate followed by a reasonable finish that’s herbal but not bitter. It’s not the most affordable, but it is one of the most easy-drinking.
Nonalcoholic gin spirits and drinks
The nonalcoholic “mocktail” craze is only just getting started, and the very nature of gin makes it the perfect kind of booze to go booze-free. Not all alcohol-free gins are the same (and the lack of alcohol doesn’t make them any cheaper), so it’s important to look for one that has a good reputation.
Monday makes several alcohol-free spirits, and its gin packs plenty of pine-flavored punch, which makes it one of the most legitimate-tasting options that won’t give you a buzz. In fact, unlike most alcohol-free gins, many users find it almost overpowering to drink straight — which is exactly what most people say about regular gins.
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While you can certainly taste the juniper in this one, it’s the citrus and cardamom that make it stand out. With a rich nose, plenty of bite on the palate and a long, complex finish, this one’s impressively close to the real thing in terms of flavor. The entire Free Spirits lineup is highly recommended for anyone planning an alcohol-free cocktail party.
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If you’re not keen on taking time away from the party to make complicated zero-alcohol beverages, these cans are ready to drink and offer the flavors of real cocktails without any of the booze. They come in a pack of 12 with gin and tonic, Amalfi spritz and classic Italian spritz flavors.
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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