Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 24, 2011

Know Your Gin

Originally published at

There are two kinds of men—those who drink gin and those who are scared of gin. If you fall into the first category, you’re going to enjoy this post, but if you’re someone who isn’t a gin fan, this should give you the information you need to get past your phobias and start enjoying the base spirit that is king in the world of cocktails.

Gin was invented by the Dutch, but perfected by the English. Jenever is the Dutch style of gin, which, though made with juniper, is malty and pretty unrecognizable from the modern style of gin. Only recently has jenever made a comeback through the craft cocktail movement.

English gin is a more approachable affair, made of neutral spirits flavored with juniper and other botanicals. What we usually think of when we think of gin is London Dry Gin, the most common style of English gin. It’s a staple in every bar in the United States, with brands like Beefeater, Bombay, Boodles and Tanqueray leading the market. It’s great in Martinis, with tonic water, and with any range of classic cocktails.

A popular style of gin amongst bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts is Plymouth gin. Both a unique brand and a unique style of gin, it’s not as dry as London Dry Gin and has softer juniper notes that lend incredibly well to mixing in cocktails.

Old Tom Gin is stronger and sweeter than London Dry Gin. It was common in Pre-Prohibition era cocktails, but is making a strong comeback. Hayman’s Old Tom Gin is now widely available and some markets have a micro-distilled version from Oregon called Ransom Old Tom Gin that is truly outstanding. Old Tom is found in the Martinez, an 18th century classic that is believed to be a predecessor to the Martini.

The last major type of gin is New Western Dry Gin. Made all over the United States and Western Europe, these new styles of gin focus less on the juniper and more on other botanicals and citrus elements. Hendrick’s from Scotland brings forward cucumbers, while Tanqueray No. 10 has a strong lemon presence. Aviation and Bluecoat are two great examples of American micro-distilled New Western Dry Gins, but my personal favorite is Anchor Distilling’s Junipero, which is made by the same folks who do Anchor Steam Beer. It’s a powerful, dynamic, captivating gin that goes great in just about any gin cocktail I can think of.

The first step to loving gin is knowing how many choices you have out there. Armed with a basic understanding of different gin styles, you can now approach any bar or cocktail menu with an understanding of the role different gins can play in a drink.


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