7 Best Gins for Cocktails

The Ultimate Cocktail Ingredient?

Gin is one of the all-time great cocktail bases. It’s been mixed into concoctions since the very origins of cocktails and shows no sign of letting up. Why is it so popular in the world of cocktails? For a number of reasons.  

Why is Gin popular in cocktails? 

Firstly, good timing. As cocktails were becoming more popular and recipes were first being collected and recorded into books, gin was the hot new thing. This happy coincidence meant that many of the most famous classic cocktails we still mix to this day are gin based. Just open any classic cocktail book and see for yourself.

Secondly, gin’s character is key to its success. It’s important to remember that making gin is not about making alcohol in the same way making rum or whisky is. It’s about taking a base spirit and adding the flavours from botanicals to that base spirit to create gin.

Technological advances

Gins aren’t the same as they were. Iconic brands that you know today have evolved over time, especially as technology has advanced. For example:

  • Distillation evolved to allow for neutral spirits to be made from the 1830s as the technology of continuous distillation was developed. No longer did gin have to be made with unaged grain spirit, essentially unaged whisky. This new technology allowed gins to become lighter and brighter in style.
  • Spirits, including gin, moved out of wooden barrels and into glass, as bottles became mass produced through the early 20th century. One less opportunity for additional character to be added to the final product, further allowing gin to become lighter and more delicate in style.

The balance between complex botanical flavour profile and light, dry character makes gin a joy to mix with. Each gin’s character is primarily determined by the recipe of botanicals used in a gin, selected when the gin is first conceived and must then be followed for every production run of that gin from that moment on. What’s also important is how the essential oils from this recipe of botanicals is fixed to the gin’s alcohol base. Are the botanicals soaked in the alcohol before they are distilled? Are all the botanicals distilled together? What’s the shape of the still, and on and on. Everything matters, and then the real skill is making it happen again and again year after year to keep the gin the same every time.

In modern times, a number of new gins have decided to use more unusual processes and ingredients so that they can stand out from the crowd. Some of these brands manage to do this quite successful, however, the more prominent and obscure the flavour profile of a gin, the narrower the window of cocktails that can be made with it. This doesn’t mean that all these gins are bad or not worthy, but they’re not for this list where were looking for the best all round gins for mixing cocktails. The kind of gins that are not only well made but have a balance of botanicals that allow you to mix cocktails from the most elegantly simple, like the Dry Martini, G&T or Tom Collins. All the way through to the more complex gin cocktails such as the Last Word, Hanky Panky or Oolong Negroni.

This doesn’t mean that this list is restricted to heritage gin brands, we’ve got gins that are old, new and somewhere in between. You’ll also notice that none of these gins are crazy expensive. Yet every gin on this list is expertly made by the world’s best gin producers and used by the world’s best bartenders.

Finally, just a reminder, whenever you’re selecting ingredients, trust your palate, try not to believe the hype and don’t judge by the price tag. We’ll do what we can to point you in the right direction, but don’t forget to follow your nose, literally.

Plymouth Gin

The oldest still working gin distillery in the UK. Made by one of the world’s most respected gin distillers, Sean Harrison, in the southwest port town of Plymouth. Of all these gins, this one probably has the greatest link to the history of the cocktail. From the Dry Martini and Gibson to the naval classics of the Gimlet and Pink Gin Cocktail. It appears in many of the great classic cocktail books, and it’s even the second most referenced brand of any spirit in the iconic Savoy Cocktail book of 1930.

It’s been around since 1793 but unless you’re a cocktail bartender you’ve probably never heard of it! Famously soft with the inclusion of sweet orange peel in its recipe, it’s an essential for any gin lover, or even for anyone thinking of giving gin a second chance!

Tanqueray

Probably the most recognisable bottle of all gins, with its prominent green colour and cocktail shaker shape it’s remained roughly unchanged throughout its history. Another one of the classics, it originated from London during Victorian times. It’s minimalist botanical recipe delivers a powerful earthy juniper forward character. 

The lack of citrus in the gin is why they encourage you to add a squeeze of lime to your G&T. While this works very nicely with Tanqueray, it overpowers other more citrus led gins. So please consider what gin you’re mixing with and think twice before automatically squishing lime into every gin drink! If in doubt, add a slice of lemon instead, most gins will thank you for it.

Beefeater

Beefeater? Yea BEEFEATER! Along with Plymouth and Tanqueray it makes up what we call the holy trinity of gins. Its success has been strangely damaging to its reputation especially as this success has allowed it to remain very affordable, which to many means that it can’t be good?! This is where marketing, trends and judging products by price tags or pretty bottles really lets you down. 

Like Tanqueray, this is a gin born from Victorian era London, but unlike it, Beefeater is still to this day made in central London. Bottling moved outside of the capital city a number of decades ago, but every drop of the gin is still made in London down in Kennington.

It’s a big bold gin with plenty of juniper and citrus. It also has some highly notable offspring too, including the high strength Crown Jewel gin that also includes grapefruit peel in the recipe along with the typical bitter orange and lemon peel. London Garden adds lemon verbena and thyme for a more herbaceous Beefeater experience, created by legendary gin distiller Desmond Payne.

Fords Gin

A modern London gin created by Simon Ford in the style of one of the old classics. It’s a gin that’s perfectly balanced and designed specifically with cocktails in mind. With plenty of juniper, citrus and a little floral character. This is a perfect case in point, it may be a modern gin, but rather than adding a headliner botanical to catch the eye, he created a gin that’s a delight to mix with.

Simon’s background in the cocktail world not only shaped his approach to his gin’s flavour profile, but also the bottle it comes in. He worked with bartenders around the world to develop the most ergonomically shaped bottle he could, and also included measuring lines into the glass mould on the back of the bottle. This not only makes for easy stock taking in bars around the world, but it also allows the bottle to be reused for batching cocktails. The idea here is that the recipe is prepared, ready to be served, in the Fords Gin bottle then chilled. All that’s left to do is grab a glass, pour, garnish and enjoy. This is perfect for both parties without the hassle or very lazy Martinis with your favourite human.

Junipero

The best American Gin? Quite possibly! This delicious gin has been around since the 1990s, you know, before gin was cool again and being made in every neighborhood and whisky distillery across the world. Made in San Francisco, Junipero is bold, flavoursome, yet incredibly smooth.

Probably the most important consideration when using Junipero is that it’s bottled at an uncompromisingly powerful 49.3% ABV / 98.6 Proof. Why is this worth mentioning? Because it’s vital to consider for a number of reasons. Firstly, high alcohol strength means lots of flavour because alcohol is what carries the vast majority of flavour and aroma from the distillery to the drinker. So, the more alcohol there is, the more flavours that can be carried. Great news!

However, beware, you need to correctly channel that strength. There’s no point having all that alcohol and all those flavours if you don’t unlock them. Water is the key to this. Water is added to a cocktail in many ways, most frequently through shaking or stirring with ice or directly adding a diluting ingredient such as tonic water or sparkling water. What does this mean? Well, if you make your favourite gin recipe with Junipero, exactly as you make it with a gin at ~40% ABV / 80 proof you may think the drink is too strong or aggressive, and you won’t unlock all the flavours either.

Make sure you use a little less, or add a little more dilution to get the best out of this delicious liquid. We add a splash of filtered water to the mixing glass when we make a Dry Martini with Junipero to help get us to that perfect point of dilution…or else you will be stirring for a very very long time! For more on this read our article on ‘how to make the perfect martini’.

The Botanist

Elegant and delicate this is a smooth and well-balanced gin. The first gin to come from the Scottish island of Islay, famous around the world for its smoky scotch whisky. Unsurprisingly, it’s distilled in a scotch whisky distillery, that of Bruichladdich which was revived from closure and dilapidation in 2001. Whisky went back into production that same year, then 9 years later the first gin was distilled on an old Bruichladdich still which was rediscovered and renovated for the job. 

The Botanist uses 31 botanicals, including 9 typical gin botanicals while the rest are sourced from right there on the island itself. The brand is a celebration of the island and coveys a strong message of sustainability and maintaining the island for generations to come.

It is smooth, balanced character is why it’s in this list though, as it epitomizes what great gins offer. The flexibility to work with any number of different ingredients to create great cocktails. A high quality and complex liquid that can be enjoyed in the most delicate of cocktails, the Dry Martini.

Sipsmith

This was the first new gin to be made in London for some 200 years. The brand has a come a long way from its first little still tucked away in a garage in the London neighborhood of Hammersmith, which was first run in March 2009. The brand is still made in West London, just a little further West, in the idyllic neighbourhood of Chiswick.

It’s another classic style London dry gin, bold and balanced with plenty of juniper and citrus and a little earthy spice. As with all the gins on this list, it’s delicious, smooth, and very easy to work with. If there was ever a gin to understand its role in cocktails and place in history, it would be Sipsmith. Master Distiller Jarred Brown is not only an expert gin maker, but along with wife Anistatia Miller, they are one of the most influential spirit and cocktail historian teams in the world. So, understanding gin’s importance in cocktail culture, its flexibility and usability, runs deep in the veins of this brand.

Try them all and choose your partners

Whichever of these bottles you pick, we don’t think you can be disappointed. Getting to know each of them will also allow you to appreciate their differences so you can choose which one to use for each of your favourite gin cocktails.

Which one will be your Negroni gin? Which will make your favourite Tom Collins? Your preferred G&T partner? You ultimate Dry Martini, 50:50, Gibson or Dirty Martini.

There’s a gin here to make them all at their very best.


As always, don’t forget to show us what you made by tagging us!
@Candra_Drinks  #MakeBetterDrinks  #CandraDrinks

 

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