With the gin revolution in recent times, its usage in popular cocktails such as Gin & Tonic and the Martini makes it one of the most delicate forms of drinks. In very recent times, the preference for gin has seen an undeniable uprise. There’s always a strong belief that the combination of gin and tonic kept the British Empire healthy. Originating as a medicinal liquor made by monks and alchemists across Europe, gin has gone through several revolutionary changes. This article attempts to explain the curious question, how is gin made?
How Is Gin Made? The Basic Process
Distilled gin is produced exclusively by using natural spirits mixed with Juniper and other botanicals. This method is based on preference and taste with a ratio of 1:1 water and alcohol, provided an instant distillation of the mixture up to 48 hours of steeping in pot-still until the distillation process is completed.
The Key Ingredients of Gin-Making
The natural botanicals are what make gin special. A good mixture of botanicals can give gin the most amazing aroma and taste. In the hands of a master distiller, gin becomes a magical drink.
Hundreds of natural botanicals could be used to make gin, and thus it is not practical to pinpoint particular ingredients. The following are considered to be some of the most traditionally popular botanicals used in making gin.
- Juniper Berries: Juniper is considered the most vital ingredient to achieving the original taste of gin. It is the most commonly used botanicals in gin. Juniper Berries are traditionally one of the fundamental ingredients required to produce gin. Juniper Berries could be given responsibility for giving gin its identity of the distinct taste.
- Citrus Fruits: Citrus based fruits go with gin really well as they blend a very nice sour taste that complements the taste of alcohol.
- Almonds: Almonds are a fascinating ingredient used in the gin-making process. Almonds are usually used in the distillation process by breaking down into a fine powder. Both a sweet and bitter taste could be achieved with the use of almonds.
- Coriander: Coriander is the second most used botanical in gin. It is primarily preferred for the aroma it gives to the gin.
- Black Pepper: Black Pepper turns gin very lively, and if infused with lemongrass or citrus fruits, it adds a unique sour-bitter taste to the gin.
- Cucumber: Cucumbers provide gin with a refreshing and light flavor perfectly suited for a hot summer day.
Methods of Distilling Gin
Making gin is mostly a two-step method that includes distilling the base spirit and then adding the flavor of preferred botanicals, fruits, or vegetables by mixing the liquid. Let’s talk about some of the best methods of gin distillation and recommend some taste-enhancing tricks.
1. Steep and Boil Method
The Steep and Boil method of gin distillation is one of the oldest methods of gin-making, and it is still the most common method to this day. To make this method work, firstly, there needs to be a neutral spirit, with a ratio of 1:1 water and alcohol. The water is used to reduce the strength of the spirit.
The spirit is then mixed with Juniper and other botanicals based on preference and taste. The mixture is usually left to steep for 48 hours or more. However, some might prefer an instant distillation of the mixture as the 48 hours of steeping causes the flavors to stew. It depends on preference. Whichever period is deemed appropriate, after it, the mixture is distilled usually in a pot-still. When the distillation process is completed, an aromatic mixture of spirit full of flavors is produced. Some more water is then added to the mix to help with the alcohol balance and reduce the distillate to bottling strength.
2. Vapor Infusion Method
The vapor infusion method requires making a neutral base spirit similar to the Steep and Boil method. However, the difference in this method is that the spices and botanicals never come into direct contact with the base spirit. The ingredients are placed into specially made baskets inside the stills. The ingredients are turned into vapor inside the stills, and the vapor reaches out to the base spirit and adds a gentle flavor to it. The vapor infused spirit is then reduced to bottling strength with the use of water.
World-famous Bombay Sapphire uses this method of gin-making, and their process can be watched in this fascinating video.
3. Individual Botanical Distillation Method
The Individual Botanical Distillation could be considered a version of the Steep and Boil method, and it has become a very popular method of producing gin in recent times. This process revolves around each botanical ingredient being steeped and boiled separately. The different boiled distillates are then blended to complete the gin. This particular method is becoming popular as it is an exciting way to blend different types of ingredients and experiment with the taste of the gin.
The individual Botanical Distillation method creates the opportunity to personalize the taste and aroma of the gin. It facilitates more control over the final product.
Types of Gin
Some countries are famous for their gin drinking festivals and different types of gin and tonic. Among them, the biggest gin-drinking country in the world is the Philippines. Consuming around 22 million cases a year, the Philippines grab the eye-watering 43% of the entire world market for gin.
Ginebra San Miguel is the world’s most popular gin with a yearly sale of more than 11 million cases. On the other hand, the most expensive gin in the world is produced by a British brand Jam Jar Gin and it is called Morus LXIV. You will be surprised to know that the Morus LXIV costs a whopping $5,000 per bottle.
Gin is one of the most versatile spirits in terms of methods and ingredients. Its wide array of an acquired taste and fascinating ways often revolve around natural ingredients that make it one of the most popular drinks. Although there are hundreds of achievable variants, gin is universally classified into four primary types.
London Dry gin originated in England, as the name suggests and it is one of the most popular types of gin in the world. Juniper is the most important botanical used to make London Dry as the signature juniper flavor defines its taste. Coriander, citrus, and angelica roots are also very commonly used to balance out the taste and fragrance of London Dry. The term ‘dry gin’ means that there is no artificial flavor added other than natural botanicals. London Dry is used to make two of the most famous cocktails, Gin & Tonic and the Martini.
Plymouth Gin is one of the most popular and historically significant spirits in the world. Originated in England, Plymouth is until this day, only allowed to produce in a British distillery. The gin is significant because its recipe was mentioned in the very old and famous Savoy Cocktail Book.
In terms of flavor, the gin is a little dryer than London Dry and spicier due to the mix of seven different botanicals. Juniper, Coriander Seed, dried orange peels, cardamom, Angelica root, and Orris Root are the seven botanicals used as per the recipe from Savoy Cocktail Book. Today, there is only one brand in the world that produces this gin, named Plymouth, produced by the Black Friars Distillery.
The name Old Tom comes from the 18th Century when a lot of people were making their own version of a sweetened gin. Back then a lot of licorice and artificial sweeteners were used to produce this gin. Nowadays, Old Tom has a more sophisticated taste and the sweetness usually comes from distilled licorice and botanicals.
Old Tom works best when used in cocktails that have a more bitter taste. Some very popular producers of Old Tom gin are Ransom’s Old Tom, Hayman’s, Spring44, and Anchor Old Tom Gin.
Genever is said to be the original gin, dating as far as the 16th century. This version of gin was produced in Holland. The base of this gin is malted and the flavor is similar to whiskey, giving it a stronger blend. Although juniper and botanicals are used, the amount is actually less than the other variants of gin.
The process of producing Genever is very similar to whiskey as the distillers make a malt wine spirit and leave it to ferment for about a week. The botanicals are then mixed but the flavor remains rather malty. Some of the finest Genever gins are Filliers, Rutte, Bols, and Zuidam.
Hopefully, this post gave you some fascinating information on how gin is made. We focused on the most prominent forms of gin production and presented some vital components of the drink. Share your thoughts and experience on botanicals that pair well (or not) with gin in the comment section.