As Booze World News’ resident martini expert, it’s safe to say my bar cart is always packed with gins whether they be, aged, flavored, dry, and genevers. That’s one reason I’m still enamored with the category—it’s a surprisingly diverse category with hundreds of flavor options, not just limited to the Beefeaters and Gordon’s of the world. So what gins should make-up your home bar?
Old Duff Genever
Often known as Holland’s gin, Genever is local to the Netherlands and Belgium. In color, Genever ranges from pale yellow to a rusty gold depending on the producer. Genevers must, by law, include juniper, but it doesn’t need to be the main flavor—some Genevers push the malty flavor profile forward while others play about by adding different botanicals. Genever fell away from American shelves after the World Wars, but Old Duff, a newer Genever made by American star Philip Duff, helped revive the category.
All Plymouth Gins must be made in Plymouth, England (local water makes the gin particularly unique, say Plymouth Gin evangelists) where there are a handful of distilleries making their distinct style. It’s lower in alcohol and slightly sweet and earthy on the palate, as it leans on fewer botanicals than a London style. Try it in a G&T, or dig through early-century cocktail books, where this gin is the spirit of choice.
Ford’s Gin Officers’ Reserve Navy Strength
To be dubbed a Navy Strength gin (a name that harkens back to its seafaring origins—only a higher proof could light gunpowder), it has to be at least 114 proof. It’s intense, smooth, and the hot proof makes it an excellent addition to cocktails. While many are in true London Dry style, this one is more unusual, with an oily body and citrus on the palate.
Tanqueray is one of the most universally-beloved versions of a London Dry Gin, a spirit that’s distinct taste of junipers has helped make martinis, G&Ts, and more canonical. Traditional London Dry Gins boast strong juniper and citrus flavors and have a round, dry mouthfeel. London Dry’s don’t need to come from London, but the style is incredibly popular.
So what’s the difference between London Dry and a regular gin? London Dry is an EU-recognized style that can be made with any high-strength neutral base spirit (wheat, grape, or corn). They are made by redistilling high-strength, neutral grain alcohol together with botanicals in a pot still. The mixture is distilled until it reaches a minimum strength of 70% ABV, or 140 proof. London Dry’s are among the most versatile spirits on your bar cart, ready to be mixed into the majority of gin-relying cocktail recipes.
Originally, pink gins called for regular gin dosed with Angostura bitters. It was the invention of the Royal Navy; when sailors were given gin rations, a few drops of bitters (then kept around for their medicinal properties) were added to make the spirit more palatable. Now, the gin’s blush hue has more aesthetic draws, though the spiking of Angostura gives it a slight herbal note. On the market, drinkers will also find a range of pink gins that don’t call for Angostura to give the drink its distinctive shade: there are some, like Pinkster, made with raspberries, and others like Beefeater, which is made with strawberries.
Malfy Con Limone
Together, citrus and gin is a love affair for the ages, and Malfy, a Torino-based brand inspired by the Amalfi coast, is bottling that chemistry. It’s not overly flavored like many flavored spirits are, with intense juniper and a kiss of lemon. It’s particularly great for low-effort drinking: pop it with soda or a slice of citrus, and it sips it, preferably by the seaside.
Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
Old Tom Gins are rare these days. The recipe was one of the most popular in early 18th-century England, when the spirit was the darling of the country’s cocktail movement. It’s far more relative to Genever in flavor, with sweet malty notes and only faint passings of juniper. Hayman’s is one of the only brands that have revived the original recipe, though several smaller craft brands are also producing bottlings.