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What is gin made from?

Gin is Vodka with Juniper ‘n stuff


This article, “What is gin made from” is the next in the iamwaitress series about alcohol. If you have any questions as to how alcohol is made, please read the previous articles. And in order to understand gin, an understanding on vodka is needed so please read, “what is vodka made from” first.

So, what is gin made from?

The easy answer is Vodka! But that’s only because any plant can be fermented, distilled and bottled, and that’s what vodka is. Gin just takes it a little further.

(Gin connoisseurs would probably hang me if they heard me say gin and vodka were so similar. But to hell with them!)

Have you noticed how all gin has a very herbaceous nose where as vodka smells like a whole lotta nothin’? This distinct aroma  is due to the use of herbs, namely Juniper, in the distillation process. Gin must contain Juniper. Must!  It’s a rule!


Adding botanicals and juniper



Juniper must be added to gin. Juniper and other botanicals can be added in four different ways.

The first, cheapest way is to add extracts of Juniper berry and other botanicals to the distilled, neutral product.  This is called Cold Compounding and it sucks.  If you work at a restaurant or buy even decent gin, your gin will not have been made in this lazy, low quality way.

The correct way to add the Juniper berry and botanicals to the gin is to add these ingredients to the neutral spirit, and then re-distill it.

Cold Compounding (the lazy way) is when Juniper berry and botanical extract is added to the neutral spirit. Lame and yuck and lazy and cheap.   (Some crappy Chardonnay producers will do this too by adding “essence of oak” to their chardonnay rather than actually aging the wine in oak barrels.)

There are three “correct” ways gin producers add the Juniper berry and botanicals to the neutral spirit.

  1. The producer adds the diluted neutral spirit, once again, to the distillation still.  Then they add their own unique house recipe of Juniper berries and botanicals.  Then they re-distill that.  Now the final product has the aroma and taste of those added ingredients.
  2. The producer adds their own unique house recipe of Juniper berries and botanicals to the neutral spirit and they let it macerate (sit together) for 24 hours.  And then they put the product through re-distillation.
  3. The producer adds their own unique house recipe of Juniper berries and botanicals to a basket that hangs in the neck of the still.  When the neutral spirit undergoes re-distillation the vapors will pass through the neck of the still, hence they will pass through the suspended basket.

What kinds of gin are there?


You mean then there’s more than one kind? Yes! There are actually four different types of gin, all very different from each other. Here are the types of gin:

  1. London Dry: Dry, light, pungent, floral, aromatic.
  2. Plymouth: Gin can only be called Plymouth gin if it is made in Plymouth, England.
  3. Genever: Malty, richer, heavier.
  4. Old Tom: Sweet, fruity, Juniper berry undertones.

Most gin based cocktails are made using London dry or Plymouth. When you order a gin and tonic at a bar, you’ll always be given a London dry or Plymouth. Their flavors are classic: dry, juniper berry prevalent, and herbaceous.

Old Tom gin is becoming more and more popular with the resurgence of classic cocktails and artisan crafted spirits. If you ever get an opportunity to, order a sample of an Old Tom next to a London Dry and taste and smell the difference.

I’ve never had the opportunity to try a Genever so if you have, leave a comment here and give us your thoughts.

Continue to the next lesson, start the series from the beginning, or choose an article that catches your interest.

Spirits and Wine Series

  1. How is alcohol made?
  2. What is malt?
  3. What is mash?
  4. What is distillation?
  5. What is Vodka made from?

Or quench your knowledge about Popular Bar Drinks

  Learn everything about production, alcohol and wine in small, bite size nuggets through the Spirits and Wine Class. It uses fill in the blanks, multiple choice and matching to teach you in a fun, engaging way. Learn more >>




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