Monday, February 15, 2010

Ten Gins and how to best drink them

As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of gin. Not only is it a staple for creating many of the best cocktails, but it also works so well just splashed with some club soda or, more widely, with tonic water. And where would the martini be without gin? Yes people, martinis are made with gin, not vodka!

In any case, as gin has grown in popularity due to the cocktail renaissance, more and more brands are being discovered on local shelves. With that in mind, I decided to put together a list of 10 that you'll commonly find in the DC area. My hopes are to give you a good idea of how you can use many of them, since the flavor spectrum is quite wide-ranging. In the next few weeks, I hope to add another 10 or so, including some of the more household names, like Tanqueray, Bombay and Beefeater. But since those already probably have a place in your bar, I wanted to give you some info on brands you might be considering adding.

Keep in mind, this is only one man's (my) opinion on each of the brands and what suits my palate best, but I though it might be interesting for those of you who like gin.

Nose: Juniper and citrus
Taste: Light with hints of lavender. A bit drier than Voyager (below)
Best for: Any normal gin cocktail, but especially for those sensitive to too much juniper
Best Tonic accompaniment: Fever Tree, Stirrings or possibly Q

Nose: Clean, flowery, a touch of mint and pine
Taste: Also very clean. Refreshing juniper with just a hint of sweetness
Best for: Any cocktail calling for a good gin. Works equally well in sweet, citrusy or savory cocktails.
Best Tonic accompaniment: Fever Tree, Stirrings, Q or Fentimans.

Nose: Pine, earthiness, some flowers and a touch of caramel
Taste: Minty and a bit on the savory side due to the orris. Light flavors of peppermint, Pumello and anise.
Best for: Cocktails that call for gin as well as a darker spirit such as a whiskey. Also for gin cocktails that call for Chartreuse. Good G&T also.
Best Tonic accompaniment: Fentimans

Nose: Mainly Juniper, but an extremely weak aroma overall
Taste: A bit sweet. Unbalanced and a bit more viscous than most gins
Best for: Cocktails involving fruit juices
Best Tonic accompaniment: Not recommended for G&Ts, because it gets overwhelmed by the tonic, but if pressed, I’d recommend Schweppes.

Nose: Pine and aloe with crisp and dry juniper and citrus
Taste: Herbal. Juniper and orange peel. A hint of candy cane
Best for: Most gin cocktails will work well, but citrus ones especially.
Best Tonic accompaniment: Fever Tree

Nose: fresh citrus, juniper, flowers and cucumber
Taste: bright and refreshing with hints of juniper, white pepper and lavender. Cucumber as well, of course.
Best for: Artisinal cocktails. Especially those calling for tea, vegetal or savory ingredients.
Best Tonic accompaniment: Fentimans

Nose: cloves and mint. LOTS of vanilla.
Taste: Extremely sweet for gin. Flavor similar to vanilla mints with hints of juniper. Similar to an Old Tom style more than a London Dry style.
Best for: Sweeter cocktails that might get adversely affected by too much juniper flavor.
Best Tonic accompaniment: Not recommended for G&Ts because of the sweetness, although it worked OK with Hansens.

Sunset Hills
Nose: Juniper and alcohol
Taste: sweet and a bit chalky. Unbalanced.
Best for: basic house G&Ts.
Best Tonic accompaniment: Schweppes or Canada Dry.

Nose: similar to a beer spirit with hints of distilled barley, not unlike an unaged malt whisky
Taste: sweet juniper, with spices and an earthy texture. Again, eerily reminiscent of an unaged whisky
Best for: Old style cocktails; many of which used Dutch style gins.
Best Tonic accompaniment: I don’t recommend this style of gin for G&Ts.

Haymans Old Tom
Nose: extremely light. Not much discernible.
Taste: very sweet with hints of holiday spices and pecan pie
Best for: vintage cocktail recipes calling for Old Tom gin
Best Tonic accompaniment: I don’t recommend this style of gin for G&Ts.


  1. Thanks, Brian.

    I thought that your observatinos on the appropriate Tonic Waters and other mixers were very insightful, as you clearly differentiate from these (as you should). Each has a different taste profile and most do not use HFCS as sweeteners. And I couldn't agree more about not making G&T's with Old Tom or Genever.


  2. Brian -

    I'm the founder of Q Tonic and I thought the gin rundown was terrific. However I couldn't tell if you had actually tried Q Tonic. If not, just let me know ( and i'll get some samples down to you.


    Jordan Silbert

  3. I am a fan of Citadelle and of Bluecoat. What do you think of the French gin?

    Thanks for stopping me from buying Sunset Hills.

  4. I like Citadelle as well. I plan on doing this same thing with another 10 gins, so stay tuned.

    Regarding Frech gin, there are several. To which are you referring?