Why Not All Gin is Created Equally

September 11, 2015

And why you should be considering different styles for different cocktails. 

Sometimes, especially on hotter days, nothing but nothing beats a good gin and tonic. But how do you know if you’re getting a good one?

Look at the bar, advises Jacob Ehrenkrona of Martin Miller’s Gin company. If the bartender is using a chilled glass (more common) and a chilled bottle of gin (much less common), you're off to a great start. Then notice if they're using dry ice—it happens less often in the U.S. than in the U.K. and Spain, but it's always a good sign when they do. Then, if you’re really in luck, they’ll ask what kind of gin you'd like. 

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Gin, like many other spirits, has enjoyed a renewal lately, riding the tails of the craft movement that’s swept through beverages of many stripes and strengths. Gin has long been a core functional ingredient in classic cocktails, but unlike flavorless vodka, gin's distinctive feature is its juniper flavoring. Brands both here and abroad are racing to distinguish their herbal or fruity blends with other unique characteristics, which give bartenders (including those of us at home) more options.

I’ve come to see that one gin simply works better in a cocktail than another. Just as you might reach for one kind of olive oil for salads, and another kind for roasting vegetables, the characteristics of gin make different styles better suited for different cocktails. Try out a few recipes and taste for yourself. I experimented with some popular cocktail recipes from the Food52 files and noted my preference when one gin tasted to me more suitable than another. Let us know in the comments which you prefer!

Lemon Lavender Gin Rickey
Both sweet and sour. Both bubbles and flowers. That’s what comes to mind for me with this Gin Rickey. There’s a lot going on, enough to stand up to a “navy strength” gin, which is traditionally more alcoholic than other gins. Try Perry’s Tot Gin, a navy-strength gin made by Brooklyn-based New York Distilling Company. It cuts through the sweetness of the honey, and its aromatics complement the lavender.

Boozy Watermelon Rosemary Lemonade
This drink has refreshment written all over it, making it the perfect recipe for Martin Miller’s gin, which is made with fresh spring water from Iceland. That’s the distinctive twist that makes Miller’s unique, and its Westbourne Strength is pure and herbaceous to complement both the fruits and the rosemary of this recipe. 

Gin Spritz
A straightforward 80-proof gin works perfectly here. Look in particular for Leopold’s American Small Batch Gin from Colorado. It’s elegant and citrusy, with an easy kick of spice at the finish. (And just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s boring.)

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Cathy Huyghe

Written by: Cathy Huyghe

Best advice I've ever heard regarding wine? "Just drink the stuff."