This guide will teach you about the unique styles of gin, so you can learn how to purchase a bottle you'll love. It's perfect for beginners who want to learn about what makes gin a delicious-tasting spirit.
There are many different styles of gin, which can oftentimes make it confusing when you're trying to find a bottle you'll enjoy drinking.
We're breaking down all the ins and outs of gin so you can learn how it's made, and what makes it unique from other types of spirits.
Plus, we'll talk through all the different types of gin, including the best options for mixed drinks and cocktails.
Guide To Gin Video
What Makes Gin Special
At its core, gin is essentially a flavored neutral spirit. What makes gin so special is the blend of juniper berries and other spices and aromatics that are infused with the spirit during or after the distillation process.
What makes the different styles of gin unique are the various aromatics that are infused in the gin, along with the different distillation processes they use to infuse the botanicals into the spirit.
You should also know that gin, unlike other spirits, does not have geographic restrictions for where it can be produced (unlike tequila which has to be made in certain regions in Mexico).
Gin was one of the main spirits drank during the United States prohibition, which is why we still have many classic gin cocktails from that era. Some of the popular drinks include the Negroni, French 75, martini, gimlet, and Tom Collins.
Styles of Gin
Let's talk more about the various styles of gin and how they differ in flavor.
Arguably one of the most well-known and iconic gins is the London dry style. From the name, you can probably tell this gin originated in England. However, nowadays, London dry gin is produced all over the world.
Since London dry gin cannot contain artificial flavors, colors, or really much sugar (no more than 0.1 grams of sugar per liter), it tends to be on the dry side compared to other gins.
London dry has a strong juniper and citrus taste. Oftentimes, this is the type of gin you'll get if you're ordering a martini or gin & tonic drink at the bar.
While anyone could technically produce Plymouth gin anywhere in the world, currently, the only place it's made is in the Plymouth Gin Distillery in Plymouth, England. This distillery is actually one of the oldest distilleries in the U.K.
Plymouth gin prides itself on a rich smooth taste that is balanced by the seven botanicals used in distillation: juniper, coriander, orange, lemon, angelica root, green cardamom, and orris root.
This type of gin is even drier than London gin, but has a more citrus-focused flavor with a hint of spiciness.
Old Tom was the type of gin originally used in the Tom Collins drink. This gin is also labeled as a historic gin, which is why it was popular in many prohibition era cocktails.
The thing that stands out about this type of gin, is the slightly sweet, licorice-like flavor from a sweetening agent that's added along with the botanicals.
Old Tom tends to have a bit more of a sweet taste than other varieties. It tastes less like juniper than London dry or Plymouth gin.
This type of gin works well for people who like the taste of gin but think other varieties are too dry.
New American/New Western
New American/New Western is a recent category of gin that has arisen from the various craft distillers that have popped up around the world. While the style began among American distillers, it has now expanded to other countries.
It's hard to put a defining flavor profile on this category of gin since each of the craft distillers likes to put their own twist on the spirit.
However, typically, the taste of juniper is less present than other gins. New American/New Western tends to have a more flowery, light-hearted flavor profile.
Genever gin is special because it is technically classified as gin, but it's made very differently than all the other gins on the list. Some people classify Genever as a precursor to the gin we know today.
Genever is a Dutch-style gin made with malted grains which is somewhat similar to how whiskey is produced.
Not surprisingly, genever tends to have a malty, whiskey-like taste. Juniper isn't the predominant flavor; rather, you can taste the rich, earthy notes of various spices often including ginger, cloves, nutmeg, or caraway.
How to Choose a Gin You'll Love
Some people argue that gin should be in a cocktail, rather than sipped by itself.
I would argue, from my research, that gin seems to be a spirit that is valued and highlighted in many cocktails. Meaning, the classic gin cocktails seem to enhance the natural botanical flavors found in the gin by pairing it with simple and elegant flavors.
My personal belief, however, is that you should drink gin the way you like and enjoy the most!
That being said, here are some of my recommendations for finding a gin you'll love.
If you're new to gin or prefer a sweeter, more mellow taste, start off with an Old Tom or New American gin. Old Tom tends to err on the sweeter side of things, and New American will have a lighter flavor.
For those who love the classics, London Dry and Plymouth gins are going to be your best bet. This is likely the gin you're used to drinking if you order a cocktail out at a bar. They are dry and pair nicely with the classic cocktails we all know and love.
And finally, if whiskey is your drink of choice, a Genever gin would be a good first step for you in the gin world. With the malty, whiskey-like taste, this is a natural choice for any whiskey lover.
Gin Drinks For Beginners
If you enjoy drinking gin, here are a few gin cocktails you should try:
- Negroni: A classic cocktail made with equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, garnished with an orange peel. The Negroni is a bittersweet and sophisticated drink with a perfect balance of flavors.
- French 75: A sparkling cocktail combining gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and champagne, garnished with a lemon twist.
- Martini: A timeless and iconic cocktail made with gin and dry vermouth, garnished with an olive or a twist of lemon. You could also try a fruity version of the martini, like this blood orange martini.
- Gimlet: A classic cocktail consisting of gin and lime juice, often sweetened with a touch of simple syrup.
- Tom Collins: A refreshing highball cocktail made with gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda water, garnished with a lemon slice and cherry.
- Gin and Tonic: A classic and simple combination of gin and tonic water, served over ice with a slice of lime or lemon.
For a list of gin-based cocktail recipes and many more, grab a free copy of my bartender's cheat sheet. Plus, check out my favorite mixed drinks to make with gin.
More Helpful Guides
More Resources on Gin
Want to keep learning more about gin? Here are some of my favorite video and article resources!
- This article on the 6 most important rules for drinking gin.
- An in-depth video guide to how gin is made.
- I really enjoyed this video guide on how to choose a gin. It talks about the different flavor notes and profiles of different types of gin.
- Back in the day of prohibition, gin got a bad rap because so many people were making their own. They called it "bathtub gin." For fun, you should check out this video on how to make your own gin at home.
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