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The 4 (and Maybe 5) Types of Gin

Types of gin, Tanqueray and New Amsteradam

Gin may be one of the world’s most widely used, and highly unappreciated, liquors. Most commonly known as the base for a martini, gin is actually over 500 years old, created by a Dutch chemist in the 16th century for medicinal purposes…as many cocktail ingredients are. Made from a mash of different grains and flavored with juniper berries and other aromatics like coriander and citrus, gin ranges from subtle and floral to punchy and dry.

But did you know that there are actually 4, and maybe 5, different styles of gin…depending on who’s counting. Let’s take a look at what they are:

  • London Dry Gin is what most people think of as “gin.” They are typically very dry, heavily juniper flavored, light in body, and aromatic. To get the flowery, botanical flavor, this style of gin is typically infused with various aromatic ingredients during the 2nd or 3rd distillation process, giving each brand its own unique taste. London dry gin doesn’t have to be made in London and most aren’t. If you’re at the store, common brands include Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, and Beefeater. This style is great for classic martinis, gin and tonics, and Aviation cocktails.
  • Plymouth Gin is a less dry cousin to London Dry Gin that must be made in Plymouth, England. Infused with more roots, this style of gin has an earthier flavor with softer juniper notes than other styles. Currently, there is only one brand of Plymouth gin produced in the world and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s called Plymouth. It can be used anywhere a London Dry Gin is used.
  • Genever or Dutch gin is very different in color and taste to the other types of gins. Unlike most gins which are made with a combination of cereal grains, genever is made from a base of malt grains which gives it a darker color and flavor that is more similar to a light-bodied, botanical whiskey. Recently, genever has been revived by craft mixologists who are using it creatively in cocktails, but it is just as good for sipping straight or chilled. The most commonly available brand is Bols Genever.
  • Old Tom Gin is a sweeter cousin to London Dry Gin and is appropriately names as it was the preferred gin in a Tom Collins. It’s often thought of as somewhere in between a London Dry Gin and Genever. It can be difficult to find but look for the Hayman’s brand. Old Tom Gin is most famously used in the Tom Collins and Martinez cocktails but is also delicious in a Ramos Gin Fizz.
  • New American or International Style Gin is an umbrella term used to refer to all of the new styles of gin that use the same base distilling process but are predominantly infused with flavors other than juniper berries. The most common one you might be familiar with is Hendrick’s, flavored with cucumber and rose.

The range of flavors in gin can vary tremendously so it’s worthwhile to do a taste-test of different brands to see which you like best. Every producer has their own secret concoction of botanical aromatics that they add to get a unique taste, which is what sets certain brands apart from others. Try switching up the type of gin in the same cocktail or try several cocktails with the same brand to see how unique and versatile it can be.

  • Margaret Fischer

    Are there any gins that are gluten free?

    • @margaret_fischer:disqus Great question! Our friend Feed Me Phoebe wrote a post about her favorite gluten free liquors and says that both Hendrick’s Gin and Bombay Sapphire are gluten free:

      I would double check with the companies just to be sure though.

    • Armando Erotico

      You should be safe with most gins as no part of the gluten molecule is transferred through the distillation process.

      The only potential problem a true gluten intolerant person might run into is if a gluten containing product is added post-distillation, which is even theoretically possible in the most basic of the undistilled gins (i.e. neutral grain alcohol simply infused with flavors) or New American gins (the latter which seem to have no strict regulation regarding post-distillation additives).

      With regards to the latter 2 categories, simple infused gin is the ultra-cheap stuff no one out of undergraduate should be drinking anyways, and for New American gins it would seem unlikely to me to add gluten containing additives (as opposed to botanicals or sugar), but I suppose the potential is there.

      • Armando Erotico

        TL;DR: If in doubt just stick to a London Dry or Plymouth gin and there won’t even be a theoretical problem regarding gluten intolerance.

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