Gin and tonic with lime and rosemary on a slate board

Gin is a distilled spirit that is made from grain and flavored with botanicals. It is most noted for its pine flavor due to its main ingredient, juniper berries. There are a variety of styles, from the famous London dry gins to modern gins that are less piney and more approachable. Gin is a Dutch creation and the English made it popular worldwide. Today, it’s made and enjoyed throughout the world; Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the U.K. consume the most gin. It’s the main ingredient in a classic martini and vital to the iconic gin and tonic, but there are many great cocktail recipes that show off the botanical spirit.

Fast Facts

Ingredients: Juniper berries and other botanicals

Proof: 80-100

ABV: 40–50%

Calories in a shot: 64

Origin: Netherlands, England

Taste: Herbal, piney

Serve: Cocktails

What Is Gin Made From?

Gin was created by Dr. Franciscus Sylvus, a Dutch chemist, during the 16th century. His original intention was to make an elixir that would cleanse the blood of those suffering from kidney disorders. Sylvus named his creation genièvre, French for “juniper.” Mass production in England soon followed after King William III banned expensive liquor imports from France due to a grudge and made gin affordable for the masses. Since that time, gin has spread to a worldwide following. Though the English and Dutch are best-known for making gin, it can be produced anywhere.

Gin is a light-bodied distilled spirit that is made of a mash of cereal grains, usually corn, rye, barley, and wheat. Producers cannot qualify their gin by age and, generally, only genever is barrel aged. For that reason, most gin is clear. Some get a slight golden color due to certain methods used to incorporate the flavors into the gin. The use of botanicals during distillation sets gin apart from the other liquors, particularly vodka. It is not a simple infusion. Instead, the botanicals are introduced in the still while the liquor is being made to create a very concentrated and well-rounded flavor.

Gin’s dominant flavor and aroma come from juniper berries. These must be included in order for a liquor to be classified as gin. The juniper is responsible for that “pine” flavor that makes gin unique. Beyond that, every distiller of gin uses its own botanical recipe, comprised of various herbs, spices, flowers, and fruits. Among the most common botanicals used are almond, angelica, anise, cassia, coriander, fennel, and citrus peels. Some gin recipes use just a handful of different botanicals while others use 30 or more. You will find brands that divulge their full list and others that keep it a well-guarded secret. This lends to each gin’s unique flavor profile and, unlike other spirits, every gin you pour can be an entirely new experience.

The strength of gin ranges between 40 percent and 47 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 80 to 94 proof); the majority is bottled at 80 proof. Navy-strength gin is the strongest at around 114 proof.


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