What is Gin?
A gin and tonic may be one of the most commonly ordered drinks, and for good reason. The distinctive juniper taste of gin makes it a delicious spirit and more than just flavored vodka.
But what exactly is gin?
Gin is a spirit primarily made from fermented grain, but can also have a base of grapes, molasses and sugar beets. Gin goes through a double distillation process in which the fermented grain is distilled into a clear and neutral spirit otherwise known as a base spirit. From this base spirit you are able to make other spirits, for example, the Denver gin distillery “Deviation” uses the same grain and base spirit to make both their gin and whiskey products.
What separates gin from say, flavored vodka, is the addition of Juniper berries. The other half of the gin creation process is the second distillation where the clear and high-proof base spirit is infused with Juniper and other botanicals for flavor. In order for a spirit to be considered gin in Denver, it needs to have ‘predominant Juniper notes’ however, there is no set ratio. This leaves the recipe for gin open to interpretation and resulted in the development of four (maybe five) distinct types of gin:
- London Dry gin
- Old Tom gin
- Dutch Genever gin
- Plymouth gin
- International/New American gin (think of this gin as an all other types of gin category)
Gin is a spirit, not a liquor
Spirits are specific alcoholic beverages that are distilled with the goal of achieving a certain flavor. Another distinction between spirits and liquors is liquors are distilled with extra sugar and are therefore sweeter than spirits overall. Additionally, there is a difference in the alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage between spirits and liquors. In order for a liquid to be considered a liquor it must be distilled from fermented beverages and have at least a 40 percent ABV, while spirits only need at least a 20 percent ABV.
Does all gin taste the same?
You might think that because gin is defined by the present of Juniper notes, that every gin must taste the same. Well, you would be mistaken. While Juniper is a vital ingredient of what makes gin, gin… many distilleries create their own flavor profiles with the use of different botanicals and distilling methods. These botanical mixes are usually comprised of each distiller’s own arrangement of herbs, flowers, spices and fruits. These one-off recipes make gin an excellent base for mixologists as each gin has a slightly altered flavor profile. Equally, no gin is produced the same way making specific gins work better in certain cocktails.
Gin is a spirit that has evolved from its creation in the 17th century, into a bar staple and foundation for many cocktails today. While not usually served on the rocks or neat, tasting both classical and nuance gins on their own will allow you to taste the subtleties of each variation.