I have a love-hate relationship with gin. I love it for its taste but hate it for its effects. After two drinks, you’ll find me scrolling through Amazon trying to buy a yacht. It’s not pretty.
Gin is a spirit recognized for its distinct flavor and aroma. This internationally renowned spirit can be made in many different ways. Most gins are made by distilling alcohol with juniper and other botanicals. The natural ingredients steep into the alcohol to give it their flavors before going through another round of distillation. The final result is a smooth yet intricate spirit.
So, when my non-alcoholic drinking friends ask me to describe the taste of gin, I find myself at a loss for words. Explaining the gin experience is not as straightforward as one might think. That’s because gin is a widely versatile spirit with several different flavors.
Let’s dive into what gin tastes like and discuss several related aspects. Maybe, then, you’ll be able to “experience” gin without the hangover.
What Does Gin Taste Like?
Describing the taste of gin is quite tricky as each type and brand has its own distinct flavor. In fact, gin is one of the most diverse categories of spirits.
In general, this spirit has a potent alcohol bloom or odor.
Gin usually tastes like pine which comes from the juniper. Good gin has a balanced taste between the juniper berry and other botanicals. These botanicals enhance and complement the overall flavor. As a result, premium gins often have a complex flavor profile.
Gin is a grain-based spirit often recognized for its predominant juniper flavor. However, while all gins have juniper, the unique flavors of the different variations often come from the botanical ingredients used. Common botanicals used in gin include licorice root, orris root, angelica root, cassia bark, grapefruit peel, orange peel, and dried herbs like anise and coriander.
While tasting bottle after bottle is the more entertaining way to master the taste of gin, below you will find a guide to what each type tastes like.
What Does London Dry Gin Taste Like?
If you haven’t seen “London Dry Gin” proudly displayed on gin labels, you haven’t spent much time browsing a liquor store. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone.
London Dry gins originate from, you guessed it, England but are now produced all over the world. This type of gin is what you usually get in a martini or gin and tonic. Dry gin refers to no added artificial flavoring. In addition, London Dry gin has no added sweeteners.
The flavor profile of the London Dry gin comes from natural botanicals that are used in the distillation process. Often, you’ll find that this gin has a floral and herbaceous taste.
The most prominent flavor comes from the juniper berry, which gives a slightly piney flavor. It has a sharp taste with hints of citrus. Juniper often brings back memories of winter walks through the forest or a Christmas-themed Bath and Body Works product.
London Dry gins sometimes have flavors coming from steeped fresh or dried citrus peels. This gives the gin a bright, citrusy taste. Since it has no added sweeteners, if it tastes sweet, the gin probably contains a botanical like licorice.
A widely used ingredient in London Dry gin is coriander, which adds flavors that range from being citrusy to spicy to sweet. Aside from the taste, the texture of London Dry gins is somewhat oily, definitely oilier than other styles.
What Does Barrel Aged Gin Taste Like?
Wine isn’t the only alcoholic drink that is aged in barrels. Modern producers have taken up aging gin in barrels without adding sweeteners. The gins are steeped in the barrels, creating a drier and woodier expression.
Gin can be aged in any type of wooden barrel or cask, including ash and oak. These barrels or casks could have held liquids, such as cognac, bourbon, and whiskey. Often, gin is aged for a shorter period than other spirits like whiskey or brandy.
The taste of barrel-aged gins varies greatly. The type of wood, size, age, and previous liquid held in the barrel all affect the resulting flavor of the barrel-aged gins.
The best of aged gins doesn’t leave an overwhelming oak flavor. Instead, the barrels should serve as the “finishing botanical.” They should enhance and emphasize the botanicals in the gin while adding a light woody flavor.
American oak often gives the gin a softer and sweeter flavor with hints of caramel and vanilla, while European oak has a resulting strong and spicy woody flavor. French oak is likely to bring notes of pepper, vanilla, and subtle spiciness.
The anticipated juniper flavor of gin shines through with herbal notes. Barrel-aged gins are best severed with ice and an orange peel. They could also be consumed neat or in cocktails.
What Does Old Tom Gin Taste Like?
If you’re starting to think that all gins don’t contain sweeteners, you’d be mistaken. Old Tom does. This gin has been titled the gin for those who don’t like gin.
Old Tom originated as a sweetened style of gin around the middle of the 18th century. It can be aged in barrels and have sweetener added to it. While some rely on sugar for sweetness, others rely on only botanicals. For example, licorice can be added in the distillation process to sweeten up the drink.
Old Tom is richer in flavors than London Dry Gin. It has a sweeter and slightly malty taste to it. Its perfect flavor is related to the ingredients that have been added.
For those not keen on the taste of juniper, Old Tom Gin might be your best option. This gin works best in mixed drinks or anything with a bitter flavor.
What Does Sloe Gin Taste Like?
Sloe gin is not your ordinary gin. It incorporates the often-overlooked bitter sloe berries that grow in backyards all over England.
Sole gin is a liqueur that is made from gin and sole berries. Like Old Tom, sole gin contains a small amount of sugar. The spirit may be influenced mainly by the juniper and other botanicals or the sole berries themselves.
Generally, sole gin has a slightly fruity taste with a juniper base. The flavor tends to have a ripe sweetness, unique tartness, and warmth to it.
The high-quality version of this drink has more of a plummy taste with an earthy-like quality. Often, you might find notes of almonds in the spirit, which come from the pit of the fruit. Lesser quality commercially made sole gins are usually composed of sugar and artificial flavorings. As a result, this drink has a very sweet taste with a harsh burn on the finish.
Sole gin has a darker color compared to gin due to the use of sloe berries. It could be enjoyed neat.
What Does Contemporary Gin Taste Like?
Thanks to some creative experimentation, we now have contemporary gin. Sometimes referred to as American or Western style of gins, contemporary gin includes new types from America to Germany to Japan.
A twist on the well-established classic dry gin, contemporary gin allows distillers to use rye and barley bases. They do not entirely distill it out for the sake of the flavor profile. The bases add flavor and give the gin a richer texture and taste.
Juniper should technically remain the dominant botanical; however, other botanicals could significantly influence the flavor. These supporting botanicals are given a chance to shine-even brighter than the juniper. Contemporary gin can focus the citrus, fruity, or floral notes while still having the dry juniper character.
What Tastes Similar to Gin?
If you’re allergic to juniper, or you just aren’t too fond of gin itself, you might be looking for something that tastes similar. There’s a great alcoholic beverage used as a substitute for gin.
A lot of people use vodka instead of gin once they run out.
They are chemically similar, and vodka serves as an excellent substitute for gin in cocktails. The flavor profile of vodka isn’t exactly like gin, but if you’re in need, it could be a good alternative.
Polish vodkas offer a similar aroma, while Scandinavian Akvavit has a similar flavor to gin.
What Goes Well with Gin?
As gin is often used as a base in drinks, it’s safe to say it goes well with a bucket load of things. You can get as creative as you’d like with your gin-based beverages.
There is a reason gin comes with a beautiful lime or lemon garnish. Citrus goes great with gin. Bitter lemon is enjoyed by those who don’t love the taste of tonic. In addition, lime juice or lime cordial comes in handy when making a gin cocktail.
A hot trend is combining ginger beer with gin. The ginger drink brings out lovely botanicals like cinnamon and orange. Also, vermouth is great for making a gin martini. Other products that go well with gin are grapefruit juice, soda, cranberry juice, prosecco, Irn-Bru, apple juice, strawberry, and the list goes on.
Best Gin Cocktails
We all get hit with a gin cocktail craving from time to time. Here are some of my favorite gin cocktails.
Gin and Tonic
Does it get more classic than the gin and tonic? It has a crisp botanical flavor, and it is effortless to make. All you need to do is grab gin and tonic water, pour them in an ice-filled highball glass, and garnish with lime wedges. If you add a squeeze of lime juice to this mixture, you get the tangy and bubbly Gin Rickey cocktail.
One of the most iconic cocktails is the gin martini. A sip fills you with a crisp, searing, and spirit-filled taste. This drink has many variations, so there’s room for creativity.
Another classic drink is the Tom Collins. It is a carbonated, refreshing gin cocktail that contains club soda, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a lemon slice and maraschino cherry for the garnish.
French 75 Cocktail
If you want to get a bit more sophisticated, you can try the French 75 cocktail, which contains gin, lemon juice, champagne, and simple syrup.
Other Great Gin Cocktails to Try
Other great gin cocktails include Gin Gin Mule, Gin Fizz, Gin Sour, Monkey Gland, Gin Gimlet, Southside, Hanky Panky Cocktail, and Negroni.