Gin is an exceptionally versatile spirit that is gaining in popularity among bartenders for a good reason. From the finest small-batch gins to exotic flavoured gin, gin lovers can enjoy selections from a subscription box from curators such as Craft Gin Club and discover unique gins from around the world. Or they can enjoy one of our gin hampers, or perhaps send one as a gift to that gin lover friend or family member.
If you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can even learn how to make your own gin at home. Making gin at home is a relatively simple process that involves a basic recipe.
Gin simply is a neutral spirit that gets its predominant flavour from juniper berries and other botanicals in its most basic form. Sloe gin and flavoured gin are not the same things as the traditional recipe that contains juniper.
Gin, also known as compound gin or bathtub gin, dates back to the American Prohibition era when manufacturing and distributing of alcohol was illegal in the 1920s. Distilling alcohol is still illegal today in the United States, although brewing beer is not illegal.
It is only legal for you to distil alcohol in the UK if you have a license from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, but you can make alcohol in natural ways for your consumption. Commercial gin makers extract flavours from plants during the distillation process, but because it’s illegal to do it from home and without the proper licensure, the best method for flavouring during the gin production process is steeping. By steeping the botanicals in the base spirit, you can infuse it with the flavour of juniper berries and more.
You can make your own compound gin quite easily with a basic recipe.
Under the European Union, there is a specific definition regarding gin’s makeup and taste, and there are regulations for the process of making it.
The EU requires that gin be made from a natural ingredient such as potatoes, wheat, or barley so that it has a neutral flavour. Additionally, all gin must have juniper as a flavouring agent; otherwise, it is not a proper gin. However, other gin botanicals are popular for adding extra flavouring.
Gin must have a pure alcohol content of at least 37.5%. Alcohol-free gin does exist, although you can’t make it at home without using a juniper syrup and carbonated soda water.
There are a few types of gins dating back many years. It can be helpful to know their differences when making your own. Already knowing what kind you like makes it easier to understand what botanicals to use so you can plan accordingly and craft a product you genuinely enjoy.
This type is characterised by how it is made and has an upscale, refined taste. Adding the proper botanicals during the gin’s distillation process gives this type its dry, strong juniper flavour. Crafters may not add any artificial sweetener and only a tiny amount of water after distilling London Dry, which increases the purity of this juniper-forward gin compared to the other types.
Old Tom is a delightfully sweet gin that has recently become popular because it works for gin cocktails and other mixed drinks. It was trendy in the 18th century as the sugar helped disguise the poor quality that makers had to resort to in the time before distillation technology.
If you aren’t as partial to the juniper flavour, Plymouth gin may be an ideal option for you. It primarily focuses on roots such as liquorice powder. Other root botanicals such as angelica root fit in well with the muted sweetness of Plymouth gin.
Making DIY gin is a great way to save money and enjoy other beverages with this herbal spirit, including gin cocktails. The Craft Gin Club has an excellent recipe to help you make your own gin run successful.
- Two tablespoons of juniper berries or more if you prefer
- Two peppercorns
- Two teaspoons of coriander seeds
- Two cardamom pods
- One small piece each of dried lemon peel and dried orange peel
- Half a cinnamon stick
- 750 mL of high-quality vodka
- Pour boiling water into a clean mason jar and dry it. The heat from the boiling water sterilises the glass and creates an ideal situation for flavouring agents to start working, similar to the process of brewing tea. If you don’t have a glass jar, you can use a glass bottle as long as it has a lid that seals securely.
- Add the juniper berries and other botanicals to the mason jar, but don’t add the dried lemon peel or the orange peel yet. A fresh peel can be too potent for a 48-hour infusion, so dried options are ideal. If you like a tart gin, using a fresh peel will be more suitable for you than the subdued flavour of a dry citrus peel.
- Add the vodka to the mason jar. Make sure you have enough room for all your botanicals and the alcohol or get a larger jar if necessary. A good-quality vodka is crucial for your homemade gin to make it both potent and tasty.
- Next is the infusion process. Close the jar and store it in a cool, dark place for 24 hours. This allows the berries to infuse their flavour into the alcohol mixture.
- After 24 hours, taste the mixture to ensure that the botanicals are infusing correctly, then add in the lemon and orange peel. At this point, you may also choose to add others botanicals if you want to increase their flavour.
- Let the mixture infuse for another 24 hours. During this round of infusion, giving the jar a gentle shake will help move the botanicals through the liquid. Over-infusing the mixture can happen if you let it sit for too long, so be sure to use a timer or monitor it every so often.
- After the second 24-hour period, test the mixture again and use a sieve to filter the liquid from the plant material. It’s vital to get as much material out of the liquid as possible. If you have trouble with it, you can use a coffee filter or a cheesecloth to ensure there are no large chunks of plant matter remaining.
- Allow the liquid to settle over a few days and use another coffee filter to remove any last plant sediment you find. If you want to make sure your mixture is exceptionally pure, you can put it through a water filter jug to remove other impurities. For another level of filtration, you can also set a muslin cloth in your water filter jug.
- Pour the gin into a glass or add it to a mixed drink. It will keep well in your drinks cabinet with proper storage. The more often you make gin at home, the better it will be. If you create a gin recipe that you especially like, you could even go so far as to create your own label for your bottles.
Juniper berries are the primary flavouring agent for gin, although it’s not unheard of to use additional plant material combined with the berries and raw spirit. You can use various herbs and spices to create different flavours from what’s in your spice cabinet or herb garden.
Popular herbs and spices for infusing gin at home include coriander seed, citrus peel, angelica root, fennel seeds, orris root, cassia bark, allspice, rosemary, pepper, and bay leaves. If you are unsure what botanical combinations you should use when you make gin, look for inspiration online or check out notable commercial gins for flavour ideas.
Gin can be tricky to get right the first time you make it. Depending on the outcome you get, it may be helpful to change the base spirit to something different such as vodka made with grape.
While professionals have access to the final distillation process that makes gin distillate look as good as it tastes, you don’t have this benefit at home, so you may notice a colour. The colour of your mixture results from the botanicals you use, and everything from coriander seeds to rosehips can affect it, but it’s not harmful.
If you let your mixture infuse for too long, it may get too thick, especially if you have many botanicals that have sugar in them, such as citrus fruits. The Craft Gin Club recommends that you add distilled water or more vodka to dilute it. Be especially careful to note the amounts of botanicals you put in your own gin at home.
While making your own gin is quite exciting, Virginia Hayward has a fine selection of alcoholic beverages available when you need gin or other consumables to give to your loved ones.