It seems that a new gin comes on the market every day and new microdistilleries continue to appear faster than you can say tonic. So it's about time we understood the different stages of gin production. There are two ways to make gin: mix and distill. The composition is considered the Dutch method, while distillation is considered a British way of making gin.
More information on both can be found below. Gin is produced using juniper berries and other botanical ingredients to flavor a neutral alcohol that has already been distilled. In the case of cold compounded gins, after removing the botanical solids, the liquid is diluted and bottled. Compound gins are rarely labeled as such because of the negative connotations of the term, but many inexpensive gins are made this way.
A basic gin martini is simply gin and dry vermouth (usually 2 oz to 1 oz, respectively), but there are many variations that add a different touch to this classic drink. For example, a dirty martini adds some brine from a can of olives to the mix, in addition to at least one olive as a garnish. A Gibson drink is served with a pickled onion or a cocktail onion. This favorite sparkling gin is similar to Tom Collins (1 ounce of gin, ½ ounce of lemon juice, ½ ounce of simple syrup), but is topped with champagne or sparkling wine for a festive touch.
Believe it or not, you can make a custom-made batch of aromatic gin at home, without any high-tech equipment or a degree in chemistry. Gin is made by distilling a neutral-grain alcohol with juniper berries and other botanical ingredients to create the fragrant liquor we all know and love. The botanical ingredients are infused into the raw liquor to release their flavors. You can also vary the recipe by adding different spices, fruits and floral elements.
When tasting and smelling pure gins side by side, it was hard to believe that they contained the exact same botanical ingredients distilled in the same way. Distilled gin: Neutral alcohol and natural botanical ingredients are redistilled, but more natural or artificial flavors and colors can be added after distillation. Using a smaller still or doing it in small batches results in higher quality gin and better captures the essences of botanical ingredients. The juniper in gin can be supplemented with a wide range of other botanical ingredients (see the box for exclusive botanicals, below) to incorporate many more flavor molecules into the mix.
Another small-scale distiller is Toby Whittaker, a chemistry graduate, from Whittaker's Gin in Harrogate, UK. I have even had gin made with coconut, which sadly surpassed juniper and cannot be considered gin in my book. The predominant flavor is always juniper; this is especially true for dry London gins, such as those produced by Whittaker's Gin and Bombay Sapphire. This striking gin sour is topped with a shot of blackberry liqueur and can be easily customized if you want to change the flavors.
The aggregates of flavor molecules create a taste sensation that is completely different from that of gin and tonic alone. Conversely, a higher still or a fractional column will provide a “cleaner” product, although it is more often used to make whiskey than for gin. The shape of the still can also affect the flavor of the gin, since the amount of internal reflux varies between the different forms of the still.