A guide to flavoured gin

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

With so many wonderful flavoured gin options around it's time for a little inside knowledge, here's our guide to classic gin with a twist

The gin market is an extremely crowded place and spirit makers are looking to an increasing array of ingredients to flavour their gins and make them stand out. While many of these seem to be created with little more than a marketing strategy in mind, there are plenty that are worthy contenders for a place in your drinks cabinet.

Anyone dismissive of the trend for flavoured gins should be reminded that gin itself is a flavoured drink, with juniper and other botanicals added to a neutral spirit such as vodka. To be labelled as a London Dry Gin, this flavouring has to be carried out during distillation; flavours added after distillation lose the ‘London Dry’ tag and are usually referred to by the more obvious name ‘flavoured gin’. 

Flavouring your own gin can be a fun and rewarding process, and you can even make the whole gin from scratch without troubling a still. Simply infuse juniper and the other ingredients in a neutral spirit to create a drink that’s often known as a ‘bathtub gin’.

 

To give you a taste of what some ingredients can offer, here are five of our favourite gin flavours…

Cucumber

You could argue that cucumber is the ingredient that kick-started the current gin craze. When William Grant & Sons launched Hendricks in 1999 you would struggle to find many fancy flavoured gins, but their additions of cucumber and red rose petals to gin soon became hugely popular and it wasn’t long before rival distillers started experimenting with other ingredients. Cucumber is an excellent flavour to enhance a G&T, with its cooling effect suiting gin’s bitter botanicals. To give your own G&T a cucumber makeover simply infuse a few slices in a glass of gin for ten minutes before topping with tonic and ice.

 

Lavender

lavender gin

Flowers are a regular feature of many gins that come boasting of a multitude of ingredients, but most of them are rather shy and struggle to stamp their authority on the final spirit. Not so lavender: its aromatic oils don’t take much encouragement to make their presence known. Drop a lavender head into your G&T and it will quickly infuse its flavours throughout the drink; leave a small handful of flower heads in a bottle of gin for a few hours and you’ll have your own fully flavoured lavender gin. To see how effective it can be in expert hands, try Cotswolds Distillery’s excellent Dry Gin—lavender is one of the botanicals distilled with the juniper and, although delicate, its effect is obvious.

 

Sloes and plums

sloe gin

The combination of sloe and gin is a famous one, with legions of DIY booze-makers heading out to the country in autumn to plunder the blackthorn’s fruits and steeping them in booze to make sloe gin. This richly flavoured, tart treat is more commonly made into a liqueur with spoonfulls of sugar going into the mix, but you can do without the sweet stuff and make a flavoured gin instead. We were recently impressed by the Australian distillery Brookie’s gin flavoured with ‘Davidson Plum’, a fruit with sloe-like qualities that grows in the local rainforest. A tart, plummy delight.

 

Grapefruit

Citrus peel often features in gin ingredients lists but we’ve noticed an increasing promotion of grapefruit to a starring role. This is with good reason—its bright, fruity flavours are an excellent match for sharp and bitter berries (we often use it to add extra flavour to sloe gins). For a citrus medley with ample grapefruit, check out Salcombe Gin’s ‘Start Point’, a London Dry Gin that’s full of zesty freshness. For the full grapefruit effect we recommend Rock Rose Pink Grapefruit Old Tom Gin, full of punchy juniper and an invigorating burst of citrus.

 

Rhubarb

Another tart ingredient, we like rhubarb so much that we think it can flavour any drink. Gin acts as a perfect base for the vegetable and we’ll often make an alternative liqueur to sloe gin with a stick of rhubarb, sometimes adding a touch of orange or vanilla to the mix. There are quite a few rhubarb flavoured gins on the market, proving that it’s not just us that are taken in by its charms. Warner Edwards version is well worth your attention while Edinburgh Gin have added a touch of ginger to spice up the rhubarb in their special spirit.


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