With the help of Ian Macleod Distillers, we answer your burning questions about the nation's favourite spirit.
What is gin made from?
The main way of making gin is to start with a grain neutral spirit (GNS) and then add in botanicals depending on the recipe. To be classed as gin, it must contain juniper—however there has been some debate over the years as to how much juniper is needed to qualify a spirit as gin. Often other botanicals are added, such as the mulberries and pine buds, to give the gin a different flavour. Some botanicals, for example spices such as Szechuan peppercorns and grains of paradise, may be sourced from around the world.
What is the typical alcohol percentages of gin?
The average standard gin is around 40 percent ABV. Many supermarket gins will be 37.5 percent ABV, while premium spirits may be a little higher, sitting between 40 percent and 45 percent ABV. Gin can be even stronger, with historical navy strength styles, which are bottled around 57 percent ABV, also known as 100° proof.
Do you drink gin by itself or with food?
We like to think there’s a place for both! Some drinks, whether straight up or mixed into cocktails can really compliment flavours and aromas of certain types of food. Equally, there are some talented chefs who like to incorporate gins and liqueurs into various recipes in the kitchen.
What food goes with gin?
Gin is great with seafood as the strong flavours complement each other well. Stronger infusions of juniper work well with stronger flavours, for example salmon and dill dishes. Weaker alcohol strength gins work with more subtle flavours, such as oysters and crab. Martinis are the perfect cocktails to be drinking with a seafood dish as the subtle sweetness of the vermouth rounds out the flavour of the gin, thus making it more palatable to be accompanying with food.
How should I store my spirits?
We always recommend storing spirits in a cool dark place, however if you can’t resist showcasing your home bar contents, keep an eye on things like liqueurs, as they may lose colour or flavour intensity more quickly if they’re stored in direct daylight. If the bottle is opened there is a possibility that over time it may lose some of its aromatics, however it should still be drinkable for a long period.
How can I tell the quality of a gin?
Gin can vary very widely in flavour with different botanicals and alcohol strengths. Generally speaking, everyone will pick up different nuances of flavour and aroma. One sure-fire sign for a good quality spirit is that it doesn’t leave an unpleasant alcohol burn on the palate! Many people grow to expect this however a good gin will have a ‘smoother’ quality about it that will make it pleasant to drink even without a mixer.
What should I take into consideration when buying someone a bottle as a present?
Try to find out if they’re more likely to enjoy mixed drinks such as cocktails, or prefer to linger over a slow sip on the rocks. It can help steer you in the direction of a suitable type of gin, whether a great all-rounder for G&Ts and classic cocktails, or something a with a particular flavour profile (whether that’s more floral, citrusy, resinous) to work with their favourite types of cocktails. At the end of the day, don’t be scared to go for something a bit different; surprise them!