About Gin

Serve in a Rocks Glass
Gin is the original flavored vodka, a clear spirit that is flavored with juniper berries and so-called botanicals (a varied assortment of herbs and spices). The spirit base of Gin is primarily grain (usually wheat or rye), which results in a light-bodied spirit.

The chief flavoring agent in gin is the highly aromatic blue-green berry of the juniper, a low-slung evergreen bush (genus Juniperus) that is commercially grown in northern Italy, Croatia, the United States and Canada. Additional botanicals can include anise, angelica root, cinnamon, orange peel, coriander, and cassia bark. All gin makers have their own secret combination of botanicals, the number of which can range from as few as four to as many as 15 or more.

Most gin is initially distilled in efficient column stills. The resulting spirit is high-proof, light-bodied, and clean with a minimal amount of congeners (flavor compounds) and flavoring agents. Gin's lowland cousin, Genever, is distilled in less-efficient potstills, which results in a lower-proof, more flavorful spirit. Low-quality 'Compound Gins' are made by simply mixing the base spirit with juniper and botanical extracts. Mass-market gins, known as 'Distilled Gins', are produced by soaking juniper berries and botanicals in the base spirit and then redistilling the mixture.

Many top-quality gins are flavored in a unique manner and are referred to as 'London Dry Gins'. After one or more distillations the base spirit is redistilled one last time. During this final distillation the alcohol vapor wafts through a chamber in which the dried juniper berries and botanicals are suspended. The vapor gently extracts aromatic and flavoring oils and compounds from the berries and spices as it travels through the chamber on its way to the condenser. The resulting flavored spirit has a noticeable degree of complexity.

The most famous examples of gin are from the UK. These are among the most complex gins with subdued flavors of pine, peppery spices, citrus, herbal roots, and even floral notes, which are currently in vogue. Gin has experienced a revival thanks to the craft cocktail movement as the base for the wildly popular gin martini, a host of newly resuscitated classic cocktails, and adventuresome new libations.
Top Picks for Gin
Elephant Gin
Elephant Strength Gin
Clear color. Vegetal, spicy aromas of zucchini, steak seasoning, rose sachet and basil, and apple jacks and anise with a round, lively, fruity sweet medium body and a peppery, amusing, medium-length sweet lemon blossom, grilled nectarine, mint cream, and lilac water finish. A vibrant, very well-balanced over-proof gin that is surprisingly smooth, even neat.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Frey Ranch
Clear color. Bold, pungent, piney complex aromas and flavors of pine sap, lacquer, dried flowers, and smoked pepper and campfire fire with a creamy, lively, dryish medium-to-full body and a peppery, complex, long pine needle, honeyed juniper, and chalk finish. An amazingly powerful and intense gin with 3D fresh piney juniper flavors.
97 points $32.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Dry Gin
Brilliant clear color. Bold, citrusy aromas of lemon oil and cream, piney juniper, herb melange, and turpentine and pine sol with a supple, soft, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a warming, refreshing, cheery nut flour, pepper dust, wet limestone, and key lime zest finish. An intense old world style gin packed with flavor for the boldest of cocktails.
97 points $43.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Start Point London Dry Gin
Clear color. Herbal aromas of cardamom, candied flowers, green peppercorn, dried juniper berries, and lime and angelica with a creamy, dryish light-to-medium body and a warming, nuanced, long juniper blast, orange and dried mint, jasmine and sweet herbs, and cedar and licorice finish. A well constructed classic gin with a traveling finish.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Navy Strength Gin
Clear color. Bright, clean, floral fresh grassy aromas and flavors of licorice cream, fig and dried citrus, herb pepper bread, and resinous juniper with an even, vibrant, fruity medium-to-full body and a warming, refreshing, long mixed peppercorns, herbal honey, cinnamon ginger bread, and minerals finish. A lively, spicy gin that will be great in cocktails.
96 points $38.95
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Anchorage Distillery
Aurora Gin
Clear color. Herbal, spicy aromas of rice pudding with cinnamon, lavender and saffron, marinated grape leaf, and ginger beer with a satiny, bright, dry fat body and a hot, stimulating, relaxed coriander and black cardamom, flaxseed and rose water, black peppercorn, and cinnamon and cajeta finish. A rich, elegant, and evocative gin with a great combination of fruit, spice, and herbs in a malty, creamy frame.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
J. Rieger & Company
Midwestern Dry Gin
Brilliant clear color. Delicate, green aromas and flavors of fresh herbs, toasted peppercorns and nuts, and delicate piney juniper with a satiny, vibrant, dryish medium body and a warming, complex, medium-length citrus custard, anise candy, minerals, and floral honey on granola finish. A silky, nuanced gin with fine flavor and elegant balance.
95 points $29.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Martin Miller’s
Westbourne Strength Gin
Brilliant clear color. Bright, citrusy, complex aromas and flavors of dried lemon and flowers, licorice, herb pepper muffin, and indian spices with a silky, bright, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a warming, amusing, breezy juniper jelly, citrus custard, minerals, and pepper finish. A rich, elegantly styled gin for classic cocktails.
95 points $39.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Master Distillers Explosive Strength Gin
Clear color. Complex aromas and flavors of coated licorice candy, lemon poppyseed muffin, piney resinous herbs, and warm milk and honey with an oily, lively, dryish medium-to-full body and a warming, very long cracked peppercorns, fresh juniper, honeyed spice cake, and dried stone and citrus fruits finish. A powerfully delicious, expertly crafted, overproof gin with surprising smoothness and nuance.
95 points $49.95
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
The Art of the Still
Clear color. Fresh, herbal aromas and flavors of lavender sachet, juniper berries and spruce tips, fresh linen and rosemary, and fresh lemon with a velvety, bright, dryish light body and a tingling, interesting, long coriander and chamomile, vanilla bean, orange marmalade, and pink peppercorn finish. A rich, long finish makes this a excellent contemporary martini gin.
94 points $13.99 Best Buy
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab