Overview of Gin


In the 16th century, the Dutch chemist Dr. Franciscus Sylvus created gin as a remedy for cleansing the blood of individuals with kidney disorders.  Sylvus called it genièvre, which means juniper in French.  Soon after, it began to be mass produced in England.  This was due to the fact that King William III had a grudge with France and had banned the imports of expensive liquors from there.  The masses could now afford gin.



Gin is made out of a cereal grain mash, usually wheat, barley, rye and corn that has congeners.  It is a light-bodied liquor.  Juniper berries contribute the main aroma and flavor notes.  Other botanicals frequently used to make gin include angelica, almond, anise, cassia, fennel, orange peels, lemon and coriander.  Gin ranges from 80 to 94 proof and by law, it cannot be qualified by its age.

London Dry Gin

London dry gin

When it comes to gin, the quality benchmark is London Dry.  The aromatic and flowery characteristics of this kind are due to the botanicals that are added in the second or third distillation.  The vapors of the flavoring agents get into the alcohol when they are passed through a special still with a gin head, which is a special attachment.  Dry gin is preferred when making a Martini.

Plymouth Gin

plymouth gin

This is a full-bodied, slightly fruity and clear spirit.  It is also very aromatic.  This style originated at Plymouth port on the English Channel.  Today, Plymouth, Coates & Co. is the only distillery with the rights for producing Plymouth Gin.  Douglas Fairbanks and Admiral Benbow, are two cocktails that use Plymouth as their base spirit.

Old Tom Gin

Old Tom Gin

This type is a sweeter London Dry version.  To distinguish Old Tom from its contemporaries, a simple syrup is used.  It also includes notes of citrus.  This was the original gin that Tom Collins was made with, and the preferred gin of the 19th century.  Not very long ago in the U.S., it was unavailable, and could be found mainly in the U.K.  Recently, however, several distilleries in the U.S. have started to produce Old Tom.  It is perfect for mixing into old cocktails.


genever gin

Also called Schiedam gin, this is the Belgian and Dutch version of gin.  It inspired and predates all the other types.  This gin originally was distilled for medicinal purposes during the Middle Ages.  It was also the gin originally used in many 19th Century classic American cocktails.

Genever is distilled using a mash of malted grain, which is similar to whiskey.  It has a tendency to be 70-80 proof, which is a lower proof than the English gins.  It is frequently aged for 1-3 years in oak casks.  There are two styles of this product.  The original style is Oude (old Genever).  It is aromatic, relatively sweet and has a straw hue.  Jonge (young) Genever, by contrast, has a lighter body and drier palate.

New American Gin

New American Gin

During the early 2000’s the term “New American Gin” started to be used for describing several new products that are pushing the boundaries of what defines gin, especially when it comes to juniper being so dominant.  Numerous American craft gin distillers in this era released these with other dominant flavors other than juniper.  The question was raised whether these brands technically would be referred to as flavored vodka or gin.  Most of the worldwide bartending community adopted the New American Gin name to distinguish the new gins from the ones that are more traditional.

Some of the brands in this style include: Small’s, Aviation, Dry Fly, G’Vine and Hendrick’s.  A modern mixology mindset is used when producing these gins.  They are very appealing to consumers who don’t like their drink to have a heavy pine characteristic to them.