Written by: Sangeeta Kocharekar
One of the most versatile spirits, gin has fitted into cocktail culture well, with its adaptable flavour making it an appealing infusion for all different styles of drinks, from the classic G&T, to some of the most popular classic cocktails, like a Negroni, Martini and Collins.
“Over the last few years, the gin market has really expanded, ranging from new world to old world, from flavoured to Genever,” says Pauric Kennedy, Beverage Manager at Solotel Group, which includes Sydney venues Barangaroo House, North Bondi Fish, Chiswick and Aria.
“It seems there's a never-ending roll of gin makers concocting new ways to sell, serve and drink gin. We are seeing the likes of strawberry gin, olive oil gin, shiraz gin, tea-flavoured gin, overproof gin, barrel-aged gin, saffron gin and even non-alcoholic gin. The list is ever-growing.”
Nowadays, gin distilleries can be found in all corners of the world, adds Sarah Proietti, Gin Specialist at award-winning Sydney bar Maybe Sammy. “Each country adds to its unique selection of botanicals during the distillation process to transport gin lovers to another place through its scents and tastes,” Proietti explains.
In Australia, many distillers are using native ingredients to create gins that are taking the world by storm and performing amazingly well at international spirit conventions and competitions, says Kennedy.
Different types of gin
Gin is made by distilling neutral grains like wheat or barley and then adding juniper berries or other fresh or dried botanicals to create a distinct and aromatic spirit, explains Proietti. Here, she explains the different types of gin:
London dry gin: First made in England, this type of gin is typically dry, heavily juniper-flavoured, light-bodied and aromatic.
Genever gin: The original form of gin, from the Netherlands. It's made with the base of malt grains, which gives a dark colour and helps it develop a robust malty flavour. This gin is different in taste to other types and comparable to a light-bodied, botanic whiskey.
New world gin: This refers to modern styles of gin that use the same distilling process but are infused with unusual flavours other than juniper berries. Other flavours are often added through the barrel age process.
Old tom gin: A cross between a London dry gin and Genever, it's appropriately named in the ever-popular Tom Collins and Martinez cocktails.
Sloe gin: This gin uses sloe or blackthorn. It's technically a gin-based liqueur because of its high sugar content.
What to look for in a gin for your home bar
Now that you know the different types of gin, it's time to look at what types of gins to look for when stocking your home bar.
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing gin for a home bar, according to Kennedy, is what you want to do with it.
“If you want a gin that's primarily for making cocktails, choose one that mixes well and is good to your wallet,” he says. “That said, if it's martinis you're making, then go all out on your favourite gin. Otherwise, generally speaking, a nice London dry-style gin is a good all-rounder.”
One tip for making mixed gin drinks - or really, any kind of mixed drinks - at home, Proietti adds, is to opt for a premium mixer. “Brands like Fever-Tree have an amazing selection of flavoured mixers, which will level up your drinks at home.
“Also, try to avoid the classic house ice cubes,” she says. “They usually melt pretty quickly, adding extra dilution and a bad taste to your drinks. These days, it's easy to make better ice using specific ice moulds and filtered water.”
Best gins for your home bar
So, while you now know what to look for in a gin for your home bar, what gins, in particular, should you look at stocking? Ahead, are some of Kennedy and Proietti's home bar gin faves.
“This gin expresses bright citrus, pear, crisp green apple, and herbal green tea. Nicely spiced and slightly sweet, this is a great example of a very versatile gin. It won a World Gin award in 2020. It also comes with a banging 47% ABV which imparts a huge amount of flavour, intensity, mouthfeel, and depth. I love this gin in a G&T but only with Fever-Tree elderflower tonic. Alternatively, a wet martini with a twist of lemon.” - Kennedy
“Gins can take you everywhere, through flavours and scents. Roku gin is a Japanese gin made from six traditional Japanese botanicals with each botanical representing a season of the year - Sakura Leaf and Sakura Flower being spring, Gyokuro Tea and Sencha Tea being summer, Sansho Pepper being autumn, and Yuzu Lemon being winter. The result is a gin with different layers of flavours, highlighting the Yuzu and floral notes, making a perfect spirit for a refreshing G&T, Collins or spritz style cocktails.” - Proietti
“Styled after the classic Sloe gin, this substitutes the sloe berry for Illawarra Plum, a native Australian fruit. Sweet, yet dry, with an amazingly full mouth feel, this silky style gin is great for cocktails, on its own, or with soda/tonic. It is also aged in French Oak for 12 months. Drinks to make with it include Charlie Chaplin, Spritz, Gin Fizz, Clover Club.” - Kennedy
“This is a slightly more subtly spiced version of Bombay Sapphire with the addition of three botanicals - golden turmeric, Indian white cardamom and Spanish mandarin. It is refreshingly aromatic and warm, with zesty citrus lingering. It is designed for mixing, so you can go to town on making cocktails.” - Kennedy
“A classic London dry gin from a leading distillery such a Bombay - you can't go wrong. The Bombay Sapphire Sunset edition has a unique aromatic flavour expression, combining the ten signature botanicals with an additional three - golden turmeric, Indian white cardamom, and Spanish mandarin to create a complex but beautifully balanced, vibrant gin, perfect for a Martini with a lemon twist, Gimlet, or a modern classic such the London calling.” - Proietti
“This gin is a beautiful expression of a classic London Dry gin. Super clean pine-fresh juniper, with delectable citrus such as orange and ruby grapefruit, finished with subtle spice and white pepper. It won the World's Best Gin four times! You can use this gin to make my favourite drinks of all time: Martinez, Negroni, G&T, Rickey, Fizz, Martini, French 75, Southside. Yum!” - Kennedy