There has been an explosion of new gins entering the market in the last few years. The popularity of these drinks has increased dramatically, as evidenced by the exponential growth in the number of brands available and the number of people trying them.
But what exactly is gin? How is it made? Is it the same as vodka? Can it be made from vodka? Are flavoured variants the same as “real” gin? There are so many questions, so we’ve summarised the answers for you, especially before visiting your nearest gin bar in London!
The Genesis of Gin
This spirit is usually made from a base of grain, such as wheat or barley, which is first fermented and then distilled (in the same distilling process as vodka). Herbs, botanicals, and other ingredients are added to the base spirit to create gin, resulting in a strong juniper flavour.
On the other hand, compound gin is made using a more straightforward process: botanicals are steeped in a neutral base spirit to create an infusion.
At its core, gin is distinct for its pine scent. We’ll explore other infusions when we get to the flavoured variant.
The Gin Code
One cannot appreciate gin thoroughly without understanding its laws! You might be surprised to find that laws govern what flavours are used, how the gin is made, and even how the drink tastes! But don’t worry, your gin bar doesn’t follow these rules strictly.
The current legal definition of gin care of the European Union says:
- Gin must be a neutral spirit distilled from a natural source.
- The flavour of a gin comes from its botanicals, although juniper must be the predominant flavour.
- If a distilled spirit does not contain juniper, it cannot be defined as gin by law.
- There must be at least 37.5 per cent of alcohol by volume in the total volume of liquid (that’s the ‘alcohol by volume’ you can see on the label).
- In addition, there are three traditional types of gin: London Dry Gin, Plymouth Gin, and Old Tom Gin. However, some modern gins no longer fit into any of these categories!
Do Flavoured Gins Count?
Currently, the drinks industry is debating whether gins should be legally defined to make it difficult for innovative new products to call themselves “gin.” Aside from its unique pine aroma, other botanicals can be mixed, such as coriander, orange, lemon, angelica root, cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and ground almonds!
On one side of the argument, it is believed that strong opinions abound about what kinds of products are allowed to call themselves “gin.”
On the other side, the belief is that a looser definition is needed to enable new products to enter the market easily and quickly, especially for your preferred gin bar in London.
Can You Get Vodka from Gin?
Yes! While most ‘proper’ commercial distillers, including the makers of “Gin of the Month” clubs, release the flavour from botanicals through the distillation process, it is possible to make gin simply by ‘steeping’ plants, herbs, or spices in a spirit base.
Armed with your new knowledge, you’re already more knowledgeable than most! So go on, impress your buddies with your ability to explain what goes into making a quality gin, how it’s distilled, or how its flavour can be changed to produce coloured spirits that can be used to create a multitude of different cocktails –and indeed why there are so many different mixes available on the market or your favourite gin bar today.