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Gin has a long-held reputation for creating erratic behavior and through the 16th and 17th centuries, had even been called “infamous” and allegedly named as the root cause for rising crime rates in London. Friends would tell me stories of how getting “gin drunk” made them “emotional” or “nasty” and gave them unbearable hangovers, so I steered clear of the stuff for years.
But at some point in the early aughts, I did a complete about-face on my opinion of gin—my first Hendrick’s G&T was poured for me at a prime rib dinner in San Francisco and it opened my eyes to the complexity of this alcohol: bright and botanical, slightly floral, with obvious notes of juniper. Gin and tonics became my go-to drink whether I was at a dive or a fancy mixologist bar with menus that had too many choices. My other go-to cocktail, the Negroni, also happens to include gin, so it’s safe to say I’ve embraced this oft-maligned spirit.
Nowadays, the world of gin is overflowing with excellent choices. Each distillery uses its own unique blend of botanicals, herbs, and aromatics to create its bottlings, from spirits heavily infused with sage and pine needles to lighter gins with citrus zest and delicate florals. If you’re a gin drinker, read on for seven beautifully crafted gins that should be on your radar.
While some of the most notable gin brands are from the UK, Nolet’s Silver ($40) is made in the Netherlands, the historical birthplace of gin. This modern take on the classic spirit features notes of Damascena rose, peach, and raspberry, alongside juniper berry that gives gin its signature flavor profile. It’s got a fairly high alcohol content compared to its competitors at 47.6% ABV, but that means it will hold up well in a cocktail. Bright and fruit-forward, this works well in a traditional gin and tonic (try it garnished with a sprig of rosemary and a couple of fresh cranberries this fall), but can also add dimension and a kick to a traditional Negroni.
Minke Irish Gin
Made by the Clonakilty Distillery in County Cork, Minke Irish Gin ($20) is inspired by the Minke whale, which inhabits the waters off the Atlantic coast of Ireland. The base spirit is derived from whey, making the gin extra smooth and velvety in the mouth, something I was really impressed by—no alcohol burn at all. The botanicals for Minke include hand-foraged sea fennel (also known as rock samphire), a succulent that grows seasonally on the cliffs by the sea (which gives this gin a hint of salinity, along with grassy, moss-like aromas). At 43.2% ABV, it’s definitely a softer gin that won’t overwhelm your drink. Try it in a tropical cocktail – the combination of oceanic notes and pineapple go really well together.
Ford’s Original London Dry Gin ($29) was created to fit the needs of bartenders, so this gin is perfect for a variety of cocktails. It’s infused with nine botanicals: angelica root, grapefruit and lemon peel, bitter orange, cassia bark, coriander seeds, orris root, jasmine, and of course, juniper berry, resulting in a warm, fruit-forward, and fresh spirit that brings plenty of depth to a simple gin and tonic. Also worth mentioning, try out the newly released Ford’s Sloe Gin Liquor ($33), which combines the original recipe with sloe (aka blackthorn) fruit from France and England, and has sweet notes of black tea and plum. At just 29% ABV, it can be enjoyed neat, or in a Sloe Gin Fizz, a throwback cocktail that dates back to the late 1800s.
There aren’t a ton of gins that come out of France, but the award-winning Citadelle Original Gin ($25) is one of the nation’s first, released in 1996, and is distilled at the Chateau de Bonbonnet in the Southwest region. It’s made with 19 different botanicals, including juniper—bien sûr—plus lemon peel, orange peel, violet, cubeb pepper, and touches of nutmeg and cinnamon. The secret to this gin includes a “progressive infusion,” a multi-day process where each ingredient is infused separately depending on its aromatic composition, leaving a balanced gin with subtle but deliberate flavors. Another of the brand’s bottlings, Citadelle Jardin d’Eté ($30) is a more delicate gin, a lower ABV (41.5%) with a lighter juniper aroma and more pronounced citrus (yuzu, lemon, and orange), as well as a unique addition of Charentais melon. Try either of these in an extra French French 75.
If it were possible to capture the spirit of the Amalfi coast in a gin, Malfy Con Limone ($28) has undoubtedly done it. Using the prized lemons that grow in the region, this Italian-made gin centers on the bright citrus notes that come from whole lemon and lemon peel. If you tend to find the juniper in gin overwhelming, this one is a great choice for you since it's way in the background. I like this in a simple gin and tonic, and spent many days this summer sipping Malfy G&Ts. If lemon isn’t your thing, Malfy also does a gin with pink grapefruit and rhubarb (Malfy Rosa) and one with Sicilian blood orange (Malfy Con Arancia), which are all equally beautiful.
This unique gin was created to honor Rose, Glendalough head distiller Rowdy Rooney’s mother, at his little brother’s wedding. She had recently passed, and this was the way Rooney ensured she would be there in spirit. Glendalough Rose Gin ($34) uses roses from her garden, juniper, plus a blend of botanicals and mountain plants like wood sorrel and pine shoots to create a deeply hued, very floral gin with a 41% ABV. I personally love floral notes, so this is right up my alley—it’s got a massive rose bouquet on the palate which stays present even on the finish. Try this in a dry martini, or a gin and tonic with a lime and mint garnish.
Hendricks Gin is already a crowd favorite, but this Scottish distiller has also released a few limited edition bottlings that deserve a place in your liquor collection. Inspired by the briny deep, Hendricks Neptunia ($40) is infused with a blend of coastal botanicals and elderflower in addition to the signature cucumber and rose notes Hendricks is known for. The result is a sweet, slightly earthy quaff with a zesty citrus finish that will work beautifully in just about any gin-based cocktail, without throwing any major curveballs at you.
In 2022, gin has managed to shake its shady reputation and is no longer a liquor tied to ne’er-do-wells and provocateurs. These refined versions show off the spirit’s versatility and range, from soft and delicate to bold and bright, and everything in between, there’s definitely a gin for every palate. Whether you’re a seasoned aficionado, newbie, or think you simply don’t like gin, it’s high time to change up your opinion on this classic spirit with one of these unique bottlings.