What makes gin, ‘gin’?

The craft gin market has really taken off… There are new gins popping up all the time and it made me wonder how they can all be so successful. Aren’t they just the same thing?

If we take a step back for a second, what makes gin, ‘gin’?


I don’t know about you, but other than knowing that it involves distilling something, that juniper is involved and that it is a clear liquid, I didn’t really know much else behind it. (Actually, that’s a lie. I also knew that it tasted really, really good. Maybe that’s why I didn’t bother learning anything more about it. I mean, it tastes really good…)

I think what’s really interesting, is that unlike vodka or tequila (for example) that have pretty firm guidelines that define them as those specific spirits, every gin recipe varies significantly. It kind of explains why the gin market is booming so much – they can all be so different, so they all have a unique selling point (you don’t need to tell me twice).

Basically every gin out there starts with the same base neutral spirit. I’m sure some of the really big gin distilleries might make their base spirit from scratch, but most don’t. They batch-buy the alcohol content as it has almost zero impact on the end product – it’s the infusion process that creates 100% of the flavour.

The only real guidance around gin is that it has to taste ‘predominantely’ of juniper berries. That’s it. Pretty subjective, huh? It means that distillers can really do whatever they want with it and, as long as there are juniper berries in the mix, they can call it a gin. That can explain why when you taste one gin, you can love it and then taste another and think it’s far too strong (it’s a challenge I’m usually willing to accept) – you wouldn’t typically get that variation in flavour with most other spirits.

But that’s what makes it SO BLOODY BRILLIANT! The gin can be infused with almost anything – botanicals, fruits, nuts, spices – creating an endless variety of flavours for the consumer. Throw in the impact that different garnishes can have on every gin, and the possibilities are endless…


So many people (including my husband) say gin is such an “acquired taste”. I’m going to put it out there and say that I really don’t think it is!

People who say they don’t like gin might think back to the first time they had it, which was probably Gordon’s, was probably stolen from their parent’s drinks cabinet and was probably gulped on a park bench somewhere (definitely not guilty… guilty.). They’ll get that shiver down their spine as they remember the strong taste and refuse to put themselves through it again.

And this isn’t specific to Gordon’s – no gin should be drank like a shot (it’s a classy tipple… supposedly ;). But the point is that no two gins are the same, so saying you don’t like one doesn’t mean you wouldn’t enjoy another… So if you’ve always thought you would rather go without it than feel that shiver down your spine, try a different one with a nice tonic and a fresh garnish – you never know!


FUN FACT – given every gin is packed with juniper berries, I find it really surprising that these are still hand-picked. Hand picked! To be clear, juniper berries look like this:


That’s A LOT of hand picking!

Also – did you know that gin played a role in the prevention of malaria? Tonic water containing quinine would deter mosquitos, but the flavour was so bitter that they added gin to make it more palatable – and so the G & T was born (or, so they say!). I mean, if it’s medicinal, there’s really no argument from me…

I hope you enjoyed this read! I don’t know about you, but I might go and pour a gin now… 🙂

Speak soon,

Aimee x

2 thoughts on “What makes gin, ‘gin’?”

  1. Aimee , thanks for the article ; what I would like to know is , why must gin involve junipers , what’s the history or reason ?? ; hope you can help as the craft gin market is growing here in Australia as well ,and as an organic gardener I can grow a very diverse range of botanicals as ingredients , but have always wondered about the juniper .

    Regards Greg


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