The humble gin has come in many forms, earning the moniker ‘mother’s ruin’ in the drink-addled streets of Victorian London, and proving a popular insect repellent for expats in the British colonies. But the drink’s lengthy history is only matched by the sheer ingenuity of contemporary distilleries, which offer a staggeringly wide selection of tastes and infusions to cater for any palate.
From more traditional brands to small-stock upstarts, we can guide you through the dos and don’ts of enjoying your gin, navigating the menu, and feeling prepared when it comes to making your order.
A sharp newcomer with a firm sense of history, updating a decades-old Bombay recipe for modern tastes (easier on the spice). Right at home with an elderflower tonic, though it’s smooth enough to enjoy neat.
The small-scale brewery operates out of a former veterinary medicine campus in Edinburgh. Though best enjoyed onsite – a cheery caravan brings a strong home advantage – its hand-packed bottles are easy to find further south. Also available in navy strength or a 1947 Original line, for those with hardier palates.
Portobello Road: 42%
Born and bred in central London, this relatively young gin comes from an eighth-generation distiller, Charles Maxwell, and uses a safe coterie of classic botanicals and cassia bark. For their signature cocktail, nothing more lavish than Fever Tree tonic and a twist of pink grapefruit is required.
Another new Scottish export, Hendrik’s is essentially a blend of two separately distilled gins, infused with cucumber for a stubbornly unique flavour: just make sure the garnish matches. Worth sampling before you order for the table: as their bottles proudly insist, they’re ‘not for everyone’.
This modern, bespoke gin offers a gently fragrant blend of chamomile, honeysuckle, and pomelo. Their own recommendation is to top up with a little prosecco, a dash of lemon juice and syrup, and garnish with edible flowers. Crushed ice is a must.
An undervalued star, this common house gin was introduced in 1876 and holds the mantle of the most awarded gin on the market. Steeped in citrus peels and whole juniper berries for a lengthy 24 hours, the result is a bold, frank taste that works best with a simple Schweppes tonic and lemon. This is a widely-stocked gin you can order with confidence.
Warner Edwards: 40%
This craft distillery was opened in 2012 by two recent university graduates, but the name already invokes a level of quality other brands would die for. W.E. take care to use plants and herbs sourced from their own family farms: a personal touch befitting this boutique distillery. Notable for their innovative rhubarb infusion.
This traditional gin’s comparatively light taste is down to the equally light touch used in distillation. Bombay Sapphire forgoes the usual copper pot stills, passing triple-distilled vapours through a basket of almonds, coriander, and grains of paradise, alongside more common botanicals. Blended with a little dry vermouth, it makes a delightful martini.
If you’re drinking in the States, make sure it’s Bombay Sapphire East in your glass: made specifically to work in tandem with America’s sweeter tonic water.