Friday, August 15, 2014


Oh The Possibilities…
TGIF everyone! Today I want to post about the versatility of gin and how to pick a gin for your home bar. (Ideally, I hope you pick several because there’s a lot to enjoy about the differences in gin.) I’ll share tips on getting the best gins for your money and the times when splurging on top-shelf gin is not only acceptable but recommended.
My tips for starting a gin collection for the home bar are as follows:

1 Get a house gin.
Start by finding an inexpensive gin you yourself like and you can use for a variety of drinks when you host. Nothing too fancy for everyday drinks. That is more difficult to do when faced with the variety of gins on the market today, so it is good to at least know the differences in gins.
Gin is generally an unaged, clear spirit that takes its flavors from the botanicals introduced during distillation (a common botanical is juniper, which gives gin the pine tree flavor.) The most common style of gin right now is London dry, a very clean tasting gin with lots of citrus sparkle and less bitterness. There is little difference between an inexpensive and a top-shelf London dry gin except that the pricy London drys use rarer or unique botanicals in their secret recipes. Don’t be deterred, however. Many top-shelf gins have their rail equivalent. Tanqueray, for instance has Gordon’s (named after Tanqueray Gordon) which is a significant savings and a fine gin in its own right. For a house gin, I find it is important to have quantity as well as quality and a low price. I recommend these in 1.75 liter bottles:


Sir Robert Burnett’s


These are standard London dry gins without additional flavoring. If you want to pick up a fifth of a unique flavored gin in these brands, go ahead, but you won’t find the same versatility there as you do with the original formulations. (i.e. you can’t make a martini with orange flavored gin.)

2. Get fresh ingredients.
Fresh citrus, olives, herbs and juices are a must for even the basic cocktails. Fresh squeezed oranges are always preferable to concentrate. Mash strawberries and mint in simple syrup before adding gin and soda. Only choose plump and juicy olives, not those rubbery canned ones you use for cooking. The better your garnish, the more enjoyable the drink. Remember, the gin is the base of the drink and the fruit and herbs make it taste fresh. You can cut corners on one ingredient but you can’t do it on all and have a passable cocktail.

3. Pick up a craft gin.
Other styles of gin include Plymouth and Old Tom gins. These are earlier, less refined tasting gins from the early industrial era. Old Tom is sweeter and Plymouth is a style that features strong tasting botanicals beyond the basic juniper and citrus. Both can be either aged in barrels (brown gins) or unaged and clear. These gins open up the the possibility of making historically accurate cocktails from pre-prohibition times—the golden age of cocktails, as it is sometimes called. Try making drinks like the Aviation, the French 75, the Cabaret, or the Negroni with these:
Ranson Old Tom Gin
Plymouth (brand) gin
Green Hat Summer Seasonal Gin

4. Get a martini gin.
You may also enjoy making dry martinis with costlier London dry gins. Consider getting Beefeater or Blue Coat. Try out the difference you taste in your favorite martini when you use Bombay Sapphire vs. Tanqueray 10 (both have ten botanicals). And see if you can detect the cucumber in Hendrick’s.

5. Have fun mixing and tasting.
Just get creative. It is hard to screw up a gin cocktail when gin is the most mixable spirit that has its own distinct flavor (unlike vodka which has no flavor). Gin was my first purchase for my home bar when I started many years ago. Though I leave it aside many times for other spirits, I haven’t grown tired of it yet.

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Thanks for your interest in my Jolly Bartender project. I will do my best to respond as quickly as possible to your request or comment. If you would like to contact me about bartending for your event or setting up a home bar, write to me at