Gin is an interesting category of liquor growing more diverse with each passing year. Yet, there are a number of brands of gin that have become tried and true favorites. These are the bottles that can be relied on for a great gin and tonic, as well as countless other cocktails, and they can be found almost anywhere.
While brands like Beefeater and Tanqueray are at the top of the list for a good London dry gin, there are other popular bottles. Bols Genever and Hayman's Old Tom Gin are still popular. Newer stars on the liquor shelf like Aviation and Hendrick's are as well.
The Diversity of Gin
Today, drinkers can enjoy the diversity of gin. Unlike vodka, each bottle of gin is truly unique. The majority feature some degree of the pine flavor that comes from juniper, which is gin's signature ingredient, yet no two bottles have the same combination of botanicals.
This array of flavors is what keeps many gin lovers coming back. It can also keep you from getting bored. If you find yourself in a martini rut, simply pour a different gin and your drink is transformed.
The newer styles that don't have the juniper-forward flavor are commonly referred to as "New Western Dry Gin" and these have a broader appeal. For drinkers who do not enjoy gin's piney characteristics, the likes of Hendrick's can open up a new world of cocktails.
01 of 08
Beefeater London Dry Gin
Beefeater is one of the biggest names in the gin business. It has been produced since the 1870s and moved to its current Kennington, London distillery in 1958. Over the years, it has not lost any appeal among gin drinkers. This is a gin that you can find in any liquor store or bar and be guaranteed that it will make a good gin cocktail, no matter what you mix it with.
You will find that Beefeater has the classic London dry gin flavor. It is juniper-forward and has a nice balance of botanicals in the background. Distilled of neutral spirits, it features a botanical blend of juniper, coriander, orange and lemon peels, angelica root and seed, licorice, almond, and orris root.
Bottled at 40 percent ABV (80 proof), Beefeater also comes at a decent price, so you can afford to keep it in stock.
More Beefeater Gins
If you enjoy the standard bottle of Beefeater, keep an eye out for the brand's special bottlings. They make an appearance from time to time, and each is worth a taste when the bottle crosses your path. Beefeater 24, for example, is a regular offering that is a nice upgrade from the original and the brand often comes out with limited editions.
The Summer Edition from 2010 was amazing and lightly flavored. In 2016, gin drinkers were treated to London Garden, which is only available at the distillery. Beefeater Burroughs Reserve Gin is one of the brand's more recent ultra-premium gins and it's worth checking out as well.
Beefeater is a go-to for many gin drinkers and it will work fine in any gin cocktail. There are times when it's called for specifically and the signature taste is often the base around which a drink's other ingredients are built.
For example, the pomegranate gin fizz was designed for the softer profile of Beefeater Summer Edition, but it can stand up to any bottle you have. Beefeater 24 is the recommended gin of choice in the floral, fruity Champagne cocktail called the Waterloo sunset as well as the dinner-worthy ruby Negroni. And, in true British fashion, you'll want to pour any bottle of Beefeater into a royal-tea recipe. There it's paired with Earl Grey for a delightful, and easy, iced tea cocktail.
02 of 08
Tanqueray London Dry Gin
There is a beautiful gin inside this distinct green bottle with its red wax seal. Tanqueray's crisp, dry style is the benchmark for a London dry gin without any citrus in the botanicals. It is a standard to which all other gins are compared and contrasted and also sells for a reasonable price.
Tanqueray London Dry Gin is bottled at a slightly higher strength than most gin, which makes the flavor profile beautifully bold. Depending on the market it's sold in, you'll find it bottled from 43.1 percent to 47.3 percent ABV (86.2 to 94.6 proof). You can mix this gin into any cocktail and it won't get lost. It is the perfect choice for mixing a balanced drink.
Distilled since the 1870s, Tanqueray is now produced at Camron Bridge in Edinburgh, Scotland, one of Europe's largest distilleries. What's most amazing is that this four times distilled gin uses just four botanicals: juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, and licorice.
More Tanqueray Gins
Once you discover the joy of Tanqueray, be sure to check out the brand's other offerings. Tanqueray No. 10 is also an icon of the bar that is at a higher proof as well but this one has a lighter mix of botanicals. If you like really light gin, give Tanqueray Rangpur a try because you will love the Rangpur lime added to it.
If you ever come across them, pick up a bottle of Tanqueray Malacca or their version of an Old Tom Gin. Neither is in regular production, but both have made comebacks for short periods over the years. Either of these sweeter gins are ideal for classic cocktails.
For something unique and extraordinary, the eucalyptus martini cannot be beat. And, when Malacca makes an appearance again, be sure to mix up the Malacca flip, though any bottle of Tanqueray will do in the meantime.
03 of 08
Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin
If you look at the list of botanicals in Bombay Sapphire you will notice a few differences from other London dry gins. Grains of paradise, almond, and cubeb berries are not your average gin ingredients and they help this bottle stand apart from the crowd.
Distilled in Cheshire, England, Bombay Sapphire's full list of vapor-infused botanicals include juniper, almond, grains of paradise, lemon peel, licorice, orris root, angelica, coriander, cassia bark, and cubeb berries. It's old meets new with this gin. While the brand is relatively young, having launched in 1987, the beautiful array is based on a recipe from 1761.
You cannot miss Bombay Sapphire on the liquor shelf. Its blue bottle has an allure that will catch your eye, though the gin itself is not blue—look to Magellan Gin for that.
This gin is also bottled at 47 percent ABV (94 proof), so it will stand up to your dry martinis as well as fruity gimlets and the Floradora. It's a staple that you can rely on and a good premium gin to keep in stock.
More Bombay Gins
Bombay produces two more gins that are not as well known but equally good. Bombay Sapphire East adds lemongrass and black pepper to the mix for an interesting twist. Bombay Dry Gin is crisp, clean and has just eight botanicals. It is very similar to Sapphire but it's a little more focused on the juniper and sells for a little less.
Bombay Sapphire Cocktails
Bombay Sapphire is a ton of fun to mix into a variety of cocktails. It works particularly well with fruits of all kinds, so there are some fascinating drinks to be had with this gin.
For a drink loaded with berries and cherries, try the American collins, or share a pitcher of pineapple and sage gimlets with friends at brunch. You can even get crafty with Bombay and infuse the gin with apples and pears for the early autumn recipe. And, for a completely novel drink, try Bombay infused with kettle corn and mix up this candy corn cocktail.
04 of 08
Martin Miller's London Dry Gin
If you are seek a London dry gin that makes a magnificent martini, look no further than Martin Miller's Gin. It is one of the newer names in this tight market, having launched in 1999, yet it has quickly risen to the ranks of the best gins available.
Martin Miller's is a modern take on traditional gin. It has that wonderful juniper dominance of a London dry and it is perfectly balanced, crisp, clean and simply an extravagant gin.
This is a double-distilled gin produced in a two-stage distillate. Juniper, coriander, angelica, licorice root, cassia bark, Florentine iris, and lime peel are introduced in the first distillation. Bitter orange peel, lemon peel, and lime peel in the second. It is finished with Icelandic glacial water and bottled at a standard 40 percent ABV (80 proof).
The price isn't out of line with its competitors, either. This is a gin that you will want to save for your gin martinis and relish every sip as you enjoy a quality cocktail.
More Martin Miller's Gins
Martin Miller's Westbourne Strength will be the next step in your exploration of this brand. This bottle is a little stronger at 45 percent ABV (90 proof), which makes it a fantastic option for any gin cocktail you want to pour it in. You will not lose any of that signature gin flavor with this option!
You can also explore the effects of aging on gin—something most gin is not subjected to—with Martin Miller's 9 Moons. This bottling rests the gin in previously used bourbon barrels for nine months to give it a fascinating sweetness of vanilla and oak.
Martin Miller's Gin Cocktails
Martin Miller's can also be used in any gin cocktail, and it shines in simple recipes, including the ginger-focused gin and ginger martini. It's fun to experiment with it in modern recipes, such as the Daphne martini, where it's paired with pear vodka and blue curaçao. This is also a suggested gin for the unusual taste found in the eucalyptus martini.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Aviation American Gin
Aviation American Gin came to market in 2006. It was one of the first brands to launch that made everyone rethink the definition of gin. It was at the forefront of the New Western Gin movement, featuring a softer juniper profile and gins that are often handcrafted in small batches. This gin revolution has brought the spirit's appeal to a wider audience of drinkers.
Aviation is produced in Portland, Oregon, by House Spirits Distillery. It is distilled from neutral grain spirit with 100 percent rye base, an unusual beginning in the gin market. It's flavored with juniper, anise seed, Elettaria cardamom, coriander, lavender, sweet orange peel, and sarsaparilla. It, too, is slightly overproofed, bottled at 42 percent ABV (84 proof), so it's not as delicate as it's often made out to be.
The lovely part about Aviation is that it is so lovely. When you crack the bottle, you are greeted with a floral bouquet dominated by lavender and backed up by a subtle spice. The juniper and citrus characteristic of gin is apparent but both appear more as background elements.
Aviation's choice of a rye base gives this gin a creamier mouthfeel than most gins. It is a gin that you can enjoy chilled on its own, which is great news for super dry martini fans.
More Aviation Gins
Once a one-bottle brand, Aviation has expanded its portfolio to include Aviation Old Tom. It's the distillery's take on an old, sweeter style of gin, but they don't add sugars or flavorings, which is customary. Instead, they rely on whiskey barrel aging to bring out an Old Tom taste and accentuate the original Aviation's natural sweetness.
Aviation Gin Cocktails
Try Aviation in a Tom Collins or any classic drink, including its namesake, the aviation cocktail. Mix it into modern cocktails with a culinary flair, or play off the sweetness in delicately fruity drinks like the strawberry gin and tonic or watermelon cucumber cooler. Anyway, you choose to use it, Aviation does not disappoint.
06 of 08
Hendrick's Gin is a completely different gin experience than every other bottle you will find. It's another bottle that forced the bartending community to rethink what gin is when it launched in 2001. Along with Aviation, it helped define modern gin.
Many aspects of Hendrick's make it unique and special. It is produced in Scotland at the Girvan Distillery and uses two stills from which two batches of gin are married.
The small-batch distillate is flavored with juniper, angelica root, caraway, chamomile, coriander, cubeb berry, elderflower, lemon, orange peel, orris root, and yarrow. Yet, it is the final step, an infusion of rose petal and cucumber before bottling, that has come to define this gin. If you hear someone referring to the "cucumber gin," they're talking about Hendrick's.
The result of this unique process is a refreshing gin that can easily stand on its own and is fantastic in new cocktail recipes. It's bottled at 44 percent ABV (88 proof), so the flavor is rather pronounced. It's a little pricier than most, but it's worth it.
Hendrick's is a fantastic gin to introduce vodka drinkers to this category. The lighter flavor profile is a good initiation because the juniper is far in the background. For your first taste of Hendrick's, make it a simple gin and tonic garnished with a cucumber slice.
Enjoy Hendrick's Gin in These Cocktails
Hendrick's is the gin you want when mixing drinks with fresh ingredients. It pairs well with almost any flavor, from fruits to flowers and herbs.
Enjoy it with pomegranate in a poinsettia punch, warm it up mulled wine style with the hot gin punch recipe, or enjoy the lovely flavor of a delicate rose martini. It also does wonders when that cucumber is accented. A recipe like the green gin giant pairs the gin with elderflower, basil, mint, grapefruit, and fresh cucumber for an intriguing, fresh-from-the garden cocktail.
Additionally, Hendrick's is the gin of choice for many drinkers who prefer vodka. You can use it as a substitute for a variety of vodka cocktails, as seen in the sparkling strawberry cocktail, the cherub's cup.
07 of 08
It's time to go old school and get a taste of gin brands that have revived the oldest gin recipes in the world. We begin with the oldest of the two, genever.
Sometimes called Dutch gin or Holland gin, genever is a sweetened style of gin that originated in the Netherlands. Today, it is only distilled in that country and in neighboring areas of Europe. The biggest name in genever is Bols, and it is one of the few brands that is available worldwide.
If you have yet to taste genever, it is unlike any other gin you've had. This style of gin is as if a soft Scotch whisky were married with gin, and Bols' malty feel is a perfect example. Based on Lucas Bols' original recipe from 1820, it has a wonderful balance of sweet malt and subdued juniper and citrus. It is triple distilled using equal parts malt wine and neutral grain spirits that are infused with natural flavors.
Bols Genever was on the U.S. market until Prohibition and was not available again until the summer of 2008. It is bottled at 42 percent ABV (84 proof), and a bottle typically sells for the same price as any premium gin.
More Bols Genevers
Like many other brands, Bols has expanded their genever selection. Beyond the original, you can find barrel-aged bottles, which are rested in French Limousin oak casks for 18 months.
Bols 100% Malt Spirit takes the neutral grain spirits out of the equation. The brand calls it "genever in its purest form," created from a distillate of corn, rye, and wheat that is fermented for longer than usual and married with juniper berries. Its taste is that of sweet grass with fruits and juniper.
Bols Genever Cocktails
Bols is fun to play with in cocktails, especially the classics. Its hybrid feel gives each drink a new spin, so try it in a gin daisy and other old-fashioned cocktails. You can even use it as a substitute in many whiskey cocktails.
There are some interesting tastes to be found in modern drink recipes as well. The aura in me is one that is sure to tickle your taste buds, pairing Bols with elderflower, honey, pink pepper, and cardamom. The egg white gives it a vintage feel.
Also, for winter celebrations, the hot Bols Genever punch is sure to be a hit. It's like a genever toddy for a crowd.
08 of 08
Hayman's Old Tom Gin
The story of Old Tom Gin is complicated and it dates back to the 1700s when almost any English gin was called "Old Tom." Like genever, this old style of gin was sweetened to mask the impurities created by the distillation process of the day. It is significantly softer than the London dry gins that eventually took over the market.
Old Tom Gin was the gin of the Victorian period (1837–1901), and it was the gin of choice for many early bartenders. Jerry Thomas called for this style in almost every cocktail recipe that doesn't use "Holland Gin" (genever) when he wrote the first bartending guides. His contemporaries considered Old Tom an essential in the bar as well.
Hayman's Old Tom Gin is one of the best examples of this old-world style, though it was only recently launched in 2007. Produced by Hayman Distillers of Witham, England, it is based on a family recipe from the 1870s.
This gin is distilled in a copper pot still named "Marjorie." The botanical list includes juniper, angelica root, cassia bark, cinnamon, coriander seed, lemon peel, licorice, nutmeg, orange peel, and orris root. It is bottled at a standard 40 percent ABV (80 proof).
You will find the gin to be very aromatic and filled with rich flavors, making it a true delight for any gin lover.
More Hayman's Gins
Hayman's produces a variety of gin styles and liqueurs, all of which use the same botanical mix in various strengths. You may be surprised by the brand's London Dry Gin as well as Hayman's Gently Rested Gin, which spends some time in old scotch casks. Royal Dock is their navy strength gin, and sloe gin fans will be delighted to know that Hayman's version of the liqueur is one of the best.
Hayman's Old Tom Gin Cocktails
Hayman's Old Tom Gin can be infused in every classic cocktail that calls for gin. Even if you have had a martini a million times, switching to Old Tom offers an entirely new experience.
Among the classics that you'll want to revisit with Hayman's are the Martinez and gimlet. It works just as well in highballs as it does in short drinks, so you'll also want to mix up a Tom Collins and gin rickey while you have a bottle on hand.