Sipping a G&T at a swanky cocktail bar, have you ever stopped to wonder- how gin is made? We’ve taken a look into the process of distilling, curious to see how this enticing elixir makes it into our glasses!
Gin distilling began around the end of the 16th century in London, and there were two main historical distilling methods – the Dutch method, and the British. The difference being that Dutch gin had flavourings added to the mash, creating a coarser tasting product. This spirit was actually sold first as medicine!
The Flavour of Gin
Gin gets its flavour from essential oils that are contained below the skin of berries, seeds, fruit peels and bark. Although other spirits have a very similar processes, gin is defined as anything that tastes “predominantly” like juniper. Of course, this is a very loose definition, and it means that gin comes in a lot of different varieties – many of which you can sample at our London gin tastings.
Spirits with other flavours mixed in, such as lemon or cucumber, can still be classified as gin. Some flavours often used in gin include orange peel, coriander, cardamom, lemon peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and cubeb berries.
How to Make Gin
Gin is made with the same base ingredient as vodka. The difference is the inclusion of juniper berries and other botanicals in the distillation process. The botanicals are soaked in a neutral spirit in a process known as “maceration.” Some gin makers will stop the process here, which creates what is known as “infused gin” or “bathtub gin.”
However, to make gin that is smoother and “cleaner” you need to distil the mash in a large pot. This creates “distilled gin” or “dry gin.” Sometimes the flavours are extracted by placing the botanicals in a basket within the still, not even touching the liquid. The aromas are extracted by the evaporated spirit and this is known as “vapour extraction.”
What About Sloe Gin?
A popular variation of gin is “Sloe gin” which is made by infusing sloe – the fruit of the blackthorn – with gin. The sloes are soaked in gin and sugar and the juice is extracted from the fruit.
The mixture is turned several times and then stored in a cool dark place for three months – turning every day for the first two weeks and then once per week after that. The liqueur is then poured off and the sloes are discarded or made into jam or chutney.