Gin is a polarizing spirit. You’ll find fist-pumping juniper enthusiasts and people who insist they don’t do gin. For some reason, it seems that many people have had one bad experience with gin and are therefore never willing to try it again. Moreover, a lot of people aren’t fond of the distinct piney flavor of juniper – the primary botanical used in gin. However, there’s more to gin than the London dry, which is the traditional style most gin haters resent. Various brands – large and craft alike – have released an onslaught of creative gins that defy “gin-y” gin so much, we think even gin haters will be forced to reconsider their stance. Here are nine of our favorite gins for gin skeptics.
1. Barr Hill
Barr Hill Gin is an “Old Tom” style of gin, basically meaning it’s sweetened after distillation. Vermont-based company Caledonia Spirits adds raw honey to their gin before bottling. The honey softens the traditional botanicals used in this gin, so you won’t feel like you’re drinking raw herbs. Instead, the mild sweetness and deep flavor of the honey makes this gin exceptionally gentle and easy to drink. We recommend sipping this one with liqueurs, craft tonics, or apple juice.
2. Bombay Sapphire East BEST ON A BUDGET
You might know Bombay Sapphire as one of the most traditional gins out there, but Bombay East is a different story. This is a gin that’s packed with savory spices – perfect for pairing with meat like thick cut bacon or a rack of lamb. The dominant pepper and lemongrass flavors make this gin perfect for Asian-inspired cocktails with a heaping plate of prawn-fried rice on the side. Plus, at around $26 a bottle, this gin is one luxurious steal.
3. Monkey 47
Monkey 47 gin is a German gin that’s made with – you guessed it – 47 botanicals. You might be wondering: “botanicals? I thought we were trying to avoid those since I’m a gin hater!” On the contrary – the diverse range of botanicals sets this gin apart from super traditional gins, which usually stick to employing the same “greatest hits” ingredients. This fragrant, perfumed gin goes well with fresh juice, rose syrup, and a simple splash of seltzer. Because it’s so aromatic, try it neat at room temperature to really absorb all of the flavors.
Hendrick’s is a Scottish gin, which is odd enough to start. The flavors Hendrick’s is noted for – rose petals and cucumber – make this gin very different from the other big brand gins out there. This silky, vegetal gin is well-balanced with enough floral sweetness to bring you a spirit ideal for not-too-sweet lemonades and other light, citrus cocktails. Elderflower is also used as a botanical, making Hendrick’s perfect for a St. Germaine or pear-based drink. Best of all? You can find Hendrick’s in any bar worth its salt.
5. Silo Reserve BEST OVERALL
Silo Reserve is a barrel-aged gin that’s rested in ex-bourbon casks. The result? A gin that tastes like pecan pie. Seriously, this gin is buttery and lusciously sweet, like a hot Cinnabon or a flaky pastry. Add a dose of this viscous gin to a dessert cocktail and see a perfect example of how gin can stand up to whiskey as a sophisticated spirit. Alternatively, grab a warmed snifter and pour yourself some Silo Reserve to cap off your meal.
This British gin tastes like lemon cakes. Not citrus, not lemon rind – lemon cakes. You’ll get a nice dose of powdered sugar and even a hint of brioche. Like Silo Reserve, Portobello Road can be used as a dessert gin, but we see this as a spirit geared for more tangy cocktails, like a Tom Collins. This is also a great gin to use in a Negroni, since its soft sweetness will balance the bitterness of the Campari. Garnish with a slice of lemon sprinkled with sugar.
We love Dogfish Head for their creative beers – but did you know they also make a gin? Jin uses simple botanicals, one of which is hops. That’s right – hops. In other words, this is the perfect gin for a beer lover. We think of Jin as a great gateway gin to take you from beer slugger to martini sipper (not that we have anything against consuming copious amounts of beer).
8. Greenhook Ginsmiths‘ Beach Plum Liqueur
Okay, so this technically isn’t a gin, it’s a liqueur. But it’s gin-based, so close enough. This is a liqueur you can drizzle over sorbet, blend with ice cream, or mix with a pour of bubbly rosé. Don’t worry about tasting herbs or earth – this liqueur is smooth, sweet sailing. Plus, the beautiful, rich color makes for great cocktail porn, and the bottle is a beautiful gift.
9. Bols Genever
Bols Genever is based on an 1820 recipe for traditional Genever – Dutch juniper spirit. There’s a reason we put this gin last on the list – it’s arguably the most traditional of the lot. However, it’s still a world apart from your grandfather’s gin. Regardless, you may want to try Bols when you’ve sampled everything else we’ve suggested. Mix this exquisite Genever with real soda (full of sugar, not corn syrup), or a pinch of simple syrup and sparkling water. You’ll also get a little maltiness in this gin, so you can use it as you might use the Scotch in a Blood & Sand cocktail.