Gin is the base for countless classic cocktails, such as the French 75, the Gimlet, the Negroni, and, of course, the timeless Gin & Tonic. Its subtle aromatics, lent by botanicals like juniper, has won it fans on both sides of the bar worldwide. However, in the U.S., gin trails behind other spirits in terms of sales volume.
Bartenders are trying to change that. Some mixologists are so passionate about gin that they’ve opened bars dedicated to it — a couple are highlighted here — and many others have tales of how gin touched their lives and inspired their cocktails.
Below, 10 bartenders from across the U.S. name the gin bottles they feel aren’t getting enough love.
“Gin was my first love and the gateway to my infatuation with spirits. The Botanist is a favorite of mine. I’m drawn to the more balanced botanical profile along with the terroir characteristics of the Islay Coast. It sips great neat and makes a hell of a 50:50 Martini.” — Brittany Ingalls, Bartender, Silver Lyan in the Riggs Hotel, Washington, D.C.
“At the Gin Room we have a back bar of over 300 gins, yet we find ourselves often gravitating towards certain gins. One particular favorite out of Sweden, Right gin, gets overlooked. Few people have been able to execute a citrusy, peppery gin that can cut through and stand up in a cocktail. When Right was created by Lyons Brown, the goal was to create a truly balanced gin, and they succeeded. Right allows all botanicals to stand on their own, and not to allow one to dominate over others. The botanical blend in Right (juniper berry, black pepper, coriander, lemon peel, bergamot, key lime, bitter orange, and cardamom) balances beautifully with the citrus and acid elements of a Gimlet. Right gin should be on every enthusiast’s back bar.” — Natasha Bahrami, Owner, The Gin Room, St. Louis, Mo.
“Unlike Japanese whisky, Japanese gins have yet to make a huge appearance in the U.S. market. I believe the category of Japanese gins will be the next big thing. Ki No Bi Gin has been around since 2016 and is seldom seen in bars. I’m completely obsessed with the velvety texture and the subtle notes of yuzu and gyokuro tea it brings. It makes one of my favorite Martinis of all time.” — Sharon Yeung, Head Bartender, The Roosevelt Room, Austin, Tex.
“Drumshanbo gin, because it’s made in Ireland and gin is generally something that isn’t thought about [there], since Ireland is more well known for their whiskeys. It’s not an expensive gin and it’s fairly easy to find, too! It uses gunpowder tea as one of its core ingredients to provide savory and herbal tones. It’s a delicious gin with some really interesting flavors of spices, citrus, and more. It makes some pretty unique Bee’s Knees and Martinis.” — Jason Nguyen, Bartender, The Jones Assembly, Oklahoma City
“There are so many categories of gin on the market now that it is difficult for me to just choose one. If we are talking new-style, I think Blue Gin by Forthave Spirits would be the most underrated in that category. It is soft and delicate with subtle notes of watermelon rind, honeydew, and cucumber. I definitely recommend this just by itself, on the rocks, with tonic, or in spirit-forward cocktails. Forthave Spirits is based out of Brooklyn, N.Y., and those folks also make a fun aperitivo and amaro.” — Harry Chin, Bar Director, Here’s Looking at You, Los Angeles
“I personally think the most underrated gin is The Botanist Islay Dry Gin. It is a great artisanal gin distilled by the great Bruichladdich Distillery. It contains 22 locally hand-foraged botanicals from the Islay region of Scotland. These 22 local ingredients mixed with the natural spring water from Octomore Spring in the isle of Islay make for a true representation of a Scottish spirit. This is a perfect gin for a Gin & Tonic to a classic gin Martini or your favorite gin cocktail.” — James Bolt, Owner, The Gin Joint, Charleston, S.C.
“I wouldn’t go with one gin in particular, but rather a style of gin. ‘Old Tom’ is not as dry as more present-day favorites. It caters to a sweeter palate than London Dry varieties yet it’s not quite as malty as the classic Genever. Old Tom gin appears in some of my favorite cocktails like The Martinez, a Gin Old Fashioned, and the booze-forward Bijou. My favorite go-to is Ransom Old Tom which is uniquely aged in a wine cask. An honorable mention goes to Gracias a Dios gin. The agave-based botanical gin from Oaxaca is a breath of fresh air in the cocktail world.” — Björn Taylor, Assistant General Manager, Lefty’s Brick Bar, Gin Bar, and Vixen’s Wedding at Arrive Hotel, Austin, Tex.
“Future Gin is owned by four women and is also distilled by a woman in Downtown L.A. The women here have made a recipe of botanicals that celebrate the bounty of California: juniper, grapefruit peel, Meyer lemon peel, coriander, grape leaves, avocado leaves, and black pepper. Gin being such a great mixing spirit, this did well at Olmsted in a cocktail we made with chamomile, honey, and lemon. But, really, it imparts itself well in a simple Gin & Tonic, my personal favorite. This is a great example of an independent, artisanal brand that is pushing the envelope in flavor and the future of gin.” — Zwann Grays, Wine Director, Olmsted, Brooklyn
“Tanqueray is a very underrated gin. It’s typically associated with urban culture due to the popularity of Snoop Dogg’s ‘Gin & Juice.’ Its subtle floral notes make it perfect for a Gin Gimlet.” — Johnny Caldwell and Taneka Reaves, Co-founders, Cocktail Bandits, Charleston, S.C.
“There are many, but when asked to pick one (or a few), I would say the St. George line from California. The Dry Rye [Gin] is 100 percent pot-distilled rye, which affords a strong structure and spice that is perfect in craft cocktails. The St. George Terroir is a delicious sipping gin that makes a wonderful Martini with notes of deep woods, sage, and citrus.” — Kara Slife, Beverage Director, The Annie Café & Bar, Houston