In warmer months, and all year round, really, you can’t go wrong with bright and botanical gin-based cocktails. Thankfully, there is an amazing array of gins, all of which use their own unique blend of ingredients. To help find the perfect tipple, VinePair took the measure of four popular brands.
So throw some ice in a Highball, crack open your favorite tonic, and keep reading to learn how each of these brands will fare in your favorite drink.
Bombay Sapphire can be traced all the way to distiller Thomas Dakin’s 1761 Warrington Gin, which was subsequently renamed and relaunched as Bombay Original in the 1950s. Thirty years later, the Bombay Original recipe was rejiggered with the addition of two botanicals into what is known today as Bombay Sapphire.
Tanqueray’s story begins with Charles Tanqueray, the son of a clergyman who opted out of the church and decided instead to make gin with his brother. Tanqueray entered into the distilling industry in 1830 and would go on to be one of the first known innovators of London Dry gin.
Once advertised as “the gin of England,” Beefeater was founded by Devon-born pharmacist James Burrough in 1863. Although the distillery’s inaugural location was based in Chelsea, it has since been moved to the south London neighborhood of Kennington.
The youngest of the bunch, Hendrick’s Gin, has been produced in the seaside town of Girvan, Scotland, since 1999. The recipe was created by master distiller Lesley Gracie, who has remained at its helm ever since.
In 2019, Bombay Sapphire, which is owned by Bacardi, came in at second place with global sales of 4.7 million cases, while Diageo-owned Tanqueray was not far behind in third place, with 4.5 million cases sold.
Beefeater, whose parent company is Pernod-Ricard, found itself fourth on the list, and Hendrick’s, owned by William Grant & Sons, came in seventh with sales of 1.4 million cases.
Alcohol Content in the U.S.
Bombay Sapphire has been steady at 94 proof, barring a strange mix-up in 2017 wherein bottles accidentally produced at 154 proof were distributed in Canada. Tanqueray and Tanqueray No. Ten are both bottled at 94.6 proof, while Hendrick’s comes in at 82.8 proof. And until recently, Beefeater sold in the U.S. was bottled at 94 proof, but following the company’s move to “provide a more consistent brand experience globally,” is now, to many of its fans’ disappointment, bottled at 88 proof.
VinePair’s review of Bombay Sapphire praises its appearance, calling it one of the most “striking bottles on the gin shelf.” On the inside, the gin is a complex mix of juniper, licorice, and almond, on both the nose and palate.
Touted by VinePair as the quintessential London Dry, a taste test of Beefeater notes aromas of candied lemon peel, rosemary, and sweet juniper, with black pepper and berries on the palate. However, Tanqueray No. Ten receives slightly higher marks for its delicate lemon thyme, mint, and sweet cucumber aromas and honeyed floral notes on the palate.
Hendrick’s, yet again the outlier, is well known for including rose petal and cucumber essence after distillation, technically taking it out of the London Dry category. Traditionalists need not worry, though, juniper is still one of the 11 included botanicals.
Use in Cocktails
As demonstrated by the tasting notes, this ubiquitous spirit offers a startling array of flavor profiles. While perfect for a variety of cocktails, the individual gin utilized is an intensely personal choice. Any one of these brands could work perfectly in classics like the Aviation, Martini, or Tom Collins. As VinePair discovered, even the pros can’t decide for you.
Why the Pros Love Each
For Renato Marco Tonelli, a blogger and bartender at Evelina in Brooklyn, all four brands are equally versatile, making them must-haves for any bar. However, when it comes to choosing one over another, especially in a classic like the Gin and Tonic, it boils down to personal preference.
“If you want to taste that strong typical flavor that gin has, I would go with Bombay or Tanqueray because of their juniper-heavy flavor and aromatic spice notes,” Tonelli says. For the drinker seeking a slightly more subtle juniper flavor than the aforementioned brands, he believes Beefeater is the best bet, and “for those who aren’t crazy about the traditional taste of gin,” Tonelli suggests Hendrick’s.
Of the London Dry gins, Tonelli touts Beefeater as being “the smoothest and most palatable in my experience.” And when it comes to cocktails like a Negroni, in which the gin “must compete with other strong flavored ingredients,” Tonelli reaches for Tanqueray and Bombay.