A good gin can go a long way — it can make a seemingly simple cocktail like a Martini dazzle and add nuance to more robust drinks like Negronis. With so many options and styles to choose from, finding a gin that can do it all can be a bartender’s secret weapon.
While some spirits have stricter rules for their composition, gin can be distilled from anything from wheat to apples and whey, and any botanicals can be used as long as juniper stars in the mix. The most prominent style of gin, London Dry, heavily features juniper but is often complemented by citrus peels, coriander, and licorice. Yet, more and more distillers are coming up with innovative flavor profiles for their gins, using it as a medium for expression and to impart a sense of place.
With so many new styles of gin flooding the market, we asked 10 bartenders to tell us which overlooked bottles deserve a spot on our bar carts.
THE MOST UNDERRATED GINS, ACCORDING TO BARTENDERS
- Nolet Silver Gin
- Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin
- Broker’s Gin
- Tanqueray Rangpur Lime Gin
- Botanist Gin
- Gin Occitan by Bordiga
- O.R.E. 118
- Plymouth Navy Strength Gin
- Bimini Coconut Gin
- BCN Gin
“What is the most underrated gin, you ask? For me, it’s Nolet’s Silver Gin. I did a blind tasting of gins at a bar I worked at to see if we could slim down our extensive collection. I was certain I knew the flavor profiles of each and which I would prefer. To my surprise, the favorite was by far Nolet’s, popular with a few regulars but hardly well known to most of our guests. Hailing from South Holland, Nolet’s Silver Gin blew me away by its rose-petal softness, sumptuous body, and long finish. With hints of lavender, Turkish rose, and raspberry, it’s a gin that drinks like a spa day. Treat yourself to a revisit in a Martini perhaps with Lillet and a giant lemon twist; you won’t be sorry.” —Nikki Fairman, co-founder, The Substitutes, Charleston, S.C.
“Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin is not as well known in the U.S. as it is in Europe but can typically be found in many of the best cocktail bars stateside. It is the perfect middle ground between juniper-forward London dry styles and the more citrus-forward modern styles of gin. Westbourne is my go to for a perfectly crisp and balanced dry Martini. It is also assertive enough at 45.2 percent ABV to stand out in and enhance any classic cocktail. The taste, quality, and craftsmanship in this gin is hard to beat.” —Alex Smith, beverage director, Outer Heaven and Laissez Faire, NYC
“For those who love everything tropical and tiki, you always need to have a solid London Dry gin. With spring here and summer around the corner, a Saturn cocktail (a mix of lemon, passion fruit, almond, and spices) is a hot-weather favorite and just loves a good London Dry like a Broker’s Gin, which has a great citrus aroma that complements the lemon and passion fruit. If you are looking for a more saturnine or moody tiki cocktail, we’d suggest a Suffering Bastard (a mix of bourbon, gin, lime, and spicy ginger beer). This World War II classic calls for either a very dry gin or a citrus-forward gin to complement a good (preferably homemade) ginger brew — we really enjoy Tanqueray Rangpur Lime Gin for this cocktail. The lime and slight sweetness of the gin acts as a complement to the ginger brew and does not become second violin to the bourbon.” —Jason Doo, chef and owner, Wusong Road Tiki Bar, Cambridge, Mass.
“Broker’s is one of my favorite gins, and I’ve rarely seen it offered at a bar. This gin is very reasonably priced for its superior quality, and I feel like this product is underrated. As a self- proclaimed G&T snob, this rates as one of my favorites— the citrus notes of orange and lemon play very nicely with tonic. The upfront juniper, along with orris and cinnamon notes, can complement many cocktails. Best gin at its price for me, hands down!” — Donald Heege, bartender, Horse Inn, Lancaster, Penn.
“I think Botanist Gin is the most underrated gin on the market. In a world of (quite frankly) too many gins, Botanist stands out for its unique botanicals and its dedication to helping and saving restaurants. Islay is famous for aggressively peaty Scotches, but in this gin, we get foraged botanicals from the hills to the bays creating a clean, terroir-specific gin. It’s our house favorite at Leyenda. Additionally, they have partnered with the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) to help save restaurants after the devastation of Covid. You can buy a million gins — some good, a lot not so good — but with Botanist, you can get a fantastic gin that gives back, too.” —Ivy Mix, co-founder, Speed Rack; co-owner, Leyenda & FIASCO! Wine & Spirits; author, “Spirits of Latin America,” NYC
“At Brother Wolf, our Italian aperitivo cocktail bar in Knoxville, Tenn., gin is always in high demand. And as the country of origin for the beloved spirit, made by monks (who else?!) in the 11th century, Italy continues to produce some of the world’s finest gins to this day. At Brother Wolf, our favorite unsung hero is Gin Occitan by Bordiga. The recipe dates back to 1888, and since then, the gin’s production has never stopped and is sustainably produced without pesticides, fertilizers, engines, or artificial ingredients. The style is utterly classic, with the handpicked wild juniper and herbs shining through, followed by crisp, open citrus. And at a super-reasonable price point, Occitan is primo for Martinis as well as more complex cocktails. And while it may not be a household name, Bordiga Gin Occitan is an absolute staple at Brother Wolf.” —Jessica King, owner and operator, Brother Wolf and Osteria Stella, Knoxville, Tenn.
“One gin we’ve been working with for nearly four years is O.R.E. 118 (original raw essence). It was America’s first raw vegan gin, which made me think, “This might not be so good.” After tasting it and hearing their story and meeting owner Rober Elder, I was a huge fan and [have] had it in one form or another on my menus ever since. It’s a Chardonnay grape base, which for me is a really good start instead of most neutral grain bases, as it’s already starting with some character. The raw vegan part comes from not using any honey or dairy, which some gins do. The 118 is for not cooking the ingredients over 118 degrees Fahrenheit, which gives the the ingredients a raw flavor [and] just makes the flavors a little brighter. It’s a beautiful, well-thought-out, family-owned gin that I’ve had non-gin drinkers come into Bathtub Gin and love. We really enjoy supporting small family brands doing amazing things. This is a gin I recommend to everyone.”—Brendan Bartley, head bartender and beverage director, Bathtub Gin, NYC.
“Gin in a cocktail needs to balance with other ingredients, whether a quality vermouth or fresh other mixers. Some of the wild New World flavors in gin or overly floral notes get swept away. Dilution in cocktail making also is key. For these reasons, I rarely find a better gin for mixing than Plymouth Navy Strength. Yes, it is regularly reviewed as a top-level gin, but it mixes better than most, stands up better to a long stir, and tastes as gin should taste. They clearly have stood up against newcomers for the test of time.” —Edwin Claflin, chef and owner, Òran Mór Bistro, Nantucket, Mass.
“I am certainly no gin expert, but I do know what I like, and Bimini Coconut Gin is absolutely wonderful. This gin comes from Round Turn Distilling, Biddeford, Maine. Not only is this gin excellent, but the distillery has a great cocktail bar (if a distillery doesn’t have a cocktail bar with proper cocktails, they already are losing points). Round Turn distilling is a small and cozy bar that produces awesome cocktails, thanks to their creative director and brand ambassador Lyanna Sanabria. Let me tell you, Bimini Coconut makes the best Negroni you could imagine. This gin is coconut fat washed with organic coconut oil, which provides a silky mouthfeel and slightly softens the bitterness in a Negroni. If you haven’t been to Maine and tried Bimini Coconut Gin, then you should change that ASAP.” —Justin Sadja, bartender and TikTok content creator, @ThirstyWhale.
“New American Gin is all the rage right now, with all its rule-breaking methods. London Dry style is the standard and always has a place in bars and classic cocktails. However, my favorite gins right now are Spanish-style gins that are reaching for Mediterranean botanicals to bring new and exciting flavors to the bottle. For example, BCN Gin from Barcelona starts with a spirit distilled from grapes and includes an addition of botanicals such as pine needles, figs, fennel, and rosemary, which creates an exciting, fresh, and savory flavor profile. We reach for BCN Gin for our new Martini service, with dry sherry, a robust Italian blanc vermouth, and a hint of turmeric. Our Golden Martini is like a sip in the sun on the coast of Crete, and we must give Spanish-style gin credit for the vibes.” —Demario Wallace, beverage director, Atrium, Atlanta