The truth is gin is about as diverse of a spirit as you can find. Whereas vodka, tequila, whiskey and bourbon all pretty much owe their differences to the types of grains (or agave), methods of fermentation and distillation, time of again and barrels used (if any), gin has all of those and more. Because, unlike these other spirits, gin is a result secret formulations of botanicals added at different points of the process to result in a highly flavorful spirit. To be called "gin" it must have some juniper, but the other botanicals can include a wide array of herbs, vegetables, flowers, fruits, spices and even tea. Each brand uses a different formula and many use different base spirits to begin with. Some are even aged in barrels. It's pretty complex shit. So, to help prep you for Juniper June, we've put together a bit of a gin primer to get you 'ed-gin-icated' on the types of gin.
Pronounced (in this country anyway) "gin-KNEE-ver," Genever is basically the 'grandfather' of gin. Though the true history is fuzzy to say the best (we are talking about booze here after all), it's thought that it was the Dutch that started making gin by adding juniper to cover the taste of the alcohol. Genever was originally used medicinally, thought to 'cure' ailments ranging from kidney ailments to gallstones to gout. Today, Genever is made from a base spirit distilled from malted wine, giving it a soft mouth feel and slightly sweeter flavor than many other gins.
Many think of London as the birthplace of gin due to their longstanding history with it. It's said that in the year 1730, the average Londoner drank 18 gallons of gin a year! Today, London Dry Gin is used to describe a style of gin, not the location in which it is made. Like the name would suggest London Dry gin is dry, meaning not sweet. It's the classic gin that people think of when they say they 'don't like gin,' most often due to the dry nature and highly-flavored botanical profile, of which juniper is the predominant ingredient. Sometimes just referred to as London Gin, it's distilled from grain and then distilled again with the actual plant material that adds the flavor. To be called London Gin, it not have sugar or other additives other than water and the plant materials that flavor it.
Rich in flavor and texture like Genever, yet dry like London Gin, Plymouth Gin is a unique, protected style of gin originating from the city of Plymouth, South West England. Since 1793 it has been distilled from a unique blend of 7 botanicals, soft Dartmoor water and pure grain alcohol at the historic Black Friars Distillery - the oldest working distillery in England.
Though not as popular as it's gin siblings, Old Tom Gin is essentially a sweeter version of London Gin. Still made from grain distillates and highly flavored. Old Tom Gin became popular in 18th Century England before falling out of favor. Thanks to the craft cocktail movement, many new Old Tom recipes are being released commercially.
New American or International-Style
In some cases, the only thing New American Gin has in common with the other varieties is juniper. But that's where the similarities can end, as all rules are discarded and a range of new and exciting botanicals are added through various methods, imparting a huge variety of flavor from brand to brand. Just by substituting a New American Gin for London Gin, a classic cocktail and be new again.