The recent gin boom has introduced an exorbitant number of unfamiliar bottles for drinkers to choose from. Some of these new-wave gins have a strong focus on terroir and provenance, highlighting the spirit’s unique ability to showcase botanicals local to a specific region; others seek to mimic the traditional juniper-forward profiles of a London dry; others still are hot pink.
While these offerings have provided fresh flavors for bartenders to experiment with, they’ve also flooded store shelves, making it difficult to parse one bottle from the next. According to Dawn Davies, head buyer for the online retailer Whisky Exchange, this has only driven consumers back toward the classics. “In times of uncertainty, we like to go back to familiarity—and, in the case of gin, that means London dry–style gins with some nuance,” she says. “Over the last six months, our bestselling gins, both online and on-trade, have been modern classics such as Sipsmith, The Botanist, Hendrick’s and so on.”
The appeal of these bestsellers is, undoubtedly, their versatility: In a cocktail, gin’s botanicals must be balanced and not overpowering. For many bartenders, that means sticking to expressions that embrace the core botanicals, such as juniper, coriander, angelica root and citrus peel. “When it comes to choosing a spirit like gin, we generally go for one that doesn’t have a flavor profile that dominates other flavors,” says Guillaume Quenza, head bartender and co-owner at Fréquence in Paris. “We want the gin to have a nice texture, balanced flavor with a long finish, and [be] at least 80 proof or higher to stand up to the other flavors paired with it.”
At Scarfes Bar in London, head bartender Yann Bouvignies often starts with the vision and overall flavor profile of the drink, then works backwards to find a gin that has complementary botanicals. “The beauty of gin is that it can be so diverse, which is perfect for creating an array of different styles of cocktails,” he says.
With this breadth of gins on the market, there is undoubtedly a gin for every cocktail and occasion—though some are more adaptable than others. To cut through the fat, we surveyed 13 bartenders from around the world, asking for their go-to gins for mixing in cocktails. Here’s what they had to say.
Most cited as a must-have for the home bar was Suntory Roku Gin. “It has had my complete and uninterrupted attention lately,” says Patricio Rio, head bartender at Ave at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa in the Cayman Islands. The Japanese gin was also recommended by several London bartenders, including Chris Tanner, general manager of Silverleaf; Ellen Visser, manager at Paradise; Simone Marvulli, bar manager at Il Borro Tuscan Bistro and Bouvignies.
“This gin is based on six quintessential Japanese botanicals, including sakura flowers and leaves, yuzu peel, sencha tea and sansho pepper—each of which work beautifully in a sour-style cocktail, like the fresh and acidic Gimlet,” says Bouvignies.
- Price: $30
- ABV: 43%
Tanqueray London Dry Gin
The iconic green bottle that houses Tanqueray London Dry Gin can be found on backbars around the world. It’s been a call spirit among both Martini and Gin & Tonic drinkers for generations for its simple, signature botanical profile that’s composed primarily of juniper, coriander, angelica and licorice. The recipe has not changed since 1830, although its ABV varies by geographical market.
In the United States, the flagship Tanqueray is bottled at 47.3 percent ABV, which packs a punch in a dry Martini, while the U.K. version is a lighter 43.1 percent ABV.
For those who enjoy the core botanicals of Tanqueray but prefer a more citrus-driven gin, Angelo Altobelli, beverage manager at Dinings SW3 in London, recommends looking to the slightly more expensive Tanqueray No. Ten. “This is a juniper-led gin that’s balanced with bright lemon zest, hints of red grapefruit, bitter orange and a freshness lended by the licorice and angelica root,” says Altobelli.
See also: Tanqueray No. Ten
- Price: $30
- ABV: 47.3%
Though Beefeater has recently left some U.S. bartenders and gin lovers disgruntled after quietly changing the ABV—from a stiff 47 percent down to 44 percent in 2020—the classic London dry style remains a popular go-to option.
“Beefeater is my preferred gin for Martinis, specifically Gibsons,” says Mathew Resler, bartender at Bar Goto in New York. “This classic London dry gin is citrus- and juniper-forward, yet subtle, elegant [and] crisp, and [it] boasts a slightly higher proof, which is beautifully tempered by dilution in spirit-forward serves.”
Also recommended by Thibault Massina, head of beverages at Paris’ Le Syndicat, and Sam Grundy-Glynn, bar manager at London’s Swift, the gin’s utility, texture and overall clean flavor profile allow it to work in a variety of cocktails, from sours and fizzes to more spirituous serves. With nearly 200 years of distilling heritage, and a balanced botanical profile composed of nine ingredients including bold juniper, zesty Seville orange and lemon peel, Beefeater has become bartenders’ old faithful.
- Price: $27
- ABV: 44%
Hepple is slowly making strides in the U.S., but has a dedicated following among bartenders across the pond—and for good reason. It is a craft gin that stays true to the classic London dry style, pulling flavor from 12 botanicals, most notably green (underripe) juniper, traditional juniper, Douglas fir and black currants, using a blend of three production methods.
The gin is made from pot-distilled spirit, vacuum-distilled spirit (reduces heat and retains aromatic integrity and freshness) and CO2 extraction—the latter being a method used by organic chemists to analyze perfumes, but in this case used to capture the pure essence of juniper. “Juniper and pine notes are complemented with hints of citrus and spice,” says Matthias Ingelmann, bar manager at KOL Mezcaleria in London, adding that the flavors work particularly well in a Martini or Gin & Tonic. “[It] is modern and sophisticated.
- Price: $38
- ABV: 45%
Recommended by both Grundy-Glynn and Ingelmann, Plymouth Gin has built a reputation for being the perfect entry-level bottle for cocktail enthusiasts who enjoy the classic London dry style, but prefer something that’s a touch softer on the palate—it’s only 41.2 percent ABV, and it’s less juniper-forward. Made with seven botanicals, including coriander, sweet orange, cardamom, angelica, orris root and juniper, it’s as familiar as it is sophisticated.
Because it’s pot-distilled, the gin boasts a luscious mouthfeel that makes it a popular choice for any Martini variation, but it also shines in a Bee’s Knees or Gin & Tonic because of its full-bodied mouthfeel and simple botanical profile. As Ingelmann summarizes, it’s “the perfect gin for classic cocktails.”
- Price: $44
- ABV: 41.2%