Gin is having a ‘moment’. Go to your local supermarket, or your favourite online retailer, and you are presented with huge variety of gins to try. For those of us who have long championed the drink, these are heady days. But for the uninitiated, it can all be a little overwhelming.
So, with that in mind, we decided to ask one expert for his guide to the very best gins out there for the non-gin drinker – Avner Motaev. Avner is a real estate investor, based in Vienna, but also a real gin connoisseur.
Before Avner picks out his favourite gins, here’s a quick reminder of what gin is, and little bit of its history for those of you who are new to it.
A rich history
We’ll start with the name – it’s believed to come from a juniper-infused distilled wine called Geneve (meaning juniper), which was popular in the Netherlands from the 1200s on. And as far as we can tell, the drink we now know as ‘gin’ was invented by a Dutchman in or around 1650.
This pure white spirit infused with juniper and other botanicals quickly grew in popularity. This was especially the case in the UK, and when the Brits living in India added tonic (which contained the anti-malarial quinine), the G&T was born.
That’s the history: but what about gin today? Where should the new gin drinker start?
“There’s clearly a lot of choice, especially now,” says Avner. “But I really do believe there’s a gin for everyone. The key is to have fun trying them all out!”
Here is Avner’s guide.
The best gin for an iconic gin and tonic
We’re going to start with the classic gin and tonic – that drink that kept the British cool on those long, hot Indian evenings.
“Hendricks, with the obligatory slice of cucumber, is great, but it has become ubiquitous,” says Avner. “My pick is actually an American one – Dorothy Parker Gin. I love this gin because of the balance of flavours. You get the juniper, of course, but there is also citrus and even hints of coriander and cinnamon in there.
“But nothing is too overpowering. With some fresh, cold Fever-Tree tonic and a slice of lime over ice, this is just perfect.”
The best gin for craft beer fans
Beer has experienced a similar renaissance to gin over the last few years. Craft beers – all with the quirky local names and an authentic, hand-made aesthetic – are hugely popular. So, if you are a fan of craft beer, then why not try one of the number of great craft gins out there too?
“So much of what goes into a great craft gin is provenance and craftsmanship,” says Avner. “My pick is this Hedgerow Gin from Yorkshire, UK. It’s a real taste of the English countryside, with botanicals that include nettle and crab apple. Simply gorgeous.”
The best gin to drink neat
Neat? Really? Yes – gin is actually very palatable neat (if you get the right one). Sometimes, you just don’t have time to reach for the tonic, and when that happens the straight option is great.
“A lot of people wrinkle their noses at the thought of drinking straight gin,” says Avner, “but I think that’s often because they’ve tried cheaper, bitter gins with no tonic. The craft gins out there now are much more subtle and enjoyable, and it almost seems a shame to drown out the flavours with tonic.
“One of my personal favourites is The Botanist Islay Dry Gin. The Scottish island of Islay is more famous for whisky but this is a beautifully complex take on gin, infused with 31 different botanicals.”
The best gin for a pink gin
Pink gin has a lovely fruity flavour – usually raspberry, or even cherry. Avner’s favourite pink gin however is based on rhubarb. “Slingsby’s Rhubarb Gin is fantastically tart,” says Avner. “They recommend it with ginger ale but I prefer to stick with tonic – maybe with a strawberry thrown in there for a bit of sweetness.
“Alternatively, you can always make your own!” he adds. “It’s incredibly simple. Chop some rhubarb up into small chunks, shake them in a big jar full of sugar then drench in a gin of your choice.
“The tough bit is you need to then let it all infuse for four weeks or so – but it’s well worth the wait.”