Posted on January 12 2016
Article curated from Gin Monkey. Original article can be found here.
What is gin?
So. Let’s start by looking at gin. Gin is a neutral spirit flavoured with botanicals. The easy way to think about it is vodka with added flavours.
An EU definition states that gin is a juniper-flavoured spirit drink (where juniper must be the predominant taste – unfortunately in some cases the interpretation of this is dire…) and must be a minimum of 37.5% ABV. There are further stipulations given, but these apply to specific types of gin: distilled gin, and London Dry Gin.
So, to be a gin in its simplest form the spirit has to be at least 37.5% and it has to taste junipery.
Whilst most commercial gins use distillation to extract the flavour from the botanicals (with or without steeping), it is possible to produce a tasty gin without taking the final distillation step. It’s technically called a compound gin, and it’s therefore more than possible to make your own gin in the comfort of your own home. Hurrah!
One thing to note though, if you don’t re-distill your gin won’t be perfectly clear. But it’ll still taste like gin, which is the important bit! The colour of your gin will depend on the botanicals you use, but is generally going to have an yellow or amber-orange hue. I’ve heard that you can put it through a brita filter if you want to remove some of the colour. Or you can stick it in the freezer, then filter through muslin cloth which will lighten the colour a little. But as I say, whatever the colour, the stuff will taste like gin, so I’ve never bothered! And if you’re going to go down the brita filter route, I wouldn’t run it through too many times, as I’m sure it’ll take some of the flavour of the gin, and therefore your hard work, away with it.
What you’ll need
- a glass receptacle to infuse your spirit in. A bottle or a large glass kilner jar or similar should do it
- a 700ml bottle of base spirit*
- a sieve
- a jug
- a funnel if you’re messy
Remember I said the easy way to think about gin is vodka with added flavours? You’re going to need some vodka as your base. Don’t go for the cheap nasty stuff, buy a decent vodka. If you wouldn’t drink the vodka as it is, why would you use it as the base for your fantastic home-made gin? It’s not worth your effort.
As the lovely Sam from Sipsmith once said about making your own Sloe Gin (the same applies here): “It’s like artists using crap canvases and paints, they don’t do it. You are all artists if you’re doing this at home…use a good quality gin.”
So. Pick a good vodka as your base. Got it? Right.
The best thing about making your own gin, is that you get to choose the botanicals, and the ratios of the botanicals, that are going into your gin.
There are hundreds of options available, more than is possible to list. Other than juniper, you can put whatever you want into the spirit, however I’ll start with the more traditional botanicals in detail to give you a good idea of where to start. The descriptions below apply to the botanicals once distilled, however they’ll give you some indication of what to expect if you add them to your compound mix:
First up the ‘holy trinity’, pretty much all gins include:
- juniper berries – think of the taste of gin, and that’s the taste of juniper. It gives pine notes, some pepperiness and some say lavender flavour to the spirit. Traditionally dried juniper berries are used in gin production as the oils are more concentrated, and they’re easier to get hold of and store.
- coriander seed – complex citrus notes with hints of sage which amplifies the peppery finish of the juniper
- angelica root – helps to marry the flavours and imparts dry woody, earthy and musky notes
Other commonly used botanicals include:
- liquorice powder (root) – softens and sweetens the gin
- orris root – binds the flavours of the other botanicals together
- orange peel – candied orangey citrus notes
- lemon peel – adds fresh citrus notes and a crispness to the gin
Most of these ingredients will be easy to source in supermarkets (even juniper these days!), and a quick google search should help you to find the rest, e.g orris root powder is sold for use in gardening!
On to quantities. As a guide, for a bottle of spirit I’ve structured the following ranges:
- juniper berries – 20-25g
- coriander seed – 8-10g
- angelica root – 2-3g
- liquorice powder (root) – 1-2g
- orris root – 1-2g
- orange peel – 1-2g
- lemon peel – 1-2g
You can use either dried or fresh citrus peel. Fresh will give brighter citrus notes than dried, but shouldn’t be left to infuse for too long, so you might want to add this nearer to the end of your infusion. Also, if you’re using a bottle for infusing make sure the pieces will easily through the neck once they’ve swelled a little in the bottle. Keep a chopstick handy too for getting them out!
Bear in mind the points I noted earlier about the characteristics of each of the botanicals. You can manipulate the quantities shown if there’s a certain style (bitter, citrus, sweet e.t.c) of gin that you’re looking to create. However the general ratios should remain the same – lots of juniper, then corriander, then anjelica, with little amounts of everything else.
Also be aware of the fact that alcohol is a GREAT extractor of flavour, so don’t add too much of any of your proposed botanicals, even if you really like them, a little goes a long way, especially for the stronger flavours! You can always add a little more as you go – as you’ll be trying your infusion every so often. Making gin is TOUGH right?
The above are just a few of the most commonly used ingredients, other options open to you in terms of botanicals are listed at the end of the post if you’re needing further ginspiration…
- weigh out your botanicals
- pour the botanicals (minus any particularly punchy ones) into a clean sterile bottle (sterilise with boiling water)
- top with your chosen vodka
- leave for 24hrs to infuse
- have a taste, it should be starting to taste all junipery and ginny – hurrah!
- add any remaining botanicals to the mix, or if there’s a particular flavour you want more of, add a bit more of that botanical!
- leave to steep for a further 12-24hrs agitating the mixture at least once
- taste, and once you are happy (longer does not mean better, beware of over infusing) use a sieve to filter out the botanicals
- if there is still sediment you can use a coffee filter, muslin or cheese cloth to filter again
- leave to sit for a couple of days. Re-filter out any sediment that settles
- run through the brita filter/freeze if you want to, with further filtration e.t.c as necessary
- bottle your gin
- gin + face
Note: if you’ve left it a little too long and the gin is too strongly flavoured, you can always dilute with more vodka, unless you’ve left it for weeks and it’s stewed like tea!
Other botanical ideas:
- almond – sweet
- anjelica seed – musky and hoppy
- cardamom – spicy
- cassia bark – bitter and cinnamon
- cinnamon – sweet and woody (use sparingly)
- ginger root – dry and hot spice (careful it’s powerful!)
- grapefruit – clean citrus
- nutmeg – warming sweet spice
- cubeb berries – spicy peppery pine
- rose petals – floral
You can also add things like lavender, chamomile, rose, rosemary, sage, whatever you like, it’s your gin!
If you want to make your Gin journey a little easier The Home Made Gin Kit is a company designed to do just that! You can check out their kit here.
Photo credit: HomeMadeGin.com
Original article by Gin Monkey can be found here.