If you enjoy cocktails, you need to have a bottle of gin in your home bar. And although a number of gin styles exist, if you can only have one bottle, London dry gin—with its crisp, juniper-forward flavor profile that’s reminiscent of a pine forest breeze—is the bottle to get. After all, if you have this classic in your liquor cabinet, you can make martinis, Negronis, gin & tonics and a wide range of other mixed drinks.
Clearly, gin is having a moment right now. There are more bottlings than ever before—and people seem to be finding gin-spiration galore in the juniper renaissance. For example, Whitechapel, a steampunk-inspired gin palace boasting more than 400 gin bottlings and 70+ gin-soaked cocktails on the menu, opened last year in San Francisco. “Ginoisseur” Keli Rivers (yes, that’s really her title) helms the bar. The allure of gin, she says, is in its versatility.
If you have this classic in your liquor cabinet, you can make martinis, Negronis, gin & tonics and a wide range of other mixed drinks.
“It’s not like whiskey—it doesn’t want to be the shining star all the time,” Rivers explains. Rather, “it marries with whatever you’re putting with it, and it elevates and sophisticates.”
Meanwhile, one of the gins I’ve most been looking forward to is the J. Rieger & Co. “Midwestern Dry Gin,” made in Kansas City, Missouri, in the style of London dry gins. It’s exciting because one of the collaborators is Tom Nichol, the longtime master distiller for Diageo’s Tanqueray line. He was coaxed to delay retirement to work with the craft distiller, a move that The New York Times described as “a bit like independent filmmakers getting Jack Nicholson to star in their debut feature.” The gin takes its name from the historic Rieger Hotel, where bartender Ryan Maybee is a partner (he’s a partner in the distillery as well). With a bartender as part of the team, you know the gin is going to be cocktail-ready (a theory I look forward to testing with my next gimlet).
Here are some gins, London dry and others, to help jump-start your collection.
Citadelle Gin (France; W.J. Deutsch & Sons, White Plains, NY); $25, 94 points. Light and complex, this gin, made by Cognac producer Maison Ferrand, has a restrained lemon peel aroma and gently sweet palate accented by citrus, coriander and cardamom. The finish is markedly soft and bright, with just a hint of sweetness. Best Buy.
Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin (England; Kindred Spirits of North America, Miami, FL); $40, 94 points. Crisp and classic, this gin is ideal for martinis. A light cucumber aroma leads the nose, opening up with more cucumber and juniper on the palate, finishing smooth and brisk on nutmeg and coriander accents.
Darnley’s View London Dry Gin (England; Palm Bay International, Boca Raton, FL); $35, 93 points. This versatile gin has a mild, almost neutral scent and marshmallow sweetness on the palate. Most of the flavor is on the spiced, warming finish that shows coriander, citrus, cinnamon and black pepper.
Mayfair London Dry Gin (England; Epic Wines & Spirits, Capitola, CA); $40, 93 points. Produced in the last remaining independent distillery in London, this G&T-worthy gin is bracing, clean and crisp, with lots of juniper, a light floral note midpalate, and spicy-sweet finish of coriander.
Langley’s London Gin (England; Terlato Artisan Spirits, Lake Bluff, IL); $42, 93 points. This complex, balanced gin has a citrusy, lightly sweet palate, hinting at grapefruit and delivering a faint, pleasing white floral note. The finish offers citrus and spicy zing.
Beefeater 24 London Dry Gin (England; Pernod Ricard USA, Purchase, NY); $29, 92 points. This bouncy, astringent gin is infused with sencha tea, but doesn’t really taste like it. Instead, the flavor profile is on the spicy side, showing plenty of cayenne, cumin and black pepper, finishing with zingy alcohol heat and a juniper punch. Versatile for adding robust flavor to mixed drinks. Best Buy.
Gin MG London Dry Gin (Spain; Vision Wine & Spirits, Secaucus, NJ); $23, 91 points. Ideal for martinis and G&Ts, look for a brisk, bracing aroma that mixes juniper and anise. The palate is smooth, dry and citrusy, with most of the flavor on the cinnamon-accented finish. Best Buy.
J. Rieger & Co. Midwestern Dry Gin (USA; Jacob Rieger & Company, Kansas City, MO); $30, 91 points. Notable as the first project for Tom Nichol after retiring from his role as master distiller at gin giant Tanqueray, this intriguing sip is certainly a triumph. With its mild, grapefruit-like scent and silky feel, look for a robust palate of licorice and coriander, with a bracing, super-citrusy finish.
Hat Trick Botanical Gin (USA: High Wire Distilling, Charleston, SC); $33, 90 points. Robust and almost creamy on the palate, this gin opens on bold anise and coriander aromatics. The palate has a fruity cast, suggesting citrus peel, raspberry and even a flicker of banana, spiced with warm coriander and cardamom.
Caorunn Small Batch Scottish Gin (Scotland; 375 Park Avenue Spirits, Louisville, KY); $35, 89 points. The aroma is mild and slightly sweet; the palate is bolder and drying, showing subtle notes of dried orange peel, mulling spices and a mild floral note on the smooth, crisp exit.