A Man’s Primer on Gin

Gin is a type of liquor that originated in the 17th century, and it has been around for three centuries. The name comes from Dutch genever (the word “jenever” meaning hemp or jute). It’s distilled with juniper berries as an essential ingredient.

This is a primer on gin, the quintessential spirit of the British Empire. It’s not just for men; women like it too. Read more in detail here: how to drink whiskey like a man.

Sinatra drinking gin martini at a bard tuxedo laughing.

Joe Maiellano contributes a guest piece to the site.

Gin is one of the most adaptable distilled drinks. Whisky is, without a doubt, delectable. Who needs to wander in a world full with smokey single malts and spicy ryes (not to mention bourbons and the underappreciated but excellent array of Irish whiskies)? Gin, on the other hand, has a taste profile that is unmatched by any other liquor.

Gin is a neutral spirit that has been flavored with juniper and sometimes additional herbs, spices, flowers, citrus, and other tastes. Coriander, cardamom, and allspice are all typical spices, as are lemon, orange, and lime. Gin has an almost unlimited number of conceivable tastes and characteristics right out of the gate. Do you like citrus fruits? Cucumber and rose? What’s the connection between oak and malt? Rosemary and thyme, perhaps? There’s a gin out there to suit your preferences. There’s a perfect gin for every drink, liqueur, and mixer for the same reasons.

Gin has been favored by many great men throughout history, including Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, and others. Continue reading to learn what they already knew about gin and how to become a gin connoisseur yourself.

How Gin is Produced

James Cagney making bathtub gin in the roaring twenties.

In the Roaring Twenties, James Cagney makes bathtub gin.

Unlike most other spirits, the taste of gin is determined more by the additives added by the distiller during manufacturing than by the basic spirit or the aging process. Let’s have a look at the steps involved in making gin:

Obtaining the neutral spirit is the first step.

Some distilleries may simply purchase a base alcohol that has already been produced from another distillery. Others will repurpose unused base spirit from other in-house liquors. Others will go through the process of building their own from the ground up. The fundamental procedure is the same as it is for other alcoholic beverages:

  • Making a mash-up. To make a low-alcohol “beer,” grain, water, and yeast are mixed, heated, and then allowed to ferment.
  • Distillation. The “beer” is filtered, then boiled in a still. Because alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, it will convert to vapor while leaving behind water and other byproducts if the right temperature range is maintained. The alcohol vapor condenses (either on coils in a pot-still or on plates in a column still), and the pure, neutral spirit is collected.

2. Using botanicals to add flavor.

The neutral spirit is then infused with herbs, spices, citrus, flowers, and other flavorings to create a boozy tea. Although all gins include juniper berries (after all, that’s what makes it gin! ), each gin is distinguished by its own blend of botanicals. The timing and procedure vary – some distillers just pour everything in and filter it afterwards, while others use mesh teabags or hang the botanicals within the still to enable only the vapor to pass through. Whatever method they choose, the distillers are allowing the alcohol to peel away the essential oils while keeping the flavorings.


3. Distillation at the end.

At this point, most commercial gins go through a final distillation. They’re passed through the still one more time, allowing the spirit to keep the taste of the botanicals while removing whatever color it may have acquired. “Compound gins” refer to gins that omit this phase, such as homemade gin.

 Gin’s Background

William Hogarth's "Gin Lane".

“Gin Lane” by William Hogarth

To battle the Black Death, Italian monks created an elixir of juniper berries soaked in wine in the eleventh century (while not particularly effective, one would think that sipping a martini while dealing with the plague might have at least taken the edge off a little). By the mid-1600s, the Dutch were distilling genever and sharing it with their British allies in the Eighty Years’ War (where it was dubbed “Dutch Courage”).

The British troops carried their passion for Dutch gin back home with them, as many battle-born food and drink preferences do, and it spread like wildfire. The popularity of gin skyrocketed when the Dutch-born King of England, William of Orange, lifted limits on home distillation and raised levies on imported drink. Low costs and widespread availability (more than half of London’s drinking venues were “gin joints” in the 1730s), combined with inadequate control, meant that London’s impoverished were in a constant stupor. “Gin Lane,” an etching by William Hogarth, is a classic depiction of the setting. Quality controls were instituted in the mid-1700s, and the creation of the column aided in the refining of the spirit into the gin we know today.

Fast forward to America’s Prohibition, when bootleggers discovered that gin was the simplest alcohol to imitate. Bootleggers prepared bathtub gin by steeping juniper, herbs, and spices in “alcohol” (whether true moonshine, rubbing alcohol, medicinal alcohol, or even petroleum compounds) in a tub. To mask the taste of illicit spirits, they typically mixed them with mixers (juice, soda, sugar), and so the modern cocktail was formed.

On the Silver Screen, Men and Gin 

Humphrey bogart african queen gordon's gin box.

Everyone in the cast of The African Queen, with the exception of Humphrey Bogart, is claimed to have had dysentery as a result of his excessive gin intake.

Gin has had a unique position in popular culture for a long time. There’s something gentlemanly and courteous about it, but it’s also a little risky. It’s no surprise that some of the most legendary and macho figures to ever grace the silver screen or the pages of western literature did so while sipping a gin cocktail.

In North by Northwest, there’s Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in the dining car, engaged in a high-stakes game of seduction over a coolly-ordered Gibson.

Bogie plays Rick’s Cafe Americain in Casablanca, which is the most renowned of “all the gin joints, in all the cities, in all the globe.”

“Gibson, up,” Roger Sterling from Mad Men may say.

Gin had a prominent place in the literature that created our society before cinema and television. Fitzgerald’s anti-hero, Jay Gatsby, was a gin-slinger, which was appropriate.


In an instance of art mimicking reality, Hemingway created some of the greatest writing ever written about gin — in A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry writes of martinis, “I had never tasted anything so cold and pure.” They made me feel a little more sophisticated.”

Sean Connery James bond pouring and drinking martini.

With, of course, James Bond and his Vesper martini, created by Ian Fleming.

When it comes to Martinis,  

Vintage Martini gin vodka ad advertisement.

Martinis are the archetypal gin cocktail. They’re the archetypal cocktail, in fact. Period. Their simplicity is what makes them so beautiful. The martini, according to H.L. Mencken, is “the only American innovation as flawless as the sonnet.” However, many mixologists and imbibers alike are baffled by this nearly Zen-like elixir. What is the appropriate amount of vermouth to use? Is it better to be shaken or stirred? Twist or olives?

The short answer is that there is no correct response; it is entirely a question of personal choice. Everyone has an opinion, and I’ll respectfully share mine.

Hemingway described the Montgomery in Across the River and Into the Trees as a “extremely dry martini” made with 15 parts gin and one part vermouth. As much as equal parts gin and vermouth are called for in old recipes going back to the 1800s. You’ll want to taste the vermouth as a compliment to the gin flavor if you choose decent vermouth like Dolin or Lillet (not the cheap stuff). I like a proportion of 4 or 5 parts gin to 1 part Dolin dry vermouth. You may make a Martinez by substituting sweet (red) vermouth for the dry (white) vermouth in the same proportions.

We need to look at both physics and chemistry to answer the great issue – shaken or stirred? Shaking a drink will cool it down faster than stirring it. Furthermore, the increased agitation will shatter the ice into little shards, which will melt fast and dilute the drink due to the reduced surface area. So, whether you want your martini ice cold and a touch watered down (in which case, shake as 007 does) or not as cold but a more pure product is a personal preference.

In terms of garnish, I’d say that the appropriate garnish is determined by the sort of gin you’re using. If you’re using a really dry gin like Gordon’s or Beefeater, an olive is absolutely okay. In fact, Sinatra recommended that you get two olives so that you may split one with a buddy. If your martini is prepared with a particularly complex gin, such as Hendrick’s or Bombay Sapphire, you’ll want to add a lemon twist to complement some of the citrus and flowery elements. The same criteria apply to a cocktail onion as they do to an olive, only you’re sipping a Gibson instead of a martini.

Gin’s Latest Trends

Vintage gin ad advertisement.

While the martini is the most well-known gin cocktail, gin is far from a one-trick pony. In fact, there are several intriguing developments in the gin industry right now. Small-batch distillery, for example. America is experiencing a boom in local micro-distilleries, similar to the micro-brewery revolution of the 1980s and 1990s.


There were few alternatives for gin drinkers in the not-too-distant past. Seagrams or Beefeater were the only beers available at your neighborhood pub. Now, we live in a time and place when there are literally hundreds of different gins, each with its own distinct flavor profile, all of which are available with a few keystrokes. Death’s Door in Wisconsin, Bluecoat in Philadelphia, and Green Hat in Washington, D.C. are all producing world-class gins right here in our own backyards. It’s a fantastic moment to be a gin connoisseur!

Many of these smaller distilleries (as well as some of the larger ones) have started experimenting with seasonal and other limited-run batches. Green Hat has released a winter mix that is distilled in the manner of aquavit with caraway seeds (among other botanicals).

Ransom, based in Oregon, makes a barrel-aged gin with a mellow amber hue and pleasant oakiness that goes well in a Martinez.

Even Plymouth, one of the world’s oldest commercial gins (since 1793! ), has reintroduced its Navy Proof product, which is bottled at a staggering 114 proof to withstand lengthy journeys. Actually, if you enjoy shaken martinis, it could be the best option…


Once you’ve had your fill of gin and identified your favorites, try a couple of these recipes:


Gin Negroni with orange peel twist.

After a night of overindulgence, Italian Amari, like as Campari, are wonderful for restoring one’s appetite and easing nausea. We enjoy an elixir without parallel for righting oneself – the Negroni – when we combine the healthy benefits of gin, the coating properties of Italian-style vermouth, and the additional protein from an egg white (which also gives a smooth texture).

  • gin, 1.5 ounce
  • 1.5 ounces Campari
  • sweet vermouth, 1.5 ounce
  • 2 dashes bitter orange
  • 1 beaten egg white
  • a twist of orange

In a cocktail shaker, combine the gin, Campari, vermouth, bitters, and egg white (no ice). 30 seconds of vigorous shaking (this is called dry shaking; it helps integrate the egg white). Fill the shaker halfway with ice. Shake for another 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Cut a very thin strip of orange peel (avoid the white pith) using a vegetable peeler or zester, press the twist over the glass to release its oils, run the peel over the lip of the glass, and drop into drink.

French 75

Gin french dropping into the glass. This drink may be traced back to Harry’s Bar in Paris in 1915, when a WWI veteran requested a bit extra kick in his champagne glass. This was made for him by legendary bartender Harry MacElhone, and the vet said it had the punch of a French 75. (the Model 1897 75mm Howitzers he knew all too well from the war).

  • 2 oz gin
  • simple syrup, 1/2 ounce
  • 1 tblsp lemon juice
  • Champagne is a bubbly beverage that is (or other dry sparkling wine)
  • With a twist of lemon

Combine the gin, syrup, and lemon in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Fill a chilled flute or coupe halfway with champagne and strain. Serve with a sliver of lemon zest on top.

Rickey’s Gin

Gin rickey to the glass. The Gin Rickey is a native drink of Washington, D.C., created by Col. Joe Rickey at a tavern only steps from the White House. It’s a crisp and refreshing drink that’s ideal for the swampy summers of the south.


  • 3 oz gin
  • 12 limes (fresh)
  • Mineral water that sparkles (such as Apollinaris or Acqua Panna)
  • 2 dashes bitter orange

Squeeze half of a lime into a rocks glass or big wine cup, along with the hull. Fill the glass halfway with ice. Combine the gin, bitters, and mineral water in a mixing glass. To blend, stir everything together.

Gin is the nectar of men and gods alike, whether shaken or stirred, conventional or small-batch. I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass to this best of spirits: gin, whether you’re a gin aficionado who may have found a new trend or a newbie who was hesitant to dive further.

Gin is the nectar of men and gods alike, whether shaken or stirred, conventional or small-batch. I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass to this best of spirits: gin, whether you’re a gin aficionado who may have found a new trend or a newbie who was hesitant to dive further.

The HomeMade Gin Kit is co-founded by Joe Maiellano. He’s been referred to be a spirit soothsayer, an alcoholic, and a drunkard (though only the latter by his mother-in-law). He’s also been attempting to bring back the three-martini lunch on his own.



Gin is a type of liquor that has been around for centuries. It is one of the most popular liquors in the world, and it can be used to make cocktails. If you are looking for a good rum for your first time drinker, then you should consider trying out some gin. Reference: best rum for first time drinker.

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