Your Quick Guide to Gin Styles and How to Use Them. Because not All Gin was Created Equal.

Royal Poverty, Dutch courage, Mother’s Ruin. Gin’s been known by a few names since its inception in the sixteenth century, when it was very different to what you’d recognise today.

Gin became popular in Britain during the eighteenth century, when taxes imposed on imported spirits made them unaffordable, and Gin shops sprang up throughout England to cater for the masses. The cheap price and easy access made it the drink of choice for the poor, and it was nicknamed Mother’s Ruin. Back then, the crude spirit was often flavoured with turpentine – not the sort of thing we fancy trying, thanks.

The word ‘Gin’ comes from the French word genièvre and the Dutch word jenever, both of which mean ‘juniper’ – the spirit’s predominant flavour must be juniper in order to be called Gin.

London Dry Gin
The world’s most popular Gin. Despite its name, it's not always from London and can be made anywhere, so long as it is (and here’s the techy bit, don’t say we didn’t warn you) made using a pure grain spirit, with flavour introduced from natural botanicals through re-distillation. It mustn’t contain colourants or any added ingredients other than water.

Flavour Spirals of three London Dry Gin Brands

Despite being the most common style of Gin around today, the flavours in this category vary wildly - from citrus notes in gins such as Sipsmith London Dry Gin, to herbaceous styles like Edinburgh Gin, and even spicey, peppery flavours in gins like Boë Superior Gin. To discover more new and exciting brands of London Dry Gin check out Flaviar's online Gin selection.

This is what you’ll find in your glass when ordering a G&T at bars the world over, from Stockholm to Jaipur.

Navy Strength
The overproof style Gins are not for the faint hearted. At 57% ABV, they were invented by some savvy sailors in the British Navy, who discovered - between colonising all corners of the earth and fighting pirates - that if the Gin on board their ships were to be spilled on their gunpowder (heaven forbid), the gunpowder would only still light if the spirit was at least 57% ABV. Anything less than that and they were in trouble.

There are a few popular navy strength Gins about, but our current favourite is Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin, named after a Brooklyn Naval Yard Commandant.

Navy strength Gin - great for putting hairs on your chest, and it won’t ruin your gunpowder supply. Why wouldn’t you try it?

Made using a malt wine base, this predecessor to London Dry Gin comes in two types - the more traditional old (made with between 15% and 50% malt wine) and the newer style young (containing up to 15% malt wine), with the former resulting in a weight on the palate similar to Whiskey.

Both are very useful in any bartender’s arsenal, especially for making pre-prohibition cocktails. It’s well worth seeking out both styles to try.

Old Tom
The nineteenth century saw the rise of Old Tom Gin, a sweeter, softer style of spirit. Although less popular than its sister styles (likely due to the popularity of the Gin & Tonic), it recently enjoyed a resurgence thanks to the rise in popularity of cocktails calling for a sweeter Gin. We’re predicting its popularity will continue to rise. These complex, intense flavours which are characteristic of this Gin style are worth celebrating.

Under the cat sign was a slot to put money in, next to a tube. From the tube would come a shot of Gin, poured by the bartender inside the pub.

The name Old Tom is said to come from wooden plaques shaped like a black tom cat mounted on the outside of pubs during the time. The British government tried to stem the flow of Gin with taxes and licensing, which led to underground production and sales. Under the cat sign was a slot to put money in, next to a tube. From the tube would come a shot of Gin, poured by the bartender inside the pub.

Hayman’s Old Tom Gin is one of our favourites – still very much a Gin, with strong juniper flavours and added sweetness from a mix of botanicals. For something a little different, try Queen’s Courage Gin, with a citrus tang and honeyed sweetness. Delicious. Drink it in a Martinez cocktail, with maraschino and sweet vermouth, for the perfect, sweetened version of a Martini and pretend you’re just like a sugar-coated James Bond.

Bathtub Gin
Gin Spices - Photo: Flickr / capitalspiritsProhibition era saw the rise of bathtub Gin in the United States, whereby any old Tom, Dick or Harry would mix grain alcohol, water and flavourings such as juniper and glycerine in a bathtub.

It’s been said that many cocktails owe their heritage to bathtub Gin, as they were created to mask the unpleasant taste of the bootleg spirit.

Infused or Flavoured Gin
Often not actually a Gin at all. The most popular style in this category is undoubtedly Sloe Gin.
Sloe Berries - Photo: Flickr / beckayorkProduced in homes all over Britain in time for Christmas, this sweet, fruit infused Gin becomes a liqueur due to the addition of sugar.

Now sold commercially by many of the mainstream Gin producers, our favourite way to drink this is from a hipflask on a chilly winter walk, or in front of a fire for a festive feeling.

If you’re not making your own infused Gin, try Sipsmith Sloe Gin – it’s smooth, dry and sweet. We like it served at room temperature but it’s equally good served chilled or topped with sparkling wine.

Whether you prefer dry or sweet, citrus or herbal, spicy or pure, there’s a Gin out there for everyone. Now it’s just a case of finding the perfect one.

By Emma


About the author: Emma is a huge enthusiast of all things juniper based – a ginthusiast, if you will. When not at her day job in marketing, she can often be found in various Gin joints across London, Martini in hand.

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