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What is gin?

Gin is a distilled alcoholic spirit. The distinctive, lively character of gin comes from juniper berries and other botanicals, added to a base of neutral spirits.

While juniper gives gin its strong and refreshing herbal profile, adding other botanicals allows producers to design an unlimited number of gin flavors. What are botanicals? They’re plant-based flavoring agents such as coriander (spicy), angelica root (earthy), dried citrus peels (fruity), caraway seeds, aniseed, cocoa, almonds, vanilla and many more.

Where does gin come from?

Notable for its long English history, gin’s foundations are on the European mainland. Early physicians tried gin-like elixirs to treat plague in the 1300s. It didn’t work, but the drink grew popular across the continent. It was later refined by a Dutch physician who distilled spirits with juniper to create a medicine called genièvre, French for juniper. Dutch soldiers used it to treat stomach maladies during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), calling it "genever."

Having enjoyed a taste of the medicine in mainland Europe during that period, British soldiers brought the recipe home, where it quickly gained great popularity as a social drink known simply as "gin."

Gin production exploded in London in the 1700s, with city dwellers producing and consuming excessive amounts of low-quality, sweet, gin-like concoctions. By mid-century, the English government stepped in to address public drunkenness and passed the Gin Acts, which eventually barred unlicensed gin production. Soon, professional distillation was producing branded, high-quality, London Dry Gin – still made today by some of the original distillers.

By the beginning of the last century, gin was the cocktail mixer of choice. Easy production made it particularly popular in the United States during Prohibition, and it remained the drink of choice for decades, until gin became the nation’s best-selling spirit.

How is gin made?

In the United States, gin is made by adding juniper and other botanicals to a neutral spirit to make a compound gin, or by distilling it all together to make a distilled gin. The final product must possess a predominant juniper flavor and be at least 80 proof (40 percent alcohol by volume).

What are the different kinds of gin?

More and more gin styles are available as distillers get creative with their botanicals and production processes. Classic London Dry Gin, well-suited for a variety of cocktails, is light and fresh and may be produced anywhere in the world. (The term "dry" on the label of any gin simply indicates the absence of sweetness.) Plymouth Gin, which evolved at the same time as London Dry but in a different location, has a fuller body and some fruit flavor. Old Tom Gin, on the other hand, delivers a sweet profile dating back to the spirit’s early English history.

What are the popular gin brands that Total Wine & More carries?

Total Wine & More carries a variety of the most popular brands of gin, including:

Note – availability of these brands of gin differ by store and market. They are carried where able.

What are popular gin cocktails and drink recipes?

Appreciation for gin has reemerged in recent years, thanks to super-premium and artisanal gins making a splash in the cocktail culture.

Some of the most popular gin cocktails include:

Want to learn more about gin?

Head to our Guide to Gin to learn everything you’ll need to know, including other spirit types as well from our overall Guide to Spirits!