We work with some of the finest craft gin distillers here at Craft Gin Club. These are people who really know what they are doing, with years of experience, training and dedication behind them. No wonder their creations said so darned delicious!
But for a spirit that is so complex, nuanced and diverse, gin in its most basic form is actually pretty straightforward. It’s simply a neutral base spirit (usually made from grain but not always – for instance May 2016's Gin of the Month, Windspiel, was made from potatoes) which is flavoured with botanicals – so essentially, like vodka with extra bits.
The only real stipulation for it to be called ‘gin’ is that there is juniper is the dominant botanical and it is at least 37.5% ABV. Beyond that, the world is kind of your oyster.
Most ‘proper’, commercial gin makers extract the flavours from their botanicals through distillation, it is very possible to make gin simply by ‘steeping’ them in the base spirit. Which in fact means it is very possible to make your own gin at home, using vodka.
The technical name for this is compound gin but it’s also sometimes called ‘bathtub gin’, in reference to the vessel in which it batches were illegally made during American Prohibition in the 1920s.
While we can’t guarantee it will taste as good as the lovely craft libations we send you every month, there’s nothing illegal about whipping up a bit of your own homemade gin – and it can be great fun.
Without the final distillation process used by the pros, your own batch will come out looking a bit yellowy or orange, depending on which botanicals you use. This won’t do you any harm, but if you’d rather have a clearer-looking spirit, you can simply pass it through a water filter jug a few times (we don’t normally bother though as it doesn’t affect the taste!).
Beyond the vodka and the juniper berries, you can feel free to experiment with whatever botanicals you like. Some of the most commonly used gin botanicals (after juniper) are coriander seed, angelica root, citrus peel and cassia bark or cinnamon – but feel free to raid the spice cabinet and herb garden. You could try bay leaves, rosemary, liquorice powder, lavender, cardamom, cumin, fennel seeds, lemongrass…pretty much anything you fancy!
If you’re not sure where to start, check out the botanicals that are included in your favourite gins and go from there.
Here’s a basic recipe to get you started – you can either follow it exactly or use it as a blank canvas on which to paint your masterpiece!
How to make your own gin
750ml good quality vodka
2 tbsp juniper berries (more if you like juniper-forward gin)
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 cardamom pods
Half a cinnamon stick
A small piece of dried orange peel (remove the white pith as it’s very bitter)
A small piece of dried lemon peel (again, no pith)
Sterilise a clean mason jar or glass bottle with boiling water
Add your botanicals to the jar, minus any fresh peel
Top up with vodka
Leave to infuse in a cool dark place for 24hours
Taste the infusion – it should have taken on some lovely juniper ginnyness already. Add your fresh peel, along with and extra botanicals whose flavour you want to boost.
Leave for up to another 24 hours, giving the bottle a gentle shake at least once. Beware of leaving it too long and over-infusing the mixture – think of it a bit like brewing tea.
Taste again and if you’re happy, then filter out all the botanicals using a sieve. If there’s still some sediment left, use some muslin or a coffee filter to strain again.
Leave the liquid to sit for a couple of days and then filter out any remaining sediment – and put through a water filter jug if you want to make it even clearer (but as we said, don’t worry too much about the colour.)
Bottle your gin – feel free to create your own label if you want – and you’re ready to try your creation out on your nearest and dearest! Don’t forget to share your results with us and your fellow gin fans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too!