What Does Gin Taste Like? You Might be Surprised

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If you’ve never tried gin before, you may be curious to learn what it tastes like.  Describing the taste of gin isn’t a very straightforward task as different types and brands may have a bit of a unique taste depending on the specific ingredients used.  However, there are still some similarities in the taste profile of this spirit.  So, what does gin taste like?  Let’s explore this question and learn more about exactly what gin is and how it is made!

Table of Contents

What Does Gin Taste Like?

Gin has a very distinct piney taste with a touch of citrus scent and a general mild bitter taste. The one common ingredient in all gins is juniper berries, which is why gin has piney taste. However, different bases, such as barley and wheat, and different aromatics can be used when distilling gin. That gives each gin a unique taste

What Does Gin Taste Like?

How is Gin Made?

Before diving into what gin tastes like, it is important to understand how this spirit is made.  Doing so will help you understand the various ingredients that are used to craft gin and will help you get a better feel for its taste.

Making gin involves using a distillation process.  This is the same with any other alcoholic spirits.  Distillation is essential in making the spirit drinkable.

With gin, the process begins using fermented grains.  After the fermented grains have gone through the distillation process one time, the process is repeated a second time.  Either during or before the second distillation process occurs, juniper berries and other herbs are added.  

The juniper berries and the herbs will play an important role in determining the exact flavor of the gin.  Despite their name, juniper berries are not really berries.  They are actually the seed cone that comes from juniper trees.

These juniper berries are an essential ingredient in gin.  The other herbaceous ingredients, known as aromatics, can vary from one gin maker to the next.  Each gin manufacturer works to find different combinations of aromatics to make their gin really stand out and give it an impressive flavor profile.   

Aromatics Give Each Gin a Unique Flavor

As we just mentioned above, the aromatics used to make gin can vary a good deal from one maker to the next.  This is why each bottle of gin you purchase will have a slightly (or not so slightly) different flavor profile.

Some aromatics commonly used to make gin include:

  • Angelica root
  • Coriander seeds
  • Orris root
  • Cardamom pods
  • Licorice root
  • Orange peel 
  • Grapefruit peel
  • Anise

Different Styles of Gin

While the specific blend of aromatics added to the juniper berries will dictate the final taste of the gin, there are a few general styles of gin.  

London Dry Gin

While the name may have you thinking that London dry gin must be made in London, this type of gin can actually be made anywhere.  There are, however, some requirements for a gin to be classified as a London dry gin.  First, London Dry gins typically emphasize the juniper in the ingredient list.  Rather than being more of an afterthought, the juniper berries are one of the more prominent items you’ll taste.  

London Dry gin typically has a bolder flavor.  In addition to the prominent taste of the juniper berries, many London dry gins also incorporate coriander.  Citrus peels may also be incorporated, but they aren’t the star of the show as much as they are there to help balance out the more bitter flavors of the gin.

What Does Gin Taste Like?

In order for a gin to be classified as a London dry gin, it must be made without any artificial colors or flavors.  During the distillation process, it also must be distilled to at least 70% ABV (alcohol by volume) before it is diluted.  Once the distillation process is complete, only water, very small quantities of sugar, or neutral grain spirits can be added to a true London Dry gin.

Plymouth Gin

Plymouth gin is relatively similar to London Dry gin.  Originally, the distiller of the gin, Plymouth, held protective rights for the slightly different style of gin.  However, they gave up these rights in 2014.

Unlike London Dry gin, the juniper berry flavor is not as strong in Plymouth gin.  Rather, Plymouth gin offers more orange and herbal flavors.  Plymouth Gin was one of the first to move away from the traditional juniper berry-centered flavor profile of a London Dry gin.  It paved the way for other more Contemporary gins, which we’ll discuss next.

Contemporary Gin

Contemporary gin is a relatively broad category that includes many different styles of gin.  What all of these styles have in common is that they don’t follow the typical flavor profile of a London dry gin.  

Obviously, all of these contemporary gins are made with juniper, since it is an essential ingredient for a spirit to be classified as gin.  However, the other aromatics used to make them can vary quite a bit.  Many contemporary gins choose locally-sourced ingredients to incorporate into the taste profile of their drink.

Another difference between Contemporary gin and London dry gin is that a neutral spirit must be used as the base for a London dry gin.  With Contemporary gins, on the other hand, distillers can work with barley or rye bases.  They can also choose to not fully distill the flavor of the grain from their spirit.

Some individuals refer to the Contemporary gin category as new American or Western gin.  While many of the contemporary gins did originate from the west, distillers across the globe currently experiment with the flavor profiles and craft their own unique spirits

what does gin taste like Contemporary Gin

Navy Strength gin features an even higher proof than London dry gin.  When bottled, London dry gin is typically somewhere between 40 and 50 ABV.  Navy Strength gin is bottled at 114 ABV.  With its higher proof, the botanicals and aromatics found in a navy strength gin are even more prevalent.  Many bartenders also prefer using Navy Strength gin since it helps give the mixed drinks they craft a stronger flavor.

Old Tom Gin

Old Tom gin tastes a little like a London dry gin.  Old Tom gin was originally created during the Gin Craze when consumption of gin in Great Britain, and London particularly, increased substantially.  Old Tom gin ages in barrels and includes added sweetener.  The sweetener used to craft Old Tom gin can vary, with honey, sugar, and anise being popular choices.

However, despite the sweetener that is added to Old Tom gin, one shouldn’t expect an overly sweet drink.  Rather, Old Tom gin is just a touch sweeter than a London dry and often tastes like it has a hint of licorice.

Old Tom gin, which is the gin originally used to create a Tom Collins cocktail, fell out of popularity.  However, more recently, some craft distilleries are helping to revive this older style.

Best Way to Drink Gin

The best way to drink gin is really up to you based on what you prefer.  Gin is a very versatile spirit, though.  It is featured in a variety of cocktails, but complex and classic, and also can be enjoyed neat or over the rocks.

what does gin taste like Best Way to Drink Gin

Favorite Gin Cocktails

As we mentioned above, there is nothing wrong with enjoying gin neat or over the rocks.  However, if you’d prefer to try a gin cocktail, here are a few options you may want to try.


A martini is one of the most well-known and popular cocktails made with gin.  In addition to gin, martinis also include dry vermouth.  Orange or aromatic bitters are commonly added to a martini, but they aren’t an essential ingredient.  Olives or lemons often are used as garnish for a martini.

Watch this video to find out how to make a classic gi

Gin and Tonic

Nearly everyone has heard of gin and tonic.  This cocktail became popular in the 19th century.  Soldiers in the British East India Company were experimenting trying to find something to mix with their quinine (medication to prevent malaria).  A gin and tonic is easy to make; you only need two ingredients:  gin and tonic!  Many people also add a lime as a garnish for this drink.

Tom Collins

A Tom Collins is made using Old Tom gin, which, as we described above, doesn’t have a very strong juniper taste.  The other ingredients you’ll need for this drink include lemon juice, simple syrup, ice, club soda, and a lemon wedge for garnish. 


The Negroni was likely invented early in the 20th century, when Count Camillo Negroni of Italy told a bartender to make an Americano cocktail stronger by substituting gin for soda water.  Thus, the ingredients needed to make a Negroni include gin, campari, sweet vermouth, and orange peel (for the garnish).

What Does Gin Taste Like? You Might be Surprised

Gin Espresso Martini

If you want to make a special dessert cocktail, consider trying a gin espresso martini.  For this cocktail, add gin, kahlua, espresso, chocolate syrup, and ice to your shaker.  Shake the ingredients well, then strain before serving.

Enjoy Sipping Gin

The juniper berries used during the distillation process of gin give it a unique piney taste.  However, each gin distillery also incorporates various other aromatics that can really transform the taste of each bottle of gin.  If you’re new to trying gin, the best way to discover what you like may be to try a few different styles of gin from different distilleries.  


How would you describe the taste of gin?

The taste of gin can best be described as piney.  This is from the juniper berries used during the distillation process.  However, other aromatics, such as citrus peels, coriander seeds, licorice root, anise, and cardamom, can also be added to give each gin its own distinct and unique flavor profile.

Is gin good to drink straight?

Gin, like many other spirits, can be drunk neat. While it can sometimes prove to be too harsh for some people to enjoy. Gin is the most common spirit to be paired with mixers as it can be unappealing for a lot of people to drink it neat. It is commonly paired with tonic water, soda, or cordial.

Does gin have a taste or smell?

Gin does have a taste and smell. The scent gin has is commonly very citrus oriented with an accompanying scent of alcohol. The flavor of gin is very pine-like as juniper berries are a common ingredient used in this alcohol. Both of these can change as gin can sometimes be flavored or have a different recipe.

How does gin taste compared to vodka?

When you compare the two, gin is a lot more flavorful than vodka. Gin is commonly very pine-like in taste and has a lot of herbal flavors in it. Vodka, on the other hand, is very flavorless and neutral with the exception of the harsh taste a lot of alcohol possesses.