Drink up: Our pick of the best chic and tasty dry gins
To begin our juniper journey, let's get to grips with what goes into gin before it's drowned in tonic or stirred into a cocktail. A clear, neutral grain spirit, gin is one of the few liquors rarely drunk neat and is distilled with botanicals, citrus fruits and fragrant herbs to develop its unique flavour profile and aromatics. By law, these refreshing infusions must contain juniper berries and other botanicals such as coriander, angelica, and orange peel, and some recipes can notch up more than 12 flavour-enhancing plants and herbs.
Versatile and clean, gin contains the fewest congeners (the chemicals that cause a hangover) of all the premium spirits and could be the reason why gin palaces are increasingly in fashion, as a new generation of artisan distillers brings gin back to the cocktail darling it used to be in the 1920s, with a resurgence of martinis, fizzes, collins and classic G&Ts.
Indeed, according to the The International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) 2014 which has just announced this year's winners, “the global gin phenomenon shows no sign of slowing down, with 20 countries from around the world being awarded a medal or trophy for its gin”.
Most of these winners were London Dry Gins, an unsweetened dry gin that can now be made anywhere in the world — here's our own pick of the best.
The chicest — and most famous — way to enjoy a gin cocktail is the dry martini, and The Dorchester have reintroduced The Dorchester Old Tom (£65, 70cl, shop.dorchestercollection.com) to the UK market for the second time — the first was in 2006 after an absence of 30 years. Herbal and muscular, juniper, coriander, angelica, orris, cassia bark and cardamom headline this small batch gin with prominent vapours. Presented in a wax sealed bottle with a hand signed label and bespoke batch number, it's available at the bar or online. Produced for The Dorchester by The City of London Distillery, you might want to stock up in case it disappears for another 30 years.
Another new release distilled in London that captures the creativity and vibrancy of Soho, The King of Soho London Dry Gin (£31.95, 70cl, thewhiskyexchange.com) is dressed in a peacock blue bottle with a velvet clad figure tipping its hat to Soho's rich jazz history and a fox's tail marking its status as a night-time haunt. A dozen botanicals have been selected to merge sweetness with earthiness, spice with citrus and the warm, rounded mouthfeel is enhanced by grapefruit peel and cracked pepper.
Meanwhile, Chilgrove Gin (£29, 70cl, thedrinkshop.com) takes its name from the Sussex hamlet of Chilgrove, where the idea for a new style of grape gin was conceived, although it is actually produced by Thames Distillers. Described as a ‘Gin for All Seasons', it's made from a neutral spirit and distilled from grapes rather than grain. Containing 11 botanicals with sweet orange aromas leading into juniper berries studded with angelica root, sweet citrus notes, grains of paradise and ending with water mint for a touch of freshness, serve this smooth, elegant gin with tonic water, plenty of ice and a sprig of fresh mint.
The iconic blue bottle of Bombay Sapphire Dry Gin (£21.70, 70cl, Tesco) is consumed in vast volumes thanks to its fresh, smooth palate which always tastes so refreshingly good in a G&T. Ten botanicals pass through a delicate distillation process called vapour infusion and the result is a gin that's lighter than other London Dry styles, with a soft, delicate, uplifting taste with appealing aromatics on the finish.