About Dry Gin
Dry gin is arguably gin in its purest form, free from the kinds of flavourings and sweetening elements that have come to define the modern age of ultra-fashionable equivalents. With roots in the UK’s historic gin distilling scene, dry gin is often referred to as London gin, thanks to its associations with our great capital. It is also amongst the most popular types of gin and remains a favourite of people who prefer a good old-fashioned G&T without too much pomp and circumstance piled on top of it.
While dry gin might seem a little fusty and archaic because of its relatively simple list of ingredients, it’s actually the result of technological advancements in the 19th century. With juniper berries as the primary ingredient that imparts flavour, this type of gin delivers an unmistakable taste that helps it to act as a robust addition to cocktails of all kinds.
Check out our full line up of dry gin and you will encounter plenty of well-known brands, many of which have been in the business for more than a century. This kind of pedigree is a selling point in its own right, but don’t forget that there are also some newer names in the dry gin market that are just as worthy of your attention.
The history of gin is long, meandering and often vague, given that the word has been used to describe a lot of different spirits in the past which would no longer deserve the title today. Thankfully, pinning down the development of dry gin is much easier.
It all began in the 1830s when the column still was invented by Aeneas Coffey. This opened up new, more efficient distillation techniques that meant people no longer had to put up with the poor quality concoctions that were being cooked up in many back rooms across the UK. Because gin of a better quality could be produced, there was no need to bung in a bunch of different botanicals to mask the often unpleasant taste of the underpinning grain alcohol. The result was dry gin, a drink in which juniper could shine as the sole addition.
That’s not to say that the arrival of a more modern approach to distilling gin completely eradicated the home-brew approach. During the prohibition era in America, people literally made spin-offs of popular spirits in their bathtubs, although most would be completely unpalatable to a modern audience and many were dangerous to drink because of the dodgy ingredients used as substitutes for the real thing.
London Dry Gin doesn’t need to be made in the city itself but must adhere to strict standards in order to earn the name, including the use of juniper as the main flavour and adhering to a minimum bottled strength of 37.5% to qualify.
Before dry gin emerged in the wake of the invention of column distilling, the spirit was made via pot distilling and often had to go through the process more than once to get the level of alcohol up to scratch.
Juniper berries used to flavour dry gin have been harnessed by various civilisations and cultures throughout history, both as a medicinal ingredient, such as in contraceptives, as well as for decorative purposes.
Dry gin gets its name because without any added sweetening elements, it has a full bodied taste that can be quite overwhelming for an unaccustomed palate. The paunchiness of the juniper berry flavour means that even when combined with tonic water, it has a truly distinct and memorable taste that will not be diluted or dampened too easily.
Pairing the funky, fruity, floral flavour of dry gin with the right food is relatively easy, especially as it’s a spirit that’s rarely taken neat. A G&T with a little lemon zest added to it can sit alongside a lot of different meals, or be enjoyed on its own. The dryness and acidity of this combo can make a particularly good counterpoint to richer, fattier dishes such as patés, deep fried delicacies and fish.
Why not try some of these classic gin cocktails using the dry gin of your choosing?
Gimlet – This incredibly straightforward dry gin cocktail used to be the preferred tipple of sailors in the Royal Navy back when the threat of getting scurvy on the high seas was all too real. Add a double measure of gin to a single measure of citrus cordial, mix well and garnish with a twist of lemon or lime peel. Refrigerate both elements beforehand to get that cool, refreshing hit as you sip.
Southside – If you like the idea of drinking a mojito but aren’t a huge fan of white rum, then this dry gin-based equivalent will be ideal. Combine a double measure of gin with 20ml of lime juice and 15ml of sugar syrup in a cocktail shaker, top off with a small handful of mint leaves and give the whole thing a good shaking. Strain this into a suitable receptacle and pop one final leaf of mint on top to complete the look.
Singapore Sling – Fruity and festive yet still reliant on dry gin to provide it with solid foundations, this cocktail is a global icon. You’ll need to mix a measure of gin, cherry brandy and Benedictine to a jug into which a handful of ice has been placed. Add a drop or two of Angostura bitters and stir this all together for a minute or two. Transfer the stirred creation to a tall glass and pour in 50ml of pineapple juice and half that of lime juice. If there’s room, top this up with sparkling water and enjoy!
Dry gin is typically made with fermented grain mash, which is distilled and then re-distilled in combination with juniper berries to give it its distinctive taste and scent. To be true dry gin, no other major botanicals can be added, as this would veer into the flavoured gin segment of the market and move the drink away from its traditional origins.