Gin-tasting etiquette & the 'correct' way to drink it
From rhubarb to raspberry, gin is the drink of the moment and, the more trendy it has become, the more flavours and mixers have been made available.
While sipping a glass of gin is an enjoyable experience, do you know how to drink it to ensure you savour every mouthful? This gin-tasting guide will help you.
Read on and you’ll be a gin connoisseur in no time.
Step 1: Choose your gin
Today, gin is often served in a copa glass, which is bulbous with a long stem. This is then filled with ice before the spirit is poured in and topped up with a complementary mixer. A garnish, often berries, is added to provide the finishing touch.
However, when it comes to gin tasting, you strip this right back and drink the spirit by itself at room temperature. This is the best way to taste the botanicals used to create the gin.
There are hundreds of brands and flavours to choose from, so you need to start by deciding which ones you would like to try.
Popular gin brands include Beefeater, Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Gordon's and Hendrick's, but there has been an explosion of craft gins in the last few years, with highly rated newcomers including Silent Pool, Death's Door, Ableforth's Bathtub Gin and the intriguingly named Tappers Hydropathic Pudding.
If you're holding your own gin-tasting session, choose a selection of gins made from a range of botanicals, for a greater variety of flavours.
Step 2: Pick your glass
The glass is very important when it comes to tasting gin, so you need to consider which one you use. Put your bulbous gin glass aside for now and swap it for a stemmed glass that curves inwards, a small wine glass, for example. Holding it by the stem will prevent you from warming up the gin with your hand.
Step 3: Smell it
You now have your gin and glass, but it’s not time to taste it just yet. If you have ever been wine tasting, then gin tasting is a very similar process. It involves using your senses to experience the different notes -- that's why the glass is so important.
The first thing you are going to do once you have poured it is to smell it, and the glass you use can affect this. The right glass enables the air to circulate so you can easily pick up the aromas. So, when pouring the gin, make sure you leave room for them to circulate. To get these moving, swirl your glass -- this will enable the air to mix with the spirit.
Now, place the glass under your nose and breathe in. What you smell first will be the top notes. Once you have done this, tip the glass up on to your palm, allowing the gin to wet it, then wipe your hands gently together, cup them together and sniff again.
Step 4: Taste it
Now, it’s time to taste it -- but you shouldn’t take a big gulp, and don’t swallow straight away. Take a sip and keep it in your mouth, swirling it around. This should tickle your taste buds, allowing the full flavour to reach every part of your tongue.
There may be different flavours coming through while you are swirling. Take your time and think about what these are. Now it’s time to swallow. As you do, continue to think about what it tastes like and consider whether there is an aftertaste.
Now you have tasted the spirit neat, you can add a drop of water and try it again. This will help you taste the botanicals without the sharp taste of alcohol.
Step 5: Drink coffee and take notes
You may like to have a glass of water to sip as you work your way through the various gins. However, the best way to cleanse your palate between gins is with a sip of cold, weak coffee. If you don’t fancy that, you can also sniff coffee beans.
It may also be worth writing a few notes as you try the different gins -- this will be a useful reminder about which ones you liked and why when you come to the end.
Step 6: Pour yourself a drink
Now you have tried the gin neat, it's time to mix it with tonic. When pouring ourselves a gin, we tend to free-pour the spirit and then fill the glass with mixer, but now you have tasted the gin neat, you’ll know how much tonic you want to add. You can also add some garnish, too. This can be anything you feel would suit the particular gin you are drinking -- popular choices include lemon, cucumber, strawberries, mint and grapefruit. If you're short of inspiration, you can find recommendations online, too.
Now you know how best to enjoy this popular beverage, why not take a gin-loving friend to a professional tasting? It is the perfect way to spend time together as you sample a range of brands and flavours to see which ones you love and, perhaps, which ones you don’t. Check out our gin-tasting experiences and find the best one for you.