Calling all gin lovers – this week marks the annual celebration of your favourite tipple, with World Gin Day 2021 falling on Saturday 12 June. And, to help you celebrate, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the best tools, bottles, books and glassware that will ensure you make the most of it.
In recent years, the UK’s gin intake has skyrocketed – according to data insight company Kantar, it is now the nation’s favourite spirit, having overtaken whisky – with of all kinds of juniper-based bottles lining supermarket shelves, while bars now offer page upon page of gin-infused cocktails on their menus.
The drink is steeped in history too. Ever since European apothecaries began distilling gin and selling it as a cure-all in the 16th century, the juniper-flavoured liquor has waxed and waned in popularity. But, thanks to the great gin renaissance of the 2010s, it has made a stunning comeback and is now widely recognised as the go-to tipple for thirsty Brits come aperitivo hour.
Alongside the obligatory juniper, you’ll find a host of fragrant botanicals in contemporary gins sourced from across the British Isles and, looking further afield, from India, Australia and even the Amazon rainforest. From beautiful bottles to flavoursome blends, there are also many ways to drink it, and tools to help you do so, whether that's neat, on the rocks or in a cocktail.
From gins we’ve tried and tested to the glassware we love to drink it from, here’s everything you need to celebrate World Gin Day 2021.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
The gins you need to know about
If you want to celebrate in style, you’re going to need to make sure your at-home bar is well-stocked with some of the best gins on the market. Topping our guide to the best gins of 2021 is the No. 3 London dry gin (£29.95, Thewhiskyexchange.com), which is made by historic London wine merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd and took two years to develop with Dr David Clutton – a man who holds a PhD in gin (yep, that exists).
Our reviewer praised the drink for being “spot on” and “perfectly balanced”. “It’s hard to find a gin simultaneously this archetypal – it’s a classic London Dry – this elegant, and this flavourful (the finish goes on and on),” they wrote. “Whether you’re a G&T obsessive or a martini connoisseur, No. 3 hits the mark every time. Though, for the record: we like it best with a slug of classic Indian tonic. Expect a perfect, clean succession of resinous pine, orange peel and earthy cardamom that keeps you craving the next sip.”
If you want to buy local from a British distillery, there’s no shortage of places to shop from, but Conker Spirit’s Dorset dry gin (£34.40, Masterofmalt.com), is the one that our reviewer picked for having the best flavour for a British tipple.
“Made in small batches in Dorset, Conker has a real sense of place – give it a taste and after the initial hit of juniper fades away, in creeps a herbaceous note of wild gorse; a generous, fruity richness from elderberry; and a salty lick of marsh samphire,” they wrote. “Throw in the fact that it’s copper-pot distilled using New Forest spring water and British wheat spirit, and this is basically the south coast in a glass.”
A summertime splash of pink
Often dubbed as normal gin’s way-more-fun cousin, pink versions come flavoured with everything from raspberry and cherry blossom to pink grapefruit and rhubarb, with a blushing pink hue to match. A drinks trolley staple for many, especially come summertime, Manchester Gin’s raspberry-infused offering (£43.93, Amazon.co.uk) is the one that topped our list of the best bottles to buy.
Made with a discernible pop of fruit from British raspberries, our reviewer called it delicious and easy to drink. “It’s properly pink, yet still properly gin,” they wrote. “The great taste is probably down to the fact that the distillers don’t mess around, preferring to keep things simple. Owners Seb and Jen take their award-winning signature gin recipe, then infuse it with fresh raspberries before and after distillation to pump up the flavour.”
If that doesn’t take your fancy, when it comes to smooth sipping, our reviewer said that Chapel Down’s pinot noir gin (£26.73, Amazon.co.uk) “nails it”.
“This pale pink spirit is made with a mix of distilled pinot noir grapes from Chapel Down’s own harvest and English wheat spirit, and has what drink geeks might call ‘gorgeous mouthfeel’ – a long, light and delicate palate,” they wrote. “In short, it’s just really nice to drink, with a generous red, fruity, floral character that is present without being overpowering.”
For when you’re feeling fruity
For a fresh take on the juniper-based spirit, try a flavoured gin for a fruity kick or unexpected twist. They are a great way to dip your toes into something new for your gin collection and also make wonderful gifts for someone special.
In our round-up of the best ones, we were most impressed with the Slingsby marmalade gin (£30, Spiritofharrogate.co.uk) by a Harrogate-based distillery. It combines water from the world-famous Harrogate aquifer with locally sourced botanicals, and in this case zesty marmalade from Yorkshire.
Rich orange citrus and tangy tangerine flavours with a touch of crisp grapefruit make this is a flavour we can see ourselves drinking all year round – with Mediterranean tonic water and a twist of orange peel during the summer months, and in a mulled-wine cocktail when it gets colder.
That’s The Spirit Co’s apple pie gin (£24.99, Thebottleclub.com), which can be enjoyed on its own or as part of a cocktail, also featured in our list. “With warming cinnamon and ginger, creamy vanilla and a whiff of buttery pastry, this is the first own-brand release from the online drinks retailer,” our reviewer said. “Garnish with a slice of apple (what else?) and a sprinkle of cinnamon before serving.”
Sustainable sourcing practices and eco-friendly distilling methods have quickly become a focus for brewers, and with good reason.
The drinks industry is responsible for a huge amount of waste, stemming from elaborate packaging, the vast amounts of water used and the heat and energy required for the brewing and distillation process, as we reported in our guide to the best eco-friendly drinks.
The Cooper King herb gin (£39.42, Amazon.co.uk) took the top spot out of all the bottles we tried. It’s one of just a handful of UK distilleries to run on 100 per cent green energy and uses vacuum stills to reduce energy consumption and save water.
A closed-loop system means coolant water is used over and over, saving 26 tonnes a year. And any spent botanicals from its gin are sent to a local bakery to be upcycled into bread and pastry glazes, while spent grains from the brand’s whisky production are also used by local farmers to feed cattle.
“Though the multi-award-winning dry gin is exceptional, it’s the herb gin – with fresh basil, lemongrass and clove – that we have a real soft spot for,” our reviewer wrote. “What’s more, 1 sq m of woodland is planted in the Yorkshire Dales for each bottle sold, equating to 50kg of CO2 offset for every bottle.”
For the sober curious
There are a lot of alcohol-free gin contenders for those who want to ditch the booze completely or are just sober-curious and/or health-conscious.
However, it can be hard to find one that delivers on taste like a real gin, but we were bowled over by this Stryyk not g*n (£18, Tesco.om). It’s a sugar-free blend of herby, botanical flavours, with notes of coriander, sage, basil and that classic juniper, making it a good imitator of a London dry gin.
“It’s zero proof but we thought it was quite convincing as a gin; and certainly more so than other more expensive alcohol-free gins we’ve tried,” our reviewer wrote. “PS, we used a higher spirit to tonic ratio than we’d usually pour and it hit the spot.”
Recipes for budding bartenders
With a bottle in hand and mixer and ice at the ready, all that’s left to do is pick a cocktail to whip up in your kitchen. You don’t need the experience or knowledge of a bartender either – however you drink yours, a recipe book is a great way to try your hand at different blends.
A mixologist’s guide to making cocktails by Jordan Spence (£9.99, Amazon.co.uk), is a brilliant all-rounder that includes step-by-step instructions for drinks with vodka, gin, brandy, rum, whisky, tequila, champagne or liqueur.
We found this no-nonsense guide illustrates each recipe with a wonderfully straightforward diagram that handily details precise components and proportions for each drink.
Recipes are so concisely written they’re often no longer than a sentence or two, making this an easy-to-follow guide, even if you’ve had a few. There’s also a section dedicated to shots at the back, covering everything from Alabama slammers to slippery nipples, if short drinks are more your thing.
If you’re looking to reduce your alcohol consumption but don’t know where to start, try Redemption bar – alcohol-free cocktails with benefits by Andrea Waters and Catherine Salway (£5.25, Amazon.co.uk).
With chapters divided into classics, martinis, mojitos, long drinks and fizz, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a regular guide to cocktail making. However, this book – from the brains behind London’s popular Redemption Bar group – is a tasty tour de force of all things non-alcoholic, plus there are recipes for canapés, too.
Recipes include detailed introductions explaining the inventive and experimental cocktails and their health benefits, and the accompanying photography is luscious and seductive enough to make anyone forgo the booze.
Shakers with style
A cocktail shaker is a trusty bar tool for your at-home mixology attempts. And, although not every cocktail needs a vigorous shake (the old fashioned likes a good stir, while mojitos prefer a muddle), there’s a wide range that simply cannot be made without one.
“We love this Boston-style shaker – it comes with real personality, via an engraved tropical exterior of flip flops, palm trees and jumping dolphins,” our tester wrote. “And somehow, it doesn’t feel too kitsch; viewed from afar this shaker simply looks like a gorgeously designed bit of barware that’s far more sophisticated than its bargainous £20 price tag would have you believe.”
If that one doesn’t quite suit your style, then this Nude Hepburn cocktail shaker with metal top (£61, Johnlewis.com) certainly will. Topped with a shiny brass cap and sporting a lead-free crystalline glass base, our reviewer said that, while this sleek shaker is the “very definition of a bar cart centrepiece”, it also does a great job at making perfectly chilled drinks. “The copper top cools down almost immediately following contact with ice, and our shaking session led to a perfectly chilled, frothy espresso martini,” they wrote. “The clear base (which is dishwasher safe) is a smidge on the heavy side, but it let us get a good look at what was happening as we mixed our drink.”
While many bars and breweries have started reopening, some have pivoted to virtual gin tastings that customers can enjoy from the comfort of their sofa.
The Manchester Gin distillery is currently hosting the ultimate stay home gin tasting experience for two (£40, Manchestergin.co.uk) which provides everything you’ll need to join in. You’ll learn about the history of the distillery, its signature botanicals and how to pair its different gins with tonics and garnishes.
Your kit will include four 5cl gins, two glasses, four tonics to complement each gin and a 20 per cent discount code for distillery bookings when it reopens. All you need to provide is ice and garnishes such as citrus fruits, berries and herbs.
Glamourous gin-friendly glassware
Once your gin cocktails are made, serve up and pour into a stylish set of glasses to top off the whole experience.
We love this set of gold glasses (£22.50, Oliverbonas.com) that promise to brighten up any kitchen table or bar cart. They have wide, round bowl silhouettes, meaning there’s plenty of space for garnishes and ice, and they come boxed, making them great for gifting.
“You can always spot an Eva Solo glass from their distinctive angled lip,” our reviewer wrote. “A definite cocktail party talking point, this longer style tumbler is made from hand-blown glass and works well for water, gin and tonics and other cocktails that require a straw.”
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Fancy something a little different? Check out our guide to the best navy-strength gins
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