Making a good quality gin takes a lot of hard work, craft and experience. And it also requires a lot of specialist equipment. Most crucially, it requires a still to distill it with. But you probably don’t have one of those at home.
That being said, there is another way you can make your own homemade gin. In its simplest form, gin is simply a neutral base spirit that has been flavoured with juniper berries and other botanicals. The end product only really needs to meet two criteria to be officially classified as gin:
- Juniper must be the dominant botanical.
- It must have an ABV (alcohol by volume) of at least 37.5%
Maybe you’ve already worked out where this heading, but just in case, that essentially means you can make your own gin at home simply by using vodka.
That’s right. With vodka as your base spirit, you can simply finish the job by infusing it with the requisite botanicals – and any other flavours you wish to impart into it. This is technically known as ‘compound gin’ and, back in the Prohibition-era United States, colloquially known as ‘bathtub gin’.
We’ll start by covering the basic homemade gin recipe before moving onto some advice on how to add further flavours. We’ll also throw in a few cocktail recommendations for good measure, before you decide whether or not making homemade liquors is the life for you.
Ingredients for making gin at home
- 750 ml (standard bottle) good quality vodka
- 2 ½ tbsp juniper berries
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 small piece dried orange peel (no pith)
- 1 small piece dried lemon peel (no pith)
Homemade gin method
- Start by boiling some water and using it to sterilise the mason jar or glass bottle you plan to store the gin in.
- Transfer all of your botanicals except for the orange and lemon peel into the jar or bottle.
- Top up the jar or bottle with the vodka.
- Properly seal the jar or bottle and then place it in a cool dark place, letting it stand for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, taste the infusion and add any additional botanicals to taste.
- Seal the jar or bottle, give it a gentle shake, then place it back in the cool dark place for another 24 hours. (You can also let it stand for longer if you want the infusion to be more intense, but we’d recommend you taste it regularly to make sure you don’t ruin it.)
- After 48 hours total (or until the gin tastes as you want it to), filter it through a sieve into a large bowl and, if there’s any sediment remaining, again through a finer strainer (a coffee filter will work fine).
- Bottle your homemade gin and enjoy (if the jar or bottle you’re storing your finished gin in is different from the one you infused it in, be sure to sterilise it first).
How to make flavoured gin
Just as you infused vodka to make gin, adding other flavours to your homemade gin works along the same principle (of course, you can also do the same with any commercially available gin). With a little experience, you should be able to infuse your gin with any flavour your heart desires by integrating them into the standard infusion process above.
However, if you’re just starting out, it’s safer to infuse the base gin and then repeating the process with the additional ingredients. After all, some strong flavours, such as chilli and vanilla, will infuse in a matter of hours, while fruits and florals will need a few weeks. Learn how quickly your desired ingredients will impart their flavours before ignorantly trying to streamline the process and risking all that work.
As for the best flavoured gins, you can’t go wrong sticking with gin infusions that have withstood the test of time. Some classic flavoured gins include:
- Sloe gin (using sloe berries)
- Damson gin (using damson plums, but you can make a decent gin with regular plums too)
- Raspberry gin
- Strawberry gin
- Rhubarb gin
Cocktails with homemade gin
Want to make cocktails with your homemade gin? No problem. We’ve handpicked a few great cocktails that work brilliantly with this type of compound gin:
Looking for something simple but sophisticated? Then learn how to make a vesper – a twist on the classic Martini that’s better suited to the compound gin you just made.
Alternatively, maybe you’re after something dark and bitterly complex, like the hanky panky, invented by pioneering female bartender Ada Coleman back in 1925. Or if it’s simply that time of year and you’re looking for something suitably festive, why not go for a Christmassy mulled gin cocktail instead?