There are four strains of gin: London Dry, Old Tom, Plymouth, and Dutch. Each of these forms of the spirit has its own unique aroma and characteristics, so each is suitable for matching with different mixers. Read on for an introduction to what makes these liquors unique, and learn the details on how to use the four different types of gin.
When most people think of gin, they think of London Dry Gin. If you order a martini or a gin & tonic in a bar or restaurant, the odds are strong that you’ll get a drink made with London Dry. It’s called “London” because the style was first invented there, but most London Dry is actually made elsewhere. This is the most commonly enjoyed type of gin, and is notable for its strongly botanical aroma. The heavy, flowery scent comes from flavorings added during the distillation process, and serve to make the spirit more robust and intense. This can cover impurities and imperfections in the liquor, and the fact that it doesn’t have to be a terribly high quality spirit to be very drinkable is one reason why London Dry is the most affordable kind of Gin. Dry gin mixes well with vermouth, which is why it Gordon’s brand Dry London gin appears on the ingredient list of James Bond’s famous martini.
Old Tom gin is very similar to London Dry in most ways, but is somewhat less versatile. Old Tom is bottled with the addition of a simple sugar syrup that gives it an added sweetness and a mild undertone that makes drinking it a subtler, more complex experience than drinking straight London Dry gin. Old Tom has mostly gone out of fashion today, but was the premier gin throughout the 19th century, especially when drunk with a twist of lemon. In fact, Old Tom with lemon was the ancestor to today’s beloved Tom Collins cocktail. Old Tom is available throughout the U.K., so if you find yourself in England, you’ll certainly want to sample this distinctive, gentle cousin of London Dry.
Plymouth gin is brighter than London Dry, and is known for it’s sparkling, clear appearance and fruity tones. It is robust, but not as sharp as London Dry. All true Plymouth gin is made by the British distillery Plymouth, Coates & Co. Because of the strict regulations surrounding this type of liquor, Plymouth gin is almost always of an extremely high quality. The subtlety of Plymouth is best enjoyed simply poured over ice, with an optional twist of lemon or lime.
Dutch gin, also known as Genever, is very different in taste, color, and aroma from the English gins. Whereas English gins are made from a mash of mixed cereal grains, Dutch gin is made entirely from malted grains, which gives it a character somewhat similar to Whiskey. Genever gin contains less alcohol than English gins, and is usually 70-80 proof instead of the 80-94 proof standard to English-style gins. There are two subsets of Dutch gin. Oude, or “old,” is aged in casks, where it gains a warm tint of yellow orange, and a sweeter, fruitier taste. Jonge, or “young” Dutch gin is cleaner, drier, and lighter. Genever gin is more pungent than English, so it is best when paired with strong, sweet flavors that won’t be overpowered by its aroma. Dutch gin’s signature cocktail is the “Sweet City,” made with red vermouth and apricot brandy.