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How to create the perfect Gin tasting at home | Cook Eat Live Happy

Whether you are planning a girls night, family picnic or a neighbourhood BBQ, hosting an at-home tasting party with your favourite gins is just what your guests need. Gin can be intimidating if you don't know anything about gin or what types there are- this post will teach you how to make a memorable evening for yourself and your loved ones.

First of all, do I have any gin lovers out there? Please don’t tell anyone but the truth is I was definitely late to this game when it comes to drinking gins - well actually until recently at least! However now that I’ve arrived, I definitely understand what all the hype is about! If you love this spirit, you won’t be surprised to find out that Canadians are actually in the top 10 Gin drinkers worldwide, right after the UK and Ireland!

Gin has been around for centuries and is one of the oldest liquors still in production. The first Canadian distillery to produce gin was Seagrams way back 1883 but now new places are popping up all across Canada, including many craft distillers that create really beautiful products. I was really intrigued to find out that the history of gin can be traced back thousands of years! If you are a history buff or just a curious soul, like me, you’ll find this part interesting…

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Gin’s original form was fermented juniper berries which was basically a potion used as a medicinal cure for a ton of ailments. Fast-forward to the 16th century, it seems its actually the Dutch that began producing a spirit they called “genever” ( jenever in Dutch) which is a derivative of the Latin word juniperus, meaning juniper.

This spirit composed of a mix of malt wine and juniper berries, later became popular in England thanks to King William III in his attempt to weaken the French economy by heavily taxing French wine & cognac and the introduction of the new The Corn Laws. A distillation craze took over England in the late 1600s, making Gin the popular choice since it was actually less expensive than beer for a time. Excess led to drunkenness and so the government eventually realized that society had a problem on its hands. The solution was to require folks to get a distiller’s license, however said licence was both expensive and hard to come by. Fun Fact: only two official licences were issued over a seven year period and continued to be almost impossible to get in England until recent times.

What is modern day Gin?

The products we enjoy today clearly aren’t malted wine, so what are they? The definition of Gin is a clear, distilled spirit with dominant botanical flavours of juniper, flowers, and fresh and dried fruit.

If you’ve browsed the gin isle at your local liquor store, I’m sure you’ve noticed a huge selection of gin varieties and price tags to go with. But what qualifies as a good gin? There are two types of gin that are most common in the Canadian market. Distilled gin is made by distilling a mash, or fermented alcohol base. This base is usually re-distilled using fresh or dried juniper berries and other aromatic botanicals (collectively known as the "botanical bill") which gives the gin its flavour. The other type is Compound gin, which mixes neutral spirit base with juniper berry extract or essences (in addition to other aromatics if desired) to gain flavour. The spirit, which never runs through a still, is then proofed down and bottled.

With so many beautiful products on the market, I highly suggest you do a gin tasting! Its just like a wine tasting and hopefully local distilleries will be able to open their doors soon so you can visit and get to know their products better. But in the mean time, here’s my guide to creating a gin tasting at home!

Step 1

Choose at least 3 different flavour profiles. My friends at 1769 Distillery have an amazing Gin lineup, here are my 3 favourite.

Madison Park Pink Dry Gin

This is THE gin that converted me into a Gin Gal. Elegant, soft and refreshingly different, Pink is classified as a dry gin because there is no added sugar. Using local ingredients, this small batch craft gin has a floral expression that is delicate, crisp and light. Peppery and sweet aromas of piney juniper with soft notes of allspice and elderflower. Delicate flavours of juniper, faint hint of lavender, hibiscus and a zing of freshly cracked pepper on the finish. This is a lovely sipping gin but its also fabulous in cocktails too!

Madison Park Barrel Aged Gin

Their award winning London Dry Gin is then aged in ex-Bourbon barrels, resulting in a complex, aromatic spirit with hints of burnt caramel and lemon meringue. A premium sipping gin that finishes like a whisky. Only a limited number of bottles are produced each year, so if you get your hands on some, consider yourself lucky! Serve it neat, on the rocks, in a cocktail or even cook with it for amazing flavour.

Royalmount Gin

New to the family, this premium gin has delicate yet unapologetic aromas of citrus, cucumber and rose petals. Its perfect for summer and makes the best Gin & Tonic in my book.

Step 2

Choose your glass. Pour about a half an ounce into separate tasting glasses. Wine glasses also work great and will allow you to really take in the aromas.

Step 3

Smell. Start by swirling the gin in the glass, then place it under your nose and breathe in. Try to identify the aroma’s and even which are more or less predominant.

Step 4

Taste. Avoid gulping, instead take a small sip, keep it on your tongue and even swirl it in your mouth so that all your tastebuds are coated. 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.

Before repeating the process with another gin, make sure to cleanse you pallet. Coffee is a great pallet cleanser but if you prefer to stick to water, have some crackers handy!

Once you tried all the gins, choose your favourite and then poor yourself a drink or shake up a cocktail!

I hope you enjoyed this blog article and that it inspires you to plan a Gin Tasting at your next night in with friends! Have your guests bring their favourite bottle and then follow the steps above :) Its a great way to try new products and learn how to make new cocktails too. And remember- when it comes to making cocktails at home or ordering them at bars/restaurants, always drink responsibly!


P.S. if you need a little inspiration for your next cocktail recipe, I’ve got you covered! Check out these RECIPES and see what strikes your fancy!

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