6 Gin styles and how to drink them

Drinking gin used to be a simple affair, a couple of brands and only one style, London Dry. Since the 21st Century Gin craze hit we are now welcoming old and new gin styles to the shelves. It can be a little confusing, so I’ve drawn up this little guide for you, outlining the styles and and most importantly, how to drink them!

(Note, I’ve omitted Genever in this instance, but you can read about it in this post instead)

6 Gin Styles and How to Drink them

London Dry


Although originally made in London, London Dry Gin can be made anywhere in the world. It first appeared around 1831 and superior distillation techniques meant the spirit was pure enough to be sold unsweetened (dry).

However, there are strict EU laws regulating which gins can legitimately be called London Dry. All botanicals must be present at the time of distillation, i.e. you cannot distill a gin, then add flavouring.

My favourites are Tanqueray, Sipsmith and No. 3 Gin.

How to drink it?

London Dry Gin is fantastic in a G&T and martinis but is very flexible and can be used in most cocktails.

Plymouth Gin


Plymouth Gin like Xoriguer Gin has, for the moment, its own EU Appellation. This means it can only be produced in Plymouth using water from Dartmoor. However, its current owners, Pernod Ricard have decided not to continue to register the EU Appellation, opening the way for other distillers to produce Plymouth Gin.

Plymouth is considered less dry and softer in flavour than London Dry. It comes in three variants, regular, Navy Strength and Sloe Gin.

It’s popularity in the early part of the 20th Century is shown by it’s specific reference in 23 of the gin based cocktail recipes in The Savoy Cocktail Book.

How to drink it?

Plymouth is really versatile and goes well in a G&T and martini, but do get hold of a classic cocktail book and experiment! Try it in Gin Rickey‘s and sours!

Old Tom Gin


At one time this sweet (sometimes called cordial) gin was most popular in the 18th and 19th Century. This was largely due to the poor purification of the base spirit leading to rough tasting gin that needed sweetening to make it palatable. Liquorice was originally used and later sugar was the sweetener of choice.

There are differing stories on how it got its name. You can read more about Old Tom Gin here.

How to drink it?

Sweet Martini, Tom Collins or Martinez.

Navy Strength Gin


Navy Strength Gin has to have an ABV of over 57% to appear in this category. Note the average ABV of gin is between 40-43% so Navy Strength gins are very strong and need to be consume in moderation!

Navy Strength gets its name from a nautical tale. The story goes that if you spill gin of 57% or over on gunpowder, there will still be an explosion, so this was the strength that Naval Officers demanded. If the gunpowder didn’t light during testing, they knew their gin had been watered down. Heaven forbid!

My preferences are for Sipsmith VJOP and Four Pillars Gunpowder Proof.

Over-proof gins make a bold G&T and for a martini I would recommend making a wet version (i.e. using more vermouth). Negroni also benefit from a higher proof gin. Just be warned!

Barrel-Aged Gin


The historical practice of aging gin is coming back into fashion. Gin doesn’t need long aging like whisky or brandy, with three months considered adequate time. Well-seasoned casks are used to help the aging process. Beefeater’s Burrough’s Reserve uses Lillet barrels, while Four Pillars uses French oak barrels.

You’ll notice that the juniper notes have been rounded out in barrel-aged gins with honey and cinnamon notes more noticeable.

How to drink it?

Barrel-Aged gins are delicious sipped neat over ice or in an Old-Fashioned. They work well in a Martinez.

Sloe Gin


Technically speaking, sloe gin is a liqueur and is made by mascerating sloe berries in gin before adding sugar. It has a lower ABV and is a bit like a fortified wine or port.

My favourites are Hayman’s, Sipsmith and McHenry & Sons Sloe Gin.

How to drink it?

Sloe Gin is fabulous on its own or in a Sloe Gin Fizz, but is also a superb addition to a Negroni.

Obviously, all of the drinks I have listed are just suggestions, based on what I’ve been served in bars and made at home. Feel free to experiment with your own flavours and preferences, but do let me know how you get on!


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