Homemade Gin

This is a partial document from a very large collection of material involving distillation from Home Distillation of Alcohol at http://homedistiller.org/gin.htm

The exact types and amounts of botanticals used in gins are usually a closely guarded secret. However, by law, gin must contain juniper berries. Juniper berries & coriander seed typically constitute 90% of the total botanicals used. Typical botanicals used include :

Commercially they are sometimes made by charging a pot still with a whisky base at 63%. The botanicals are packed in clean cotton bags, and immersed in the liquid. The still is rapidly bought up to temperature, then the heat input reduced. A small fraction is first collected at 83C, then the gin portion, which forms the central fraction, is collected from 83C up to 86-89C. The rest is then collected as tails. In determining the cut to tails, a smelling test of the distillate is the deciding arbiter, while the overhead vapour temperature serves only as a guide.

Recipe for Gin Essence


Method #1

  1. Put the ingredients into the small pouch, which seems to be enough for one distillation run of approximately 20Lbs. of sugarwash. Be cautious with adding anymore - the juniper berries can be VERY dominant,
  2. Keep the cassia/cinnamon to a minimum; it can really give a burning sensation,
  3. The lemon and lime rinds are actually thin peels,
  4. Anis and fennel are approximately the same in taste,
  5. I did not crush any of these - simply put them into the pouch whole,
  6. When wiith sugar wash, put the botanicals in with the first (and only) distillation; as the ethanol is coming off at 94-96%absolute!

Method #2:

You can either do it this method yourself, or it is easier just to make a simple gin essence, and add this to some 40% neutral alcohol.

  1. Gently crush up approx 50g of juniper berries, and a couple of coriander and fennel seeds, and soak these in alcohol of 75-95% strength, for a week or so, add a wee strip of orange peel.
  2. Use a small essence still to make gin essence.
  3. Put this into the potstill and add a little water.
  4. Distill off the essence, up to about 90C; or when the flavours stop.
  5. This essence is then added to neutral vodka at 40% -
  6. Each litre only needing around 10 mL of essence to get the right flavour.
  7. If your gin goes cloudy, it means that you have too much oil present for the % alcohol - either up the % alcohol until it dissolves again, use less oil, or just drink it cloudy. Cloudiness problem caused by excessive oil content in gin essence can be solved by simply filtering the gin. The oil particles appear to be relatively large and get caught up by the filter, while the flavours are not affected.

Brewing techniques:

Mikrobios describes his technique ...

in 200mLs high proof distillate (95%) for 3 weeks in a sealed jar. The mixture becomes a murky brown. Don't worry if it smells unpleasant and medicinal. Then add 100 mLs filtered water, remove the cinnamon and either pot-still without reflux, or, as I do, use a simple 'internal alembic' made from kitchen utensils:

This method is very well known, and may be the best for essence distillations where one is starting with good spirit and where methanol/fusels are not a problem. I place two vessels in the pan: the collecting vessel is thus insulated against the heat of the boiling tincture and at the same time is kept below its own boiling point by the drops of distillate. When the cooling water is hand-warm (trial and error) I turn the gas off. About 100mLs of clear distillate is obtained; I bring this to 150 mL with cold filtered water. It immediately becomes opalescent. About 4 mLs of this will flavour a litre of 40% spirit to make a clear and flavourful gin. Calibrating a batch is a delightful way to spend an evening.

Alternative method.

  Matt writes ... In Bob Emmons' _The Book of Gin & Vodkas_ he describes gin manufacture to some extent, even delineating the "cold compunding" method into three sub categories. Cold compounding is using neutral spirit and basically soaking the botanicals in it, which is what I see on the amateur sites we frequent. The other methods are of course distillation of botanicals into oils and then their addition to neutral spirit and traditional pot distilling of spirit through botanicals via the gin head.

He says the basic compounding includes crushing the botanicals used, a week of steeping in neutral spirit, and a week of resting. Followed by filtering, dilution, and bottling. It is clear that the filtering is for particulate matter since neutral spirit is used up front.

re: botanical amounts, he gives a complete listing of the common to the more obscure (rosemary, savory, etc.) botanicals used. Here's his section on a basic gin botanical ratio:

Well that's good news ;-) He doesn't mention the method used for the above "recipe" but it would appear to be a cold compounding method.

notes on botanicals: North American cinnamon of commerce is actually the bark of the cassia tree. True cinnamon is not as easily obtained but it would seem his basic gin is using the cassia bark. Cardamom in this case would be cardamom seeds themselves and not the whole pods. Remember to remove as much pith (the white part) from the lemon peel; it is bitter. Wal writes ... For the history of gin (1650) see: http://cocktails.about.com/library/weekly/aa080899.htm

The Household Cyclopedia (1881) gives a Dutch and an English recipe: "To Prepare Gin as in Holland" using a proof spirit distilled from a rye, barley malt mash. Scaled down and converted to metric it consists of macerating 17.5g of juniper berries and 0.75ml (15drops) of juniper oil in 1 litre of proof spirit and redistilling. "English Genever" is made by macerating 35g of juniper berries in 1 litre of proof spirit with added water and redistilling.

Some distillers have the alcohol vapor pass through the botanicals (in a gin head), others macerate together and redistill while others distill various botanicals separately, and then blend, because different oils have different boiling points. I suspect some modern gins add essential oils to a neutral spirit instead of redistilling with botanicals.

Dutch gin (genever) is based on a heavier spirit made from a mash of wheat, rye and malted barley distilled in pot stills.It is often stated wrongly that genever uses only juniper. Other botanicals are used. It's the method used which gives genever its distinctive style. Bols, passes the vapor in a 4th distillation over the juniper berries. Triple distillation is common, and juniper is normally introduced in the second distillation, with the other botanicals being added to the 3rd (or sometimes 4th) distillation. Notaris redistills with juniper, while a 3rd blending component is distilled with other botanicals separately. The end result of combining a richer spirit and a higher percentage of juniper is a spirit which is more powerfully textured than London gin.

Old genevers were straw-colored and pungently sweet. Early English gin was also a juniper-laden drink flavored with glycerine and sugar syrup (Old Tom). Plymouth gin claims to be the first distillery to produce a dry, crystal-clear gin in the late 18th century. Gin was a perfect medium for bitters (to prevent stomach problems), lime juice (to prevent scurvy), and Schweppe's Tonic Water cotaining quinine (to prevent malaria).

There are 2 main ways to make gin: redistilling a neutral spirit which has had botanicals added to it (Distilled Gin); or adding essential oils (cold compounding). Distilled Gin (on label) is superior.

The pot stills used have high necks for more reflux than the usual whisky stills.

All distilleries have their secret rcipe of botanicals and how they put them in varies. Some put the botanicals in for only a short time before redistilling, others steep them for 24 hours before distilling, others pass vapor through a basket holding the botanicals. Not all botanical aromas appear at the same time. After a quick foreshots run, the volatile citrus notes appear, then come juniper and coriander, then the roots such as orris, angelica and liquorice. The length of the run is important. The alcohol concentration of the final product is also important as citric notes are the most volatile, and should be greater than 40%abv. Some duty-free gins are 50%abv.

All brands use juniper and coriander, but:

For convenience I have scaled down and rounded the quantities for the recipes for Dutch Geneva, Cordial gin and dry London Gins from 'Muspratt Chemistry'. I have assumed that the botanicals will be macerated in 1 litre of 50%abv and then redistilled. 42%abv is the original strength of Plymouth Gin. I have also doubled the quantity for bitter almonds as the original used pressed bitter almond cake and almonds contain about 50% oil. For the cordial gins, double the quantity of botanicals and then dilute to 22% abv. I have omitted the 'West Country Gin' as it contains only 2g of juniper/litre and a total of about 35g/litre of botanicals seems to be an optimal quantity.

Basic Gin -Recipe 1 (from 'The Book of Gin & Vodkas', Bob Emmons)

British Gin - Recipe 2

Cordial Gin Recipe 3

Cordial Gin Recipe 4

Fine Gin Recipe 5

London Gin Recipe 6

Basic Geneva Recipe 7

Plain Geneva Recipe 8

FINE GENEVA (highly recommended) Recipe 9

With the aim of formulating a standard model for gin botanical quantities for the homedistiller, here is a table of the botanicals used in 8 modern gins:

  1. Tiger Gin
  2. Gordon's Distilled London Dry Gin
  3.   Beefeater London Distilled Dry Gin
  4. Plymouth Gin
  5. Bombay Distilled London Dry Gin
  6. Bombay Sapphire Distilled London Dry Gin
  7. Mercury Gin
  8. Juniper Green London Dry Gin

The total amount of botanicals used is about 20-35 grams/litre. If we take the dominant botanical juniper as 'x', the proportions of the botanicals used is:

If we use x = 20g then x/2 = 10g, x/10 = 2g, x/100 = 0.2g (200mg)

Some current gins do not have a pronounced juniper character as they are used for cocktails and are more of a flavored vodka - for this type of gin for 'x' use equal quantities for juniper & coriander (i.e. x = 20g composed of 10g of juniper & 10g of coriander)

The botanical are macerated in 45% abv neutral alcohol (usuallyfor 24 hours), redistilled and then diluted to 42% abv which is an optimal strength for holding the flavour of the botanicals. Only the middle run (80-85% abv) is used to produce a high quality gin. Plymouth Gin also comes in a 57% abv 'Navy Strength' and which is also the British 100 proof strength.

All gins include juniper as an ingredient along with other botanicals. Typically a fine gin contains 6-10 botanicals, although the Dutch Damask Gin has 17 and the French Citadelle Gin has 19 but this could be more for marketing reasons and has been criticised for lacking direction.

Botanical names:

The usual mash for English gin is 75% maize, 15% barley malt and 10% other grains, although rectified spirit from molasses is also used. Dutch gin originally was made from 1/3 malted barley and 2/3 rye meal, although these days the proportions given is 1/3 malted barley, 1/3 rye, 1/3 maize.

The Dutch figure prominently in the history of distilling. With their business acumen, they were quick to make a guilder when the opportunity arose. The first recorded distillation of gin (eau de vie de genievre)is in 1572 by Franciscus Sylvius a physic of Leiden, and it was meant as a health tonic based on juniper berries. Lucas Bols, the father of commercial gin production, built his first distillery in 1575 near Amsterdam. The first recorded commercial liqueur was Lucas Bol's Kummel. It was meant as an aid for digestion i.e. as a digestive. It's based on caraway seeds which are believed to aid digestion and prevent flatulence.

The use of caraway flavored spirits are still common from Holland to Latvia. Caraway has a yield of essential oils from about 3-7%, therefore you would need to macerate about 100 grams of crushed seeds in 40%abv and then to redistill to get a caraway flavored spirit. This would have about a teaspoon (5ml or 100 drops) of caraway essential oil. Using a commercial essential oil is another alternative. Here is a basic recipe for those with a flatulence problem:


Make a simple syrup and add to the alcohol

You could also make a caraway flavored vodka by maceration:

Macerate for 10 days and strain.

Pacharan (Patxaran) is a Spanish Basque specialty made by macerating sloe berries (blackthorn, prunus spinosa)in a dry anise flavored alcohol with other herbs and spices.Sloe Gin is made by macerating sloe berries in gin. Here are two recipes from "Wine Making & Home Brewing" S. Beedell (1970):

Sloe Gin 1

Put all the ingredients into a 2 gallon (9L) jar and shake 2-3 times a week. Strain and bottle at the end of 2 months.

Sloe Gin 2

I have a Ukrainian recipe .. for a 'Ternivka' or Sloe Vodka. It relies on wild yeasts to weakly ferment the sloes.

Ternivka (Sloe Vodka)

The English make a Plum Gin from Damson plums, which are related to the French Mirabelle plum, from which the well-known eau-de-vie de Mirabelle is made. Here are two recipes for Damson Gin from "Winemaking and Home Brewing", S. Beedell (1970).

Damson Gin (Fortified) 1

Mix all together, and shake well two or three times a day till the sugar is dissolved. Store for at least a year before using.

Damson Gin (Fortified) 2

Wipe the damsons, removing stalks, and prick each one in several places with a pin. Prepare some dry quart (litre) bottles, and half fill them with the fruit. To each bottle add 1 clove, 2 oz (60 g) of crushed sugar candy and a few drops of essence of almonds. Then fill up with unsweetened gin. Cork securely, and keep in a warmish place for 3 months, shaking occasionally. Strain the gin until it is clear then rebottle and cork well, and store until wanted.

Pacharan is a Spanish liqueur.

Macerate the sloe berries in the alcohol until it becomes a characteristic intense red, then add sugar, coffee beans,camomile flowers,cinnamon, orange peel. Macerate for at least 30 days. Strain.
Variations of the above exist. The use of sloe beries is reminiscent of English sloe gin.

Baker quotes from "The Alcohol Textbook" by Jacques,Lyons & Kelsall :

Production of gin

This regulation means that gin may be produced by:

  1. Distilling spirit with juniper berries and other botanicals, or
  2. Mixing spirit with a distilled gin concentrate, or
  3. Mixing spirit with a blend of essences of juniper and other flavorings.

The spirit used in gin production is usually neutral, but in the production of Geneva gin, which is popular in the Netherlands and Quebec, it is a heavily flavored distillate referred to as malt wine.

Distilled gin is normally produced in batch operations using pot stills. The pot still is usually filled with neutral spirit diluted to 45-60 %, and then the juniper berries and other botanicals are added. The berries and botanicals may be added directly to the spirit either in loose form or contained in a cotton sack. Alternatively, the mixed botanicals may be suspended above the liquid surface either in a cotton sack or in a wire mesh rack. In the gin distilling process the pot still is heated by steam indirectly through a calandria in the bottom of the pot.

The distillate coming over in the first few minutes of flow is normally discarded as heads for reprocessing. The main bulk of the distillate is then taken as product, and the final portion distilling below a predetermined proof (of about 45 oGL) is discarded as tails for reprocessing. The pot still product is then sent to the bottling department for dilution and bottling. There is usually no storage or blending of different gin batches.

In the preparation of gin concentrate the distillation process is much the same as for distilled gin, but a much greater quantity of botanicals is added in the pot still. The gin concentrate is then simply blended with neutral spirit prior to bottling. Gin essences are prepared by blending essential oils and other extracts derived from juniper berries and botanicals. With the introduction of highly concentrated gin essences, it is possible to use as little as 0.01% by volume of the essence in a blend with neutral spirit.

Some internationally known brands of gin are produced by all three methods (i.e. distilling, concentrate blending, and essence blending) indifferent countries without appreciable variance in taste and odor when normal quality control procedures are used.

The quality and type of juniper berries and the mix of other botanicals largely determines the nature of the end product. For example, the flavor of London dry gin is strongly influenced by large amounts of coriander seeds in the botanical mix. Simpson (1966; 1977) and Clutton(1979) have listed several botanicals commonly used in gin production (Table 2). Another frequently used botanical is the chamomile flower (Chamaemelum nobile).

Table 2. Botanicals used in production of gin.1

Adapted from Simpson (1966, 1977) and Clutton(1979).

As with vodka, great care should be taken in handling and bottling gin. Unlike vodka, however, the problem is not picking up flavors from other products. The risk is contamination of other products with gin. If it is not possible to use a dedicated set of tanks and bottling equipment, everything coming in contact with gin should be thoroughly washed before use on any other beverage.

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