The Best Way To Drink London Dry Gin, According To A Cocktail Expert

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It's hard to beat the burst of botanicals from a good London dry gin. But the spirit isn't always the easiest to work with, especially if you're serving multiple people, each with their preferences. Some people like the herbal bite enough to drink gin neat, but most prefer it softened by a mixer. To help us determine the best way to serve London dry gin, we reached out to Katie Stryjewski, cocktail blogger and author of "Cocktails, Mocktails, and Garnishes from the Garden."

"London dry gin is definitely a spirit for mixing," Stryjewski says. "The closest most people come to drinking it on its own would be in a very dry Martini, which is occasionally made with no vermouth at all." A bone-dry martini isn't for the faint of heart and a martini with no vermouth is bold indeed. "Most gin drinkers will agree that it really shines in cocktails," she continues, "and it's the base spirit in dozens of classics."

Cocktails and mixed drinks are the way to go. The intensity of flavor in a London dry is potent enough that it still shines through even when diluted with other ingredients and it's that potency which makes it less suitable to be served solo. It's a double-edged sword that's likely contributed to the gin-haters' rallying cry. But just because it isn't a good fit everywhere doesn't negate that it's entirely capable in its wheelhouse.

What makes a gin London dry?

Before we get lost in the weeds of mixology, let's make sure we're on the same page about what kind of spirit we're referring to. "London dry Gin is a classic style of gin," Katie Stryjewski tells us. "While it can be made with a variety of botanicals, juniper is its primary flavor. And since juniper is what defines gin, London dry is a quintessential expression of the spirit." If you're familiar with gin, you've almost certainly come across London dry gins before. Some of the most popular gins in the world are London drys, including Tanqueray London Dry Gin and Bombay London Dry Gin

"The word 'dry' distinguishes it from earlier, sweeter forms of gin like Old Tom and Genever," Stryjewski explains. "The style originated in London, but it doesn't have to be made in London or even in the U.K. to be called London dry." That's pretty unusual in the alcohol world. Many spirits will be tied to a specific country or region, like champagne, bourbon, or pisco — but it's not a total free-for-all.

"It does need to meet certain conditions of quality," Stryjewski says. "Some of these regulations date all the way back to London's 'gin craze' in the 1700s when the sudden popularity of the spirit resulted in the widespread production of cheap and potentially dangerous gins." We're certainly lucky to have the health regulations we do today. Rotgut gin doesn't have quite the same appeal.

London dry gin is best in cocktails

"Most classic gin recipes were written with London dry in mind," Stryjewski tells us. "So it's an excellent choice for cocktails like a martini, negroni, gin and tonic, or gimlet." When it comes to classic cocktails with gin-forward flavor profiles, London dry is the best gin for the job thanks to its singular focus on the quintessential juniper flavor profile most people associate with gin. There are a lot of great gin brands that push the boundary of what kind of flavor profile you can achieve through gin and London dry gin does have some more adventurous members, but by and large, this is gin at its most traditional.

But drinkers aren't stuck with only the spirit-forward gin cocktails when using London dry specifically. "Because of its botanical flavor profile," Stryjewski says, "I also love it in drinks that make use of fresh herbs like rosemary, basil, or mint, or even vegetal flavors like cucumber or celery." The fresh bit of juniper and the citrus tinge of London dry combine well with the taste of bright, fresh herbs. This would include drinks like a cucumber gin fizz or a gin mint julep.

As for drinking London dry neat, Stryjewski was less enthusiastic. "It's not common to drink gin neat or on the rocks, but it can be enjoyed alone in a martini." To each their own, as they say, but cocktails reign supreme.