The 14 Absolute Best Gins For Beginner Enthusiasts

Gin cocktails have always been part of the staple of classic cocktails, but for some reason, the spirit on its own garners a lot of commentary and controversy. Like whiskey or whisky, there are rules and regulations for gin production. It must be distilled from something natural, such as barley or wheat; one of the botanicals used must be juniper, and it must be at least 40% alcohol by volume. Flavor-wise, gin is somewhat of a blank canvas with which the distiller can paint with a broad brush, using a variety of herbs, spices, and botanicals to give their gin flavor and character, and it is this nuance that makes for such spirited conversation. But how can someone just getting into gin know where to start? Get in the boozer; we're going shopping.

We spoke with Alessandro Pisi, Bar Director of The Duck & The Peach, La Collina, and The Wells in Washington DC, and Valentino Longo, bartender and owner of ViceVersa in Miami, to get their insight on the best possible gins for the gin beginner, no matter how they like to enjoy their tipple. From modern gins inspired by Mediterranean flavors or aged in oak barrels to the most traditional of London Dry varietals, there really is a gin for everyone, and that includes the newbies. Whether you've got a taste for sweet or savory, herbaceous or floral, gin and tonic, or gin martini, leave it to the experts to lead the gin novice to the promised land.

Sipsmith London Dry

The London Dry Gin category is seen somewhat as the backbone of the gin category. London Dry Gin is an elevated spirit and makes for a more than worthwhile martini or simple gin and tonic compared to other gins while also being balanced and easy to enjoy. For Alessandro Pisi, Sipsmith is an excellent place for the entry level gin drinker. Produced in the London neighborhood of Chiswick, Sipsmith as a brand has only been around since 2007.

Pisi describes Sipsmith as a classic London Dry with a little extra spice, making this an ideal choice for the gin beginner looking to add something classic to their collection that has a little extra flavor and bite to it as well. Bold and aromatic with notes of green olive and juniper, this is undoubtedly a gin for all.

No. 3 Gin

In the spirit of modernizing the classic London Dry Gin, No. 3 Gin is another example of a classic London Dry that has been designed for the modern day gin drinker who wants to pay homage to a classic in every sip. For Valentino Longo, it is the balance and flavor of No. 3 that makes this a gin designed to be enjoyed in a martini with nothing more than a splash of vermouth and a twist of lemon.

Made with only six ingredients, No. 3 gin is slightly more citrus forward, rather than being stronger in botanical notes. Grapefruit and juniper are the prominent flavors here, but overall this is a well-balanced spirit that doesn't feature one flavor more than others. For the gin beginner who wants to get the best possible result for their homemade martinis, a bottle of No. 3 on the home bar is an undeniable choice.

Citadelle Dry Gin

The south of France has a lot to boast about. Sun and gorgeous sandy beaches are certainly reasons to celebrate this corner of the country, but for the gin enthusiast, it's the gin that deserves the highest of praises. For a soft and refined standout on your home bar, as Alessandro Pisi describes it, Citadelle is not to be missed. Plus, if you're a lover of freshly shucked oysters, you'll get the most of each briny bite with a Citadelle gin and tonic by your side.

The flavor palette of Citadelle is rich and complex, with juniper notes up front as well as bright citrus notes. Touches of pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon add to the exotic flavor profile, making this a more spice-forward spirit that can add a touch of liveliness to a gin and tonic with a twist of lemon or even a classic Negroni. Citadelle is certainly a more outside-the-box option when considering the traditional flavors of gin, but for a gin newbie who is looking to experience all the different possibilities when it comes to the spirit, this is a truly special addition.

Bombay Sapphire

For many gin drinkers, Bombay Sapphire is the name we think of when we think of a classic gin. We imagine the light blue bottle and the iconic label, and we can picture the elegance of a perfect Bombay martini garnished with a twist of lemon. For a traditional, ideal representation of a London Dry gin, this is a staple that needs a spot on the gin beginner's, or really any spirits drinker's, home bar. No questions asked.

Bombay Sapphire uses 10 botanicals to produce its iconic smooth and complex flavor. Licorice, cassia bark, coriander seeds, angelica root, juniper, orris, lemon peel, grains of paradise, cubeb berries, and almonds are all distilled in copper pot stills for a gin that is elegant and nuanced. This is truly the poster child for how a proper London Dry gin should taste. If you have room for only one bottle of gin for your home bar, this is the one to make space for.

Fifty Pounds London Dry Gin

Alessandro Pisi describes Fifty Pounds London Dry Gin, a small batch gin produced in the southwest of London, as a well-balanced gin that is more subtle and nuanced, with a mild flavor and "no pronounced pops". For someone just getting into gin who may be intimidated by the idea of a more traditional, potentially aggressively flavored London Dry but still wants that style, Fifty Pounds is a delightful choice.

The botanicals used in Fifty Pounds — juniper, coriander seeds, orange and lemon peel, angelica root, savory, licorice, and grains of paradise — are distilled four times to produce a balanced, flavorful spirit that, in addition to being the perfect base for a dry martini or a gin and tonic, can also be enjoyed neat. Plus, Fifty Pounds is bottled at 43.5% ABV, a noticeably lower alcohol content, making this an ideal spirit to sip on that won't blow out your palate or rob the gin of its delicate flavor.

Nadar Gin Experimental Batch

Having a mixture of traditional as well as more "experimental" spirits on your home bar is a great way to show range when it comes to a well-rounded collection, and Nadar is most certainly on the more experimental side of things. Made in the Scottish Highlands, Nadar is the world's first climate-positive gin made from peas. A delicious gin with a positive environmental message? Oh yes, peas.

As a result of Nadar being made from peas, the flavor palate is far more vegetal than typically expected in a gin or really any spirit. However, for Alessandro Pisi, it is this flavor profile, as well as Arbikie Distillery's mission to fight climate change that makes Nadar a unique gin to add to your collection. For the gin beginner, having something this outside the box may seem like one leap too far, but if you want your collection to be as flavorful as it is impressive, adding something like Nadar is a great way to do so.

Barr Hill Tom Cat

Just because you're new to gin, doesn't mean you're a beginner regarding all other spirits. For Alessandro Pisi, Barr Hill's Tom Cat gin is the ideal tipple for the bourbon drinker who loves their brown spirits but is looking to experiment in the world of gin, and considering how it's made, we're more than inclined to agree.

Barr Hill describes its Tom Cat gin as "an expedition into uncharted territories." After distillation, Tom Cat is then aged in new American oak barrels, just like a bourbon. The toasty, woody flavors of the oak barrels combine with the floral, poignant juniper notes and a touch of raw honey for a robust, boldly flavored gin that also happens to be an approachable one, whether in a cocktail or all on its own. For the gin freshman who also happens to be a bourbon enthusiast, consider this an enjoyable transition from one delicious spirit to another.

Wilde Irish Gin

As the gin beginner starts to build up their gin portfolio, it's good to throw in something less common to really mix things up. When we think of spirits that come from Ireland, rarely do we consider gin, but thankfully, Wilde Irish Gin is bucking the Irish whiskey trend and producing something floral and delicate that also happens to pay homage to the famed Irish poet and playwright for which it is named, Oscar Wilde.

Made with juniper, lime, angelica, orris root, chamomile flowers, coriander leaf, grapefruit, and sweet orange, Wilde Irish Gin is smooth and subtle as it bottles up the character and aroma of West Cork. For the gin beginner who is only starting to get their palate warmed up to gin, starting with a Wilde dry martini or French 75 are both impeccable, perhaps even poetic cocktails to start with, and once you start to feel bold, enjoy it neat.

Gin Mare Capri

There's something deeply romantic and exquisite about a gin hailing from the Mediterranean. As you sip on Gin Mare, close your eyes and picture the blue sky, the herbaceous aromas of rosemary and basil, and the natural wonders of this picturesque part of the world. Additionally, Gin Mare is made with arbequina olives, a product which changes in acidity level every year, meaning that each distillation of Gin Mare is truly a unique one.

For the gin beginner who is looking for a spirit with a brighter, more refreshing palate, Alessandro Pisi recommends Gin Mare without question. Gin Mare is a flavorful, boldly flavored love letter to the culinary personality of the Mediterranean. In addition to the arbequina olives, it includes rosemary, basil, thyme, orange, lemon, coriander, juniper, and cardamom. For the gin curious who also happen to be lovers of Mediterranean cuisine, Gin Mare is a stunning addition to any home bar.

Ki No Bi Dry Gin

For the gin newcomer to really add some flare and flavor to their ever-growing gin palate, Ki No Bi Dry Gin, the first Japanese gin, is a worthwhile addition. Made in Kyoto, Alessandro Pisi recommends this gin for its delicate, balanced flavor, as well as its dedication to the craft of gin production itself. It is made with distinctly Japanese botanicals, such as yellow yuzu, Akamatsu wood chips, bamboo, gyokuro tea, and green sansho berries.

Ki No Bi separates its botanicals into six elements: base, citrus, tea, herbal, spice, and fruity & floral, showing how it really runs the gamut regarding flavor. Additionally, it's made with a rice spirit base, resulting in a gin that is fresh and lightly spiced with a balanced and slightly creamy finish. A simple gin and tonic or a gimlet are the best vehicles to enjoy all the flavor that Ki No Bi has to offer.

Fords Gin

Fords Gin is a spirit created by bartenders, for bartenders. When it comes to creating just about any gin cocktail, from the classic martini or traditional gimlet to something with more flavor elements like a Negroni or a Bee's Knees, Valentino Longo is reaching for Fords to really make his cocktails sing.

Described by the brand as "the cocktail gin," Fords is an exceptional gin to add to any home bar, but especially for the beginner who is just making their first foray into gin enjoyment. In addition to juniper, this gin is made with coriander seed, lemon peel, orange peel, jasmine, angelica root, grapefruit peel, orris root, and cassia bark; Fords is a London dry gin at its core but still manages to have its own signature style. Elegant and enjoyable, Fords is yet another exploration of the classic London dry with a little something extra to be had, making this a stellar addition for gin beginners and enthusiasts alike.

Tanqueray London Dry

Yet another iconic London Dry gin for the gin novice, Tanqueray has that same graphic impact on all of us when we hear the name. The green bottle with its broad shoulders and red seal, and the cursive font on the label that says this is one damn fancy gin, and don't you forget it. Tanqueray has been holding it down for the London Dry gin category, as well as the gin category as a whole, for centuries, so to leave a bottle of this off your home bar would mean missing out on a classic in every sense of the word.

While Tanqueray works in a variety of gin cocktails, it's really best enjoyed in a gin and tonic. As a gin beginner, the gin and tonic is also the best place to start your gin cocktail journey, as it requires the fewest ingredients and will also highlight the juniper and citrus in the gin in the best possible way. To get more grapefruit notes in your gin and tonic, Valentino Longo recommends reaching for a bottle of Tanqueray 10, which is an extension of the London Dry varietal but with more of a citrusy burst in each sip.

Nikka Coffey Grain Gin

For fans of Nikka Coffey Whiskey (that's coffey as in the pot stills they use to distill their spirits, not coffee like the caffeinated wonder drink), Nikka Coffey Grain Gin was added to the lineup in 2017 to further show off the excellence of the Coffey stills. The 47% ABV gin is made using 11 botanicals, four of which originate from Japanese citrus, including yuzu, kabosu, amanatsu, and shequasar, and traditional gin botanicals like juniper berries, angelica, coriander seeds, lemon, and orange peels.

Valentino Longo recommends enjoying Coffey Gin in a shaken gin cocktail, like the Gimlet or the Bee's Knees, both of which will accentuate the sweet and tangy flavors of the base spirit. Nikka Coffey Grain Gin is an excellent starter gin for the novice who wants to ease their way into the category, starting with something flavorful and delicate but with the ability to mix seamlessly into any number of favorite gin cocktails.

Engine Gin

While it's not always best practice to judge a bottle of wine or spirit by the bottle design or the label — a sort of 'don't judge a book by its cover' situation — Engine Gin is the exception to that rule. The liquid inside is pristine; it's handcrafted in small batches in northwestern Italy, paying tribute to the land by using local herbs and botanicals like sage, lemon, calabrian licorice root, and spring water from the Alps, in addition to the traditional juniper berries. But the bottle, which is inspired by the motocross races and racing vehicles of the 70s and 80s to look like a canister of fuel oil, is too fun to pass by.

For a gin beginner who may be looking for something with more savory, herbaceous rather than the more traditional gin botanical flavors, Valentino Longo suggests reaching for Engine Gin, especially in a gin and tonic garnished with sage. Even a gin novice who is just starting to understand and appreciate the spirit should have something whimsical on their shelf, and Engine Gin is just the spark that the collection needs.