Drinks

Next of Gin

We test a new make-your-own gin kit
Homemade Gin Kit
Photo: Tasting Table

It's Spirits Month! Get in on all the booze-filled fun.

Yes, you can make your own gin.

Kind of. To be clear, no actual distillation is involved. Step one is "obtain a generic vodka," which will then be infused with juniper berries—the key ingredient to transform it into gin—and other botanicals.

Semantics aside, The Homemade Gin Kit ($50) makes for a satisfying weekend DIY project, and comes with everything you need (except the aforementioned vodka) to "make" gin. The full process takes about 36 hours, so plan ahead if you want to serve bespoke gin cocktails to guests.

The process is not difficult: Using the enclosed funnel, first pour a tinful of dried juniper berries into the vodka and let it sit for 24 hours. The gin will smell brisk and piney, and it will take on a light golden hue.

Next, add the botanicals—a tin of herbs and spices, many of which are recognizable from a kitchen spice rack. Regular and "smoky" mixes are available; I used the regular version, which included dried bay leaf, cardamom and fennel, plus additional ground spices I couldn't identify. At this point, the liquid in the bottle smells sweet but looks brackish, and reminded me of those cruets of Italian vinaigrette my mom used to make with spice packets.

Twelve hours later, the gin is strained through wire mesh and funneled into two clean 375-milliliter glass bottles, also provided with the kit. The end-product is golden and (mostly) clear again and ready for use. It looks not unlike some of the tawny barrel-aged gins on the market right now.

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The finished gin was appropriately fragrant, though slightly bitter, and not as clean and crisp as I like gin to be. Although I think I'll stick to commercial gins like Tanqueray for my dry martini, the DIY gin holds up better in cocktails with mixers, like a gin and tonic with a healthy squeeze of lime, or stirred into a Negroni, where it holds its own against the stronger flavors of Campari and sweet vermouth.

In the end, I'd recommend this DIY kit to gin fans who want to learn more about how the spirit is made. It's an education just to see and sniff juniper berries up close and to see what "botanicals" are, since spirits producers can get downright rhapsodic about these mysterious ingredients.

And now I'm hoping I can find a kit to make my own whiskey at home.

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