We asked 10 bartenders: what is the most underrated gin? (2022)
A good gin can go a long way – it can make a seemingly simple cocktail like a Martini dazzle and add nuance to more robust drinks like Negronis. With so many options and styles to choose from, finding a gin that can do it all can be a bartender’s secret weapon.
While some spirits have stricter rules for their composition, gin can be distilled from anything from wheat to apples and whey, and any botanical can be used as long as juniper is present in the blend. . The most prominent style of gin, London Dry, contains a lot of juniper but is often complemented with citrus peel, coriander and licorice. Yet more and more distillers are coming up with innovative flavor profiles for their gins, using it as a means of expression and to provide a sense of place.
With so many new styles of gin flooding the market, we asked 10 bartenders to tell us which overlooked bottles deserve a spot on our bar carts.
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THE MOST UNDER-RATED GINS ACCORDING TO BARTENDERS
- Silver Gin Nolet
- Martin Miller Westbourne Strength Gin
- Broker’s Gin
- Tanqueray Rangpur Lime Gin
- Botanist Gin
- Occitan Gin from Bordiga
- MINING 118
- Plymouth Navy Strength Gin
- Bimini Coco Gin
- BCN Gin
“What is the most underrated gin, you ask? For me, it’s the Silver Gin of Nolet. I did a blind tasting of gins at a bar where I worked to see if we could whittle down our vast collection. I was certain that I knew the flavor profiles of each and which I would prefer. To my great surprise, the favorite was by far that of Nolet, popular with some regulars but little known to most of our guests. Hailing from South Holland, Nolet’s Silver Gin blew me away with its rose petal sweetness, sumptuous body and long finish. With notes of lavender, Turkish rose and raspberry, this is a gin that is drunk like a day at the spa. Treat yourself to a revisit in a Martini perhaps with Lillet and a giant lemon zest; you will not regret it. —Nikki Fairman, co-founder, The replacementsCharleston, South Carolina
“Martin Miller Westbourne Strength Gin is not as well known in the United States as it is in Europe, but it is commonly found in many of the best cocktail bars in the United States. It’s the perfect middle ground between juniper-based London dry styles and more lemony modern gin styles. Westbourne is my go-to for a perfectly clean and balanced Dry Martini. It’s also assertive enough at 45.2% ABV to stand out and enhance any classic cocktail. The taste, quality and craftsmanship of this gin is hard to beat. —Alex Smith, Beverage Manager, outer sky and Let it beNew York
“For those who love all things tropical and tiki, you still need a solid London Dry gin. With spring here and summer just around the corner, a Saturn cocktail (a blend of lemon, passion fruit, almond and spice) is a warm weather favorite and loves a good London Dry like a Broker’s Gin, which has a great citrus aroma that complements lemon and passion fruit. If you’re looking for a more Saturnian or moody tiki cocktail, we suggest a Suffering Bastard (a blend of bourbon, gin, lime, and spiced ginger beer). This WWII classic calls for either a very dry gin or a citrusy gin to complement a good ginger brew (preferably homemade) – we really appreciate it Tanqueray Rangpur Lime Gin for this cocktail. The lime and the slight sweetness of the gin act as a complement to the ginger infusion and do not become second fiddle to the bourbon. —Jason Doo, Chef and Owner, Wusong Road Tiki BarCambridge, Mass.
“Broker’s is one of my favorite gins, and I’ve rarely seen it offered in a bar. This gin is very reasonably priced for its premium quality, and I feel like this product is underrated. As a self-proclaimed G&T snob, this is one of my favorites – the citrus notes of orange and lemon play really well with the tonic. Juniper, along with notes of orris and cinnamon, can complement many cocktails. The best gin at its price for me, hands down! — Donald Heege, bartender, Horse Inn, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
“I think Botanist Gin is the most underrated gin on the market. In a world where there are (quite frankly) too many gins, Botanist stands out for its unique botanicals and dedication to helping and saving restaurants. Islay is famous for its aggressively peated scotches, but in this gin we source plants from the berry hills creating a clean, terroir specific gin. This is our favorite house in Leyenda. In addition, they have established a partnership with the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) to help save restaurants after the devastation of Covid. You can buy a million gins – some good, some not so good – but with Botanist you can get fantastic gin that gives back too. —Ivy Mix, co-founder, Speed grid; co-owner, Leyenda & FIASCO! Wines & Spirits; author, “Latin American Spirits“, NYC
“At Brother Wolf, our Italian aperitif cocktail bar in Knoxville, Tennessee, gin is always in high demand. And as the country of origin of the beloved spirit, crafted by monks (who else?! ) In the 11th century, Italy continues to produce some of the finest gins in the world to this day.At Brother Wolf, our favorite unsung hero is Occitan Gin from Bordiga. The recipe dates back to 1888, and since then production of the gin has never ceased and is produced sustainably without pesticides, fertilizers, motors or artificial ingredients. The style is utterly classic, with hand-picked wild juniper and herbs shimmering, followed by crisp, open citrus. And at a super reasonable price, the Occitan is prime for Martinis as well as more complex cocktails. And while it’s not a household name, Bordiga Gin Occitan is a staple at Brother Wolf. —Jessica King, owner and operator, Brother Wolf and Osteria StellaKnoxville, Tenn.
“A gin we have been working with for nearly four years is MINING 118 (original raw gasoline). It was America’s first raw vegan gin, which made me think, “Maybe it’s not that good.” After tasting it and hearing their story and meeting the owner Rober Elder I was a huge fan and [have] had it in one form or another on my menus ever since. It’s a Chardonnay grape base, which for me is a really good start instead of most neutral grain bases, because it already starts with quite a bit of character. The raw vegan part comes from having no honey or dairy, which some gins do. The 118 is for cooking ingredients no higher than 118 degrees Fahrenheit, which gives ingredients a raw flavor [and] just makes the flavors a bit brighter. This is a nice well thought out family gin that I brought over to Bathtub Gin and love it. We really love supporting small, family-owned brands that are doing amazing things. It is a gin that I recommend to everyone.—Brendan Bartley, Head Bartender and Beverage Director, Gin tubNew York.
“Gin in a cocktail needs to be balanced with other ingredients, whether it’s a quality vermouth or other fresh mixers. Some of the wild New World flavors in gin or overly floral notes are Dilution in cocktail making is also essential, for these reasons I rarely find a better gin to mix than Plymouth Navy Force. Yes, it is regularly rated as a top gin, but it mixes better than most, holds up better to long stirring, and tastes like gin. They clearly stood against the newcomers to the test of time. —Edwin Claflin, chef and owner, Oran Mor BistroNantucket, MA.
“I’m certainly not a gin expert, but I know what I like, and Bimini Coco Gin is absolutely wonderful. This gin comes from Turn-by-turn distillation, Biddeford, Maine. Not only is this gin excellent, but the distillery has an excellent cocktail bar (if a distillery doesn’t have a cocktail bar with good cocktails, it already loses points). Round Turn Distillery is a cozy little bar that produces great cocktails, thanks to its creative director and brand ambassador. Lyanna Sanabria. Let me tell you, Bimini Coconut makes the best Negroni you can imagine. This gin is coconut fat washed with organic coconut oil, which provides a silky mouthfeel and slightly softens the bitterness of a Negroni. If you haven’t been to Maine and tried Bimini Coconut Gin, you should change that ASAP. —Justin Sadja, bartender and TikTok content creator, @ThirstyWhale.
“New American Gin is all the rage right now, with all its rule-breaking methods. The London Dry style is the norm and still has its place in bars and classic cocktails. However, my favorite gins right now are the Spanish-style gins that look for Mediterranean botanicals to bring exciting new flavors to the bottle. BCN Gin de Barcelona starts with a spirit distilled from grapes and includes an addition of botanicals such as pine needles, figs, fennel and rosemary, which creates an exciting, fresh and savory flavor profile. We opt for BCN Gin for our new Martini service, with dry sherry, robust Italian white vermouth and a hint of turmeric. Our Golden Martini is like a sip of sunshine on the coast of Crete, and we have to give the Spanish-style gin credit for the ambiance. —Demario Wallace, Beverage Manager, AtriumAtlanta