Hosting your own gin tasting at home is a great way to bring people together and have a laugh. No two gins are the same, and a tasting is an excellent way to expand your knowledge and understanding. Soon you’ll know exactly how to mix them, enjoy them, and your guests will have a blast finding their favourites. All you need is a few simple ingredients and you’ll be on your way – bottoms up!
Which Gins Should You Use?
How you run your tasting is up to you, but if you’d really like to taste and evaluate each gin properly, we’d recommend comparing no more than five gins at once. “It works well to have a variety of different styles of gin,” explains Lucy Beard, co-founder of Hope Distillery in Salt River, Cape Town. “A classic London Dry style is always a good starting point; then you can include something citrussy, a floral one, a fynbos one, a spicy one, or a more savoury one.”
Get The Right Glasses
If you first plan to taste the gins neat, tumblers will work well. However, if you want to add tonic and garnishes later, stemless wine glasses or brandy balloons are better.
“We often use these glasses because they give you space for beautiful garnishes and – most importantly – allow you to get your nose into the glass to really get an idea of the aromatics,” says Lucy.
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It’s International G&T day on 19 October! What better excuse to kick back with our signature Med G&T? We’re used to balloon glasses, but did you know gin was originally quaffed from a tankard? Cheers! Image credit: @MichelleParkinPhotography #hopedistillery #nohalfmeasures #SouthAfricangin #choosehope #hopegin #ginandtonic #ginstagram
Garnishes To Finish It Off
The next step to a successful gin tasting at home is to ensure you have a variety of interesting garnishes. These can change and enhance (or impede) your experience of gin, so it’s a good idea to try it without tonic or a garnish first. “Making gin is about playing with different flavours, and garnishing your gin and tonic can really lift the flavours if you pay attention to what botanicals have been used,” Lucy explains. “We always suggest garnishing either to complement the botanicals in the gin or to enhance them.”
- Citrus: Play around with zest and wedges, as well as slices of all the different citrus varieties. Beard’s top tip is to use zest rather than a whole slice of lemon. “The zest will lift any gin and tonic, but a slice can sometimes add too much bitterness to the drink.”
- Herbs: Give herbs a little ‘slap’ to release their oils and aroma before adding them to the glass.
- Spices: Spices can be overpowering so be careful with them, but they do add beautiful savoury notes.
Top Tip: Ginventory is an amazing app with a list of over 5000 gins with recommended garnishes. Now you can easily search for garnish inspiration when you need it.
Lastly, you’ll need plenty of ice to make your gin and tonic. Opt for bigger ice cubes as they melt slower and your drink won’t dilute as quickly. Then ensure that you keep a large jug of mineral water handy so your friends can rinse out their mouths and glasses between tastings. Plain water biscuits are also good to nibble as they cleanse the palate.
Now For The Fun Part…
To really get the most out of a gin tasting at home you should first try all of the gins neat with just with a block of ice. “This gives you a real idea of the botanicals in the gin as tonic alters the flavour to a degree,” says Lucy. “I’d also recommend just using Indian tonic as this allows the botanicals in the gin to shine, rather than adding a flavoured one.”
To taste neat, swirl the gin around in the glass over ice as this allows the initial alcohol notes to evaporate. Then take a gentle sniff and a small sip, swirling it around in your mouth to coat it before swallowing. Add the tonic and taste again, and then only should you add the garnish. This way, you will realise and appreciate what the garnish is adding.
Compare notes with your friends on the different aromas and tastes you can identify and score the different spirits and flavours accordingly. Then afterwards, if you want to take your gin tasting at home to the next level, you can try making some fun cocktails using your favourite contenders.
Info supplied by Hope Distillery; compiled by Food and Decor editor, Claire Badenhorst