I was not a big gin drinker back in my early 20s. Far from it, actually. In my mind it was whiskey or nothing at all. (Save for water.) But I soon came around, thanks to an ex’s extraordinary force of a grandmother, who taught me how to luxuriate and thoroughly enjoy a G&T.
And the more you learn about gin—by sipping it neat, making cocktails, experimenting with different botanicals and finishes—you realize that it can be a very complex and nuanced spirit. In other words: It ain’t vodka.
To further expand my gin universe I reached out to the much-respected founder of One Minute Mixology: Tom Lasher-Walker, whose impressive resume includes doing time in Edinburgh’s Bramble, London’s American Bar at the Savoy Hotel, and New York City’s Attaboy. And he came up with a stellar (and offbeat) selection of gins that deserve a place in any home bar—from old standards like Tanqueray and Plymouth, to relative newcomers such as Portobello Road and Tod & Vixen’s.
“As someone who’s been involved in operations, logistics, pricing, costing, and general frontline service, it’s always difficult for me to enjoy anything beverage-related when I know how much it cost. For example, bourbon and wine follow the same pricing and quality costs. The difference between a $7 bottle and a $40 bottle is noticeable, but the difference between a $50 and $500 bottle? Not so much,” Lasher-Walker says. “Even if something is limited in quantity and prohibitively expensive, sometimes it can be difficult for me to justify spending $80 on a bottle of gin when I know I can get a 1.75-liter that’s 80% as good but for a quarter of the price. As such, most of these gins are reasonably priced and can be used in pretty much any drink you wish. That being said, some gins are best suited to certain drinking habits more than others, although it’s not for me to tell you how to drink and consume them.”
“Tanqueray is a fantastic all-around gin that fits into whatever drinking habits you might have. Seagram’s on the other hand is just as good and even cheaper, but isn’t something I’d make a martini with. And while Plymouth is an absolute must-have for any bar and is delicious in whatever drink you put it into, I’d probably refrain from putting it in a gin and tonic—not because it’s rubbish (far from it) but I’d rather spend my $40 to $50 bottle of gin and keep it for martinis, whilst my bottom shelf gin can go in my gin and soda for when I have my friends over. And as someone who has tasted and been involved in gin for so long, there’s a reason why I always gravitate to the old trusted brands that have been doing it for 200 years or more: Not only are they affordable enough to be your daily driver, they’re good enough to be infinitely consistent from bottle to bottle.”
TOD & VIXEN’S DRY GIN 1651 ($47)
“A pretty recent addition to the U.S. gin market, Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651 was made in consultation with three of the most influential beverage industry personalities,” Lasher-Walker says. “Leo Robitschek, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, and the late Gaz Regan all had a hand in its production and botanical recipe, resulting in a solid workhorse of a gin with strong juniper notes and a healthy 48% ABV (it’s also non- chill filtered, giving it good body and depth).”