How to Make Your Own Gin Without a Still

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There aren’t many spirits that inspire such passionate opinions as gin does. I know vodka drinkers who recoil in horror when confronted with a bottle of Tanqueray, and gin drinkers who would rather abstain completely than suffer through a Grey Goose martini.

But what many people don’t realize is that gin and vodka begin life in the exact same way. You could even say that gin is nothing more than infused vodka. In fact, I’ve used this exact line on so many customers trying gin for the first time that I’ve decided to prove it to myself! What a better way to waste a bunch of time and ingredients while getting an opportunity to learn more about my favorite mixable spirit, right?

In his book The Complete Guide to Spirits (HarperCollins, 2004), Anthony Dias Blue describes cold compounding as a legitimate method for producing gin.  He even provides a rough recipe for infusing a monster 2,000 liter batch. Not having access to a tanker truck of vodka or a hundred pounds of juniper, I did a little math and came up with something more workable.

That first batch was a drinkable, yet super-perfumed gin that I felt could be improved with a little trial-and-error. I won’t bore you with the details of my many failures before honing in on the recipe you’re about to see, but I will say that I’ve now got a liquor cabinet full of funky gins that may or may not ever be consumed.

I’ve tried to limit the ingredients for this very basic gin for two reasons. First, I wanted to use only ingredients available in the bulk spice section of my local grocery store. Second, I wanted to provide you with a basic gin that would be easily expanded upon by you, my three readers.

I got fancy and bought a digital scale for this project, so use one for maximum accuracy if you own one, or just follow my crude conversions if you don’t.

1 750mL bottle 100-proof vodka
1 750mL bottle 80-proof vodka

20 grams dried juniper berries (about ¼ cup)
8 grams whole coriander, crushed (about 2 tbsp.)
2 grams dried orange peel (about 1½ tsp.)
2 grams dried lemon peel (about 1 tsp.)
3 grams whole cinnamon (about 1 stick)
1 whole cardamom pod, crushed

Use a mortar and pestle – or a food processor pulsed in five one-second increments – to break up the coriander and cardamom before adding them to the other dry ingredients.

The dry ingredients before macerating in the vodka.

Once you’re certain that everything has been measured correctly, place the herbs into a large resealable jar and add the whole bottle of 100-proof vodka. I’m using Stoli 100 here, but there are a few options out there; just take a tour of your local liquor store and see what else you can come up with. Hang on to that bottle of 80-proof vodka, we won’t be using it until the very end.

The dry mixture immediately after being added to the neutral spirits.

Place the jar in a dark, room-temperature spot for one week, and be sure to give the jar a good shake at least once a day. When the mixture is mature, it will look something like this:

The mixture after steeping for seven days.

Yes, it’s got some color to it, and that’s okay. In fact, this is exactly what many commercial gins look like before they’re distilled a final time. You don’t have a still at home, so you’re going to have to put up with a little tint to your gin. You’ll be fine.

Taste it. It burns a little, right? Don’t forget that you’re running at 100 proof here. This is when we want to add that bottle of 80-proof vodka you’ve (hopefully) been saving. Taste it again. Better? Yeah.

Next we’re going to take all that macerated fruit and herbs out of there, so we’re going to have to strain the mixture through cheesecloth.

Preparing to strain the mixture of solids.

Wrest all the liquid you can from the wet ingredients, there’s going to be some vodka that just won’t want to let go. When you’re done you should be left with a mixture that’s free from solids but, (as we say here in the Pacific Northwest) still party cloudy. Enter the Brita pitcher. Get yourself a $20 Brita, or if you already have one, just a brand new filter. We’re about to put your filter through the wringer.

Note: be sure to follow the directions the fine folks at Brita have provided you. Soak the new filter for fifteen minutes, and then run several pitchers of water through it to activate that charcoal.

Remains of sediment in the filter bowl.

You’re going to see a lot of sediment in that filter bowl, and that’s a good thing. Keep running your gin through the Brita, say, five times, and don’t forget to rinse out the bowl between every pass. Soon you will have a crystal-clear spirit ready for mixing.

Our stalwart Brita pitcher full of gin.

When you’re done, bottle your gin and start experimenting. Why not add some dried grapefruit peel to pair with a Negroni? Adding a single Kaffir lime leaf could be a nice way to add some more depth to a Pegu. Throw in a couple more cinnamon sticks this winter and try an Alexander Cocktail. I wonder how lavender would fare in Paul Harrington’s fabulous Jasmine. A double-dose of dried lemon peel in your gin for a souped-up Aviation Cocktail, anyone?

Here are some more suggestions for ingredients to add – in small quantities (think 1-2 grams per addition) – to flavor your next batch:

Thai basil
Cherry bark
Whole nutmeg
Cilantro leaf
Arbol chile
Star anise
Whole cloves
Indian sarsaparilla bark

Have fun, and if you get a chance to try the recipe, leave a comment below and let us know how it turns out!

129 Replies to “How to Make Your Own Gin Without a Still”

  • Harry says:

    Tried it. Mine’s not as good as some of the commercially available American gins that have come on the market since 2007, but it was fun to do. Like some others, I used 100 proof good old basic made in USA vodka and distilled water (for rinsing everything including the Brita filter). I’d do it again.

  • Bryan says:

    Thanks for the recipe ideas. I have a couple of suggestions that may cut down on your “many failures”

    Instead of carefully measuring all the ingredients … and hoping that they are consistent from batch to batch, what I do is make separate infusions of each ingredient. So, I’ll make a fairly large infusion of juniper berries and smaller volumes of orange peel extract, lemon peel extract, etc. Then, without worrying too much about what strength each reaches, you can blend them (measuring carefully) in small amounts until you get precisely the taste you want … then scale everything up to complete your batch.

    My other suggestion is to use Everclear instead of vodka. It’s cheaper (for the same amount of alcohol) and, since most of the flavors are more soluble in alcohol than water, you get quicker, more reliable extracts. If your start with 190 proof everclear, you just need to cut the end result 1:1 with water to get 95 proof (most good gin is 94) or a bit more if you prefer. Of course, you have to cut your blends as you’re experimenting with ratios.

  • Susan says:

    I’ve just made my 5th batch of gin. I’ve modified the recipe a bit to make it easier. I just use Member’s Mark (Sam’s Club) 80 proof vodka rather than 100 and 80. I double the lemon and orange peel. I had a group of gin drinkers over for a blind (literally blindfolded so the color wouldn’t give it away) taste test. Don’t want to name names, but my line was rated as smoother and better than two expensive “artisanal” gins from California, and an imported London Dry. I tried a Brita filter but ended up using a coffee filter. Gets out all the solids and you only have to filter it once.

  • Hector says:

    Is it Gin strickly from vodka–Or can you use rum instead of vodga with the species to create rum–gin.

  • Mike says:

    Wondering if anyone has tried this compound method recently. I tried Jeffery’s recipe and let it sit for a week, but cannot seem to “distill” the color out of it, which remains as dark as rum or whiskey. Not much of a bother as it tastes great!

    Wonder if perhaps Brita has changed their filters since this article was written.

  • sj says:

    I want to try this with hibiscus and elderberry… it sounds much like making a tincture really.
    thanks x

  • dirocyn says:

    I’m so glad I found this site. I really enjoy gin now and then (Bombay Sapphire is my fave) but since I developed a citrus allergy I’m more than a bit gun-shy about the commercially available gins. Sapphire gives me hives now, and I refuse to drink a gin if it hasn’t got a published list of botanicals or if the list includes lemon peel.

    Up until now, my “recipe” has been to toss a tablespoon of juniper berries into a 750 of middle-shelf Vodka and leave it alone until the berries sink (a couple of weeks). The result is much more gin than vodka, and it’s still clear and clean. And if you end up with a juniper berry in the martini, just fish it out with a fork, no big deal. But it lacks a lot of the depth and complexity of commercial gins.

    Anyway, now I’m inspired. I’m going to try more variety of herbs in my gin. My current batch contains juniper, coriander, anise, clove, and bay leaf. It’s only been a day and it’s already gotten very brown from the tannins.

    Another idea I’m considering–the way “real” gin is made, the botanicals are never immersed in liquid. They go in a basket hanging inside the still during final distillation, and only ever interact with alcohol vapor. Which may be why the tannins don’t end up in the drink. My next experiment will be to put 750ml of vodka in a clear gallon jug with the botanicals in a tea bag hanging at the top of the jug. I’ll seal it up and set the jug in the sun–and it will make alcohol vapor in the jug which will later condense back into the liquid. I figure, worst case the jar blows open and I’m out $10 worth of vodka and a handful of herbs.

  • Bud McGinty says:

    There a multiple members of the Juniper genus. Some of them provide great flavor. However, some of them are toxic and could cause permanent damage.

    I would be cautious with “found” juniper berries.

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