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. Β 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 ΒΌ cup)
8 grams whole coriander, crushed (about 2 tbsp.)
2 grams dried orange peel (about 1Β½ 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!

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

  • Great story, Jeff.
    I love kitchen experiments.
    I WILL disagree with you about gin being infused vodka.
    That second distillation makes all the difference in the world πŸ˜‰

  • Lance Mayhew says:

    Hmmm, lots of funky gins huh? Maybe if you knew someone with a still you could put them through a distillation and see what happens.

    Brilliant idea as usual. I need to buy a Brita. I can’t see Raena letting me filter all kinds of liquors through our current one.

    I want to see you make your own tequila next.

  • kathryn says:

    Funny you should post this. We just had a training session yesterday at the restaurant about gin and whiskey, and I was wondering how many people out there try to make their own. Now I know that at least there is you (thank you, internet).

  • Jeffrey says:

    Kevin, you’re absolutely correct about that last distillation. I’ll never be able to reach to a certain height using this method.

    However, I’m pretty sure it would be true to say that infused vodka is a valid type of gin. Dontcha think?

  • Jeffrey says:

    Oh, and Lance… I think you’re right. I do need to find someone with a still who wouldn’t mind me running my past experiments through…. πŸ˜‰

  • jimmy says:

    wow. you are a nut. can you put that stuff in your isi, at 100 proof, and turn your isi into a mad blow torch? i want video of that!

    homemade gin. i love it!

  • Anita says:

    OMG, the Brita filter is genius. So much easier than coffee filters.

  • Jeffrey says:

    At $8.99 a pop, the Brita filter is nowhere near as inexpensive as coffee filters. However, you can get quite a few uses out of one (I’m now filtering this mix by the gallon) so I guess it probably evens out somehow. Plus, I find the Brita is much better at filtering out particulate matter than the coffee filters could ever be.

    Oh, and Jimmy, you’re giving me so many ideas right now… heh heh.

  • Tatsu says:

    This is so bad ass. I love how open this recipie is. Lots of room to experiment.

    Hey, if one were to actually have access to a small scale still, would you distill once instead of using the brita? When gin is X-times distilled, how many of those times are before or after infusing?

  • Jeffrey says:

    Tatsu

    Given my limited understanding, there are two ways of distilling gin. The most expensive and elaborate method is called gin head distillation and it involves suspending the botanicals in a basket above the wash. The distillate will pass through the basket and pick up some of the essential oils during the distillation.

    The second method is much like what you’re describing: the botanicals are infused in vodka or neutral sprits and then re-distilled.

    If you have a small-scale still, you can redistill your gin that you’ve made with the recipe above, and, with luck, it should turn out pretty well. I’d love to know if anyone’s tried this, please let me know how it goes!

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