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!

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

  • Chris says:

    Hi Jeff!

    I do appologise but I thought perhaps that this site was not manned at all anymore. I inherited a site from a gent who died, he did it about 3 -6 months before he died. He told me it would not allow newbies , but it would go on forever.

    When I see long patched of queries w/o answers I oft think of him.

    I am glad to see you just are whipped for time, this was a great article and is among the ones that inspired me to make a batch of cherry. This first “adult drink” I ever had that I liked was Cherry Herring. It was glorious. I could just buy it now I can actually afford it, but making ones own is more interesting. I cook from scratch and used to make my own beer. I confess I am a slacker I used syrups not dried grains. It was at least as good as Deutch Brau, but it is time always time that screws things up.

    So the cherry Liq is easy (so far) and even this gin looks easy.

    A good knock off or Grand Marnier is what I would love to get. It is my second favorite liquer.

    If you have any info on Juniper berries it would be fabulous, if you figure out how to make GM it would be great, (not contreau). Where is your bar?

    ciao

    christie

  • Adam says:

    Christie- it’s in Portland, Oregon.

    I am curious if anyone has bought unripe juniper berries commercially, or has foraged them around Northern California. My first couple batches have come out wimpier on the juniper flavor than I’d like. I’m trying first crushing the dried ripe berries and maybe eventually simmering them in a little water to extract more flavor before mixing with the vodka, but if those don’t work I guess I need to hunt for the unripe version to get extra pinene and other woodsy compounds in the finished batch.

    BTW- I’ve found the gin pages at homedistiller.org very useful as a jumping-off point for experimentation. There’s a section there on what ratios are good ideas for your flavoring components so you don’t go overboard on, say,the citrus. Also http://www.liquorpress.com/2011/02/16/juniper-examined-the-gin-secret/ is nice if you know a little chemistry (all these compounds appear to have higher boiling points than water, so you won’t boil them off if you simmer the berries a bit). Though I can’t vouch for any fun chemical reactions that might result from heating, changing them into other stuff!

  • christie says:

    I went to that site very nice, I posted back if they do not make berries what have I got in my spice cabinet? they are bluish black sticky and nasty when consumed alone, but tasty in some foods.

    I have a junipoer in my back yard (i think).

    ciao

    christie

  • frank says:

    did anyone notice how he says to use a mortar and pestle to break up the coriander and cardamom before adding them to the other dry ingredients, but then in the picture you can see the coriander floating on top of the alcohol when left to soak?
    dont think it really matter and I’ll soon find out with trial and error.. but would be nice to clear up on that

    cheers for receipe thou!

  • steve says:

    Nifty idea, thanks for the recipe. I’ve done alcohol infusions before, trying to approximate absinthe and just making various herbal liqueurs that don’t warrant any mention in public, and I found that if you put the dry ingredients into a little cheesecloth satchel and pour the vodka over that, you’ll save yourself that hassle of straining out a bunch of plant material, and the pain of accidentally ingesting a piece of whole cardamon in your cocktail (true story).

  • christie says:

    My cherry liquer was a dud. All whodrank some said it was like cough syrup 🙁 .

    the cherries seemed toretain more alcohol then the liquid. I used it to make sangria’s and on a happy note of you added say two shots to a glass of ice and poured in seltzer you had a nice cherry soda. Perhaps I will try blue berries next!

    ciao

  • Natalie says:

    Christie,

    Try mixing one part of your cherry liqueur with two parts Simply Lemonade or Simply Limeade and serve over ice. Amazing!!!!

  • KelvinD says:

    A few weekends ago was motorcycling along WI-35 by Lake Pepin. At one wayside rest, there were several junipers, loaded with berries. I filled one pocket, having already read this article. Followed this recipe exactly, except for fresh vs dried juniper berries.

    Finished the filtering yesterday. Ran it through the Britain about 10 times. It is not the slightest bit cloudy, but I sure would call it a lot more than “tinted”. Darker than Cuervo Gold. About the same color as Jameson, Bushmills, Balvenie or Two Gingers.

    It tastes lovely. Used Smirnoff for the 100 (only 100 I could find), and Six for the 80.

    When I read “crystal clear” and “a little tint”, I was expecting something not nearly this dark. So even though I will drink it, I am disappointed with the results (my girlfriend will NOT allow this in a martini).

  • christie says:

    Hi Natalie,

    tried it it was a dud true waste of time and money I will just buy cherry herring.

    I tried the new grand marnier cherry product . Not worth the price of admission, not at all.

    I found an incredible pear apple distiller near albany ny. expensive yes, incredible pear liquer, oh my oh dear….I only let a few people have a taste cuz it is as expensive as good single malt. Your mouth tastes like pears after it goes down woof!

    He make “perrie” then stills it then parks it on pears for a year. Finest fruit brandy I have ever had, nt that I have had that many, but this is kick butt!

    if there is ntrest I will post the name/address.

    If you are anywhere near albany it is worth the extra mile. And the apple pies are great as well.

  • Ginny says:

    I made this last Christmas as a gift for my brother who loves gin. I did mess up, got ahead of myself, and added both bottles of vodka at the beginning. It must have worked out just fine, because he is still talking about it. I am about to make this year’s batch and see what following the directions does for it!

    Last New Year’s Eve, I brought this gin and homemade brandied cherries to make French 75s. They were a huge hit, and are on my list for all holiday BYOB parties.

    Thanks for such a fun idea!

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