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:

    To CharlieE

    thanks so much for suggesting the dried fruits. I simply never thought of the obvious choice. I have had pear brandy from a distiller upstate NY, that was expensive but woof an incredible pear brandy. Made from perry distilled then racked on pears for a year (I think), incredible. You taste pears for a good 5 minutes. Perhaps I will try the dry cycle for fruit liquer!

    thanks
    chris

    I do not have bottle handy but if requested I can find my empty 🙁

    wait wait here it is

    http://www.harvestspirits.com/

    Next time I am near Albany I will restock! 🙂

  • Smeeagain says:

    What a wonderful forum/ discussion. I have a couple of questions – if I use the 100 and 80 proof bottles then the final output is 90 proof?
    If I then choose to add another liquid (moon alcoholic perhaps) how do I determine the final proof output?

  • Smeeagain says:

    That should say non alcoholic !

  • christie says:

    look at volumes, if you have say 100 ounces at 100 proof and have added 100 ounces at 0 Proof you now have 200 ounces at 50 proof

    see wiki

    Alcohol proof
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    (Redirected from Alcoholic proof)

    Alcohol proof is a measure of how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in an alcoholic beverage. The term was originally used in the United Kingdom and was defined as 7/4 times the alcohol by volume (ABV). The UK now uses the ABV standard instead of alcohol proof. In the United States, alcoholic proof is defined as twice the percentage of ABV.

    The measurement of alcohol content and the statement of this content on the bottle labels of alcoholic beverages is regulated by law in many countries. The purpose of the regulation is to provide pertinent information to the consumer.

    Contents

    1 History
    2 Governmental regulation
    2.1 European Union
    2.2 United Kingdom
    2.3 United States
    2.4 Canada
    3 See also
    4 References
    5 External links

    History
    This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (April 2013)

    From the 18th century until 1 January 1980, the UK measured alcohol content in terms of “proof spirit”, which was defined as spirit with a gravity of 12/13 that of water, or 923 kg/m3, and equivalent to 57.15% ABV.[1] The term originated in the 18th century, when payments to British sailors included rations of rum. To ensure that the rum had not been watered down, it was “proved” by dousing gunpowder with it and then testing to see if the gunpowder would ignite. If it did not, then the rum contained too much water and was considered to be “under proof”. Gunpowder would not burn in rum that contained less than approximately 57.15% ABV. Therefore, rum that contained this percentage of alcohol was defined to have “100° (one hundred degrees) proof”.

    The value 57.15% is very close to the fraction 4/7 = 0.5714. Thus, the definition amounts to declaring that 100° proof spirit has an ABV of 4/7. From this, it follows that to convert the ABV (expressed as a percentage, as is standard, rather than as a fraction) to degrees proof, it is only necessary to multiply by 7/4 = 1.75. Thus pure, 100% alcohol will have 100×(7/4) = 175° proof, and a spirit containing 50% ABV will have 50×(7/4) = 87.5° proof.

    The use of “proof” as a measure of alcohol content is now mostly historical. Today, liquor is sold in most locations with labels that state its alcohol content as its percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV).

    Use of the term “percent proof” has no meaning: Proof should be stated as “degrees proof” (UK), or “proof” (US)

    Many countries also use a measure called a standard drink. In Australia, a standard drink contains 10 g (12.67 ml) of alcohol, the amount that an average adult male can metabolise in one hour.[2] The purpose of the standard drink measure is to help drinkers monitor and control their alcohol intake.

  • John M says:

    A cupboard full of funky gins that you may or may never consume? Sell them to college students super-cheap. They will drink anything that gets them drunk. Now, I strongly discourage you from selling alcohol to the underage, and I feel obligated to say that it’s quite wrong & a bad idea to boot, but they might even pay full price for shitty, shitty gin.

  • Jared says:

    What’s up Jeffrey! Your blog rocks. What would happen if I did this process with tequila instead of vodka? We have a metric shit ton of tequila in our bar that we are not using because of a menu change and I want to experiment with it. It sounds disgusting, but who knows?

  • Ellen P says:

    Thank you, Jeff, for this FUN idea!

    I’m a whiskey gal myself, but my brother is a HUGE gin fan sooooo – you’ve given me the perfect idea for a Christmas present for him. I’m going to play a bit and see if I can’t come up with 6 mason jars of different flavored gins.
    Any other cool funky ideas for flavors out there? He’s a ginger-lover, too, makes a mean ginger brandy…
    THANK you!

  • Matt Laughlin says:

    So I looked up if this was possible to do, this was the first thing that popped up so I thought, hell,why not. Five days in I see you on Best Bars In America, and I got super excited, kind of felt validation for trying this while my friends laughed. Tried your original recipe, then one with a ton of basil. They both turned out amazing. I feel like there is still a lot of vodka tinge to it though, was it something I did, brand, not enough infusion…any ideas or am I crazy. I can’t wait to get started on my next batches.

  • chris says:

    Pass the vodka through a carbon filter 2-3 times BEFORE you do the infusions, that will clean up a lot of the vodka taste. Use a high strength vodka , a you soak the filter in water before using, and use distilled water for that purpose. ,

    keep up the good work!!

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