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”

  • UnclearFizzyCyst says:

    Oh, PS He may have tried it at full strength (not advised). Always bring it below 120 proof and use clean mineral free water. It really does improve the taste. Notice that rums tend to be 70-80 proof, gins 85-95 etc etc. Each has its optimum dilution. Absinthe has to be around 140 proof to stop the oils from separating out. But that is then diluted to around 40 proof at serving.

  • NJLady says:

    Here I thought I was the only one who filtered with a Brita. I’ve used it to tame some of those bottles of gin I found overly flavored for my taste.

    With two elders who were both chemical engineers, I found it’s easy to restill with a stilling apparatus. However, usually with vodka, I set the stilling exercise to run so that what precipitates out of the cooling tube would be crystal clear neutral spirit — extremely slow flow rate. When stilling was done by them, it was generally run at a higher pace in order to purposely keep some of the flavorants in the cooled final product so that less water would be needed, and to preserve the distillate’s characteristics. It winded up tasting like tequila to a certain degree (due to the yeast from the alcohol making process).

    What I’ve done is basically run an intensely flavored gin through a Brita about 10x for a smoothing effect that tempers the tastes. I’d never redistill gin to purify it unless I had a commercial alembic still because it would completely neutralize some of the good characteristics I would want to remain in the gin.

    This thread warms my heart. Brings me back to the days of the copper pipe and silicon tubing line that my cousin architected to fit the need . . . it was just long enough to reach from a corner burner to the kitchen spigot.

    Best wishes and thank you for allowing my comment. I’ve been an afficionado for a while now. Quite inspiring.

  • Welcome to the site, NJLady. Thanks for writing in.

  • tom goddard says:

    i think i will try this as i need to produce some home made gin for a degree project.

    your using 100 proof vodka but is it possible to not use vodka like some other pure spirit? cause is using vodka kind of a cheat method of making gin rather than making it properly?

    i got told about something called everclear, which is a pure spirit. but apparently its not very refined.

    also, after you filter the liquid, why is it then you add the botanicals. why not before the filtering. and cause it is after it, do you leave them in the gin to add say a “rustic effect” or do you do another filter. thanks and sorry for all the questions
    tom

  • tom goddard says:

    actually im an idiot i just looked back and all the botanicals were added before the filtering. lol.

  • Dominik MJ says:

    May be Jeffrey is allowing me to answer…

    No: to use vodka is not a cheating!
    Commercial producer are actually distilling after their maceration another time. This not only makes the spirit clear and crisp – but also further refines the alcohol!

    It is obvious, that better producer also using more refined neutral spirits [or refining themselves]!

    And of course our friend Jeffrey wouldn’t ever cheat – would you Jeffrey?

  • Adam B says:

    Found Jeffrey’s article and thread really interesting, and finally took the plunge and made my own batch of home-made gin. I decided to vary the recipe and method slightly, and the results were not exactly what I expected.

    Instead of 100 proof vodka, I used 180 proof, which I thought would work just as efficiently to release the flavors of the botanicals, and which I could dilute later to reach the desired proof. I also substituted fresh orange and lemon peel for the dried variety. Just for variety, I also added 2 pieces of star anise to the mix.

    I let it sit for the prescribed week, shaking occasionally. The mix smelled GREAT, and I thought I was onto a real winner. I strained out the botanicals, and then added the water to bring it to 90 proof. That’s when it happened…the mix turned as cloudy as a shot of Pernod to which you have added ice water! This didn’t bode well, but I pressed on and filtered the gin 5 times through unbleached coffee filters. The result was a yellowish, cloudy ‘gin’ with quite a bitter taste. I ascribed the bitterness to my sloppy peeling of the orange and lemon, which left too much pith on the peel. But did this also cause the cloudiness? I’m not discouraged and will try again with the 100 proof vodka this time. Any comments are appreciated!

  • tom goddard says:

    do you think it matters what quality vodka you use. i just bought some nice 100 proof vodka but to save money (as the 100 proof was pretty expensive) i went for a really cheap 80 proof one (chekov to be precise). will this ruin the 100 proof one or is this an ok money saver.

    with regards with making the gin. do i literally pour the second bottle of vodka in with the mix without heating anything.

    thaks for all the help guys. much appreciated

    tom

  • Tom – You’ll always get out what you put in, so beware cheap ingredients.

    And whatever you do, DO NOT HEAT this, or any other high-proof alcoholic beverage. You run the risk of fire or explosion if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.

  • Matt says:

    First of all allow me to say this is a fantastic post! It has me thinking about all the possibilities I can create. However, I am still new to this whole game and have some questions….

    So I guess it has been agreed upon that some major commercial producers are using vodka as their base spirit, adding in whatever herbal recipe they desire, then are re-distilling via a pot still/gin head/whatever still (Bombay Sapphire uses the gin head technique). In regards to soak times of the herbs I initially read 24-48 hours of soak time in the base spirit is the way to go. Regardless of soak time, would re-distilling it remove the brown color and get you back to a clear product? Also…I don’t understand the difference in making an gin essence and actual gin? Would the method described on this page, combined with re-distilling, be considered an essence or gin? Sorry for the silly questions, but I am totally new to this. Thanks!

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