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”

  • G.N. says:

    Hello

    Sounds like a cool idea for the holidays, I will probably try it if I can find the Juniper.

    One thing that I think is missing from all this discussion is the legality of distilling your own alcohol, from what I have read on the internet, distilling alcohol in the U.S. is still illegal without a bunch of permits. I am pretty sure buying anything from the brewhaus dot com site, sending it into the US and then making vodka is very illegal. Maybe I am misinformed but here is some stuff I found online:

    Under 26 U.S.C. Section 5171 operations as a distiller, warehouseman or processor may be conducted only on the bonded premises of a qualified distilled spirits plant. To qualify such a plant, a registration, application for permit and bond must be filed in addition to other supporting organizational documents. 26 U.S.C. 5178 places restrictions on where a plant can be located.

    I found this at homedistiller.org
    They say that “moonshining” is only legal in New Zealand.

  • Just Me says:

    Dear god man…..you have waaayyy too much time on your hands…..
    people are concerned.

  • Gin Jim says:

    I’ve just started to experiment with spice infusions, after a long history of making sloe gin (1lb sloes, 1lb sugar, 1litre gin), I’ve infused gin rather than vodka, to make a more spicy G’n’T.
    combos of cardamon, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and extra juniper berries.
    With respect to distilling, essentially you are Re-distilling a spirit, not deriving a spirit from a fermented product, so I’d say no worries. Anyway, I’m sure the boys in blue have bigger problems than a home made G’n’T

  • Barry says:

    Adam:

    from homedistiller.org:

    If your gin goes cloudy, it means that you have too much oil present for the % alcohol – either up the % alcohol until it dissolves again, use less oil, or just drink it cloudy.

    I’m thinking the use of fresh peel upped the oil content

  • Julian says:

    I haven’t tried this yet, although I hope to soon. I was searching around for other ingredient lists to see what other spices can be used, and found this page telling the spices in Citadelle gin (which I’ve never had):
    http://www.citadellegin.com/en/epices.php

    … thought it might be interesting for ideas

  • Bill says:

    Just made a batch of this with two friends over the past week. We used very, very cheap vodka for both the 100 and 80, but kept to your recipe except that we used fresh grapefruit zest instead of lemon peel. It came out absolutely DELICIOUS. We’re already planning two new batches: one with fresh ginger and one with herbs de provence. Thanks for the recipe and great time!

  • Betsy says:

    any reason to not use fresh juniper berries??

  • Mitch says:

    Well I have a whole new twist to the situation, I have been pouring over all the information I could gather to figure out how to accomplish what I am after.

    I first thought I could use the process from http://www.infused-vodka.com to make the gin I’m after. I would use their simple soaking infusion method with a commercial gin instead of vodka, that way the gin flavour is already perfect and I’d just be adding my own desired flavours like fresh blueberries or blackberries and star anise or licorice root for example, great flavour combination.

    But after reading this almost chai-tea like recipe to turn vodka into your own gin, I think I’ve decided that this process would be much more effective for me to add my secret ingredient to the spice mixture.

    Now this secret ingredient is highly controversial I know… but being Canadian and being born and raised in beautiful British Columbia I don’t really care. It can be added the same as any other herb, just leave it on the stem, and add as little or as much as you’d like for desired potency. That’s right folks, thanks to this process I now have the perfect recipe for Marijuana Gin.

    Not only will the flavours and aromas be masked for those who find them unpleasant, but the tea like “steeping” infusion process allows for all that wonderful active ingredient THC to be released. Adding a whole new kick to this “home grown” brew. Thank you all so much for your additions, I’ve been scouring the net for ages.

  • Mitch says:

    This method could revolutionize the medicinal marijuana industry, where the marijuana turbo charges your metabalism helping those suffering from loss of appetite due to terminal illnesses, the alcohol then acts as a blood thinner to reduce and prevent deadly blood clots often experienced by hepatitis patients. This is Nobel prize worthy research (haha I wish)

  • Caleb says:

    Jeffrey,
    Thanks so much for posting this. After scouring the internet and reading a lot of “gin” recipes this one looks like a winner. I just ordered the spices and look forward to making this for a fourth of July party.

    Your site is great, keep up the good work!

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