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”

  • DL says:

    looking at the pics of the herbs above… and comparing vs. the ingredient list.. there’s something in there that looks rosemary-ish.. but don’t see that on the list.. just curious what is it? doesnt look like one of the extras either but havent used them all before.. thanks for the great idea though…

  • Nick says:

    I feel compelled to leave a response here, as I just had the idea to “make my own gin” to give to my Mom for xmas, and this was the one source I found online that reassured me it could be done! Thanks. One thing I’d like to point out, at least with my own experience, is that after adding the various ‘botanicals,’ my 750 mL bottle of North Shore vodka (from Lake Bluff, IL) already tasted like the best gin I’ve ever had! I’m not sure how it extracted so much flavor so fast. I ‘rotated’ the bottle a dozen or so times to shake stuff up. I also toasted half of the ingredients before adding, and lightly crushed others a bit. But it is definitely already GIN, and the flavor is pretty intense already. I’m now curious as to why you let the ingredients steep for a week? Here’s my experiment for what it’s worth (approximation):

    -1 750mL bottle vodka
    -10 cracked juniper berries
    -1 Tbsp. coriander seed
    -3 whole cloves
    -3 whole green cardamon
    -1 star anise
    -3 allspice berries
    -1 cinnamon stick
    -1 whole nutmeg
    -1 small piece ginger root
    -5 mint leaves
    -2 large fresh orange peels
    -2 large fresh lemon peels

  • lsal says:

    A fun article.

    Yes, G.N. is correct. “Redistilling” uses a still and requires the payment of taxes and therefore falls under the TTB’s purview. If you are running a still (to distill or “redistill”) you do need permits – federal, state, local (among others). Many distilleries begin with neutral grain spirits (NGS) and “redistill” them to add flavors or complexity. They pay taxes to the TTB just as those who distill from scratch.

    If you want specifics go to http://www.ttb.gov and your local state alcohol regulatory body.

    If you don’t think the TTB will come looking for you even if you just distill a small amount, just google the words “moonshiner arrested” and you’ll get many hits like these:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/06/AR2005100601833.html

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B03EFDA1530E633A25754C0A9669D94669FD7CF

    Sorry to be the party pooper but I just want everyone to have fun with the infusion and stay out of jail!

  • Berl Fenster says:

    If you add a small dog turd – say from a Dachshund or a Schnauzer, your gin will taste like crap.

  • Blade McSlain says:

    i have a family history of bootleggers in the US and have been making bath-tub gin as we call it for a long time.

    one tip.

    once you have the botanicals prepared, but them in a mason jar and pour enough vodka in to cover them by 1/4 inch or so. place the jar in full sun. just like you were gonna make sun tea. but no lid. once the liquid is hot to the touch, put it in the shade until cool.

    pour the gin tea in to jar/jug; botanicals and all. follow the recipe.

  • Bazzer says:

    Great site, thanks for the info.

    In England we add sloe berries (prunus spinosa) from a blackthorn bush to the gin. They are commonly found along the sides of railway lines. Turn the bottle once a month for about 6 months and the taste is amazing.

    Make it in summer ready for Christmas.

    Thanks.

  • Carol Rossi says:

    Could I use fresh berries off a Juniper bush? Should I dry them and how do I know when they are ready to pick? Lots of questions, I guess.Thanks.Carol

  • Dale says:

    Hi Jeffrey;

    I’ve been a long time Bombay drinker, and my wife has been laid off from her job now, so on one income, we’re looking to save money. So… if I use your cold infusion simple method without the still, and buy cheap vodka, will it taste like Bombay, and will I save a lot of money?

  • Rick says:

    Dale,

    I am also a longtime Bombay (Sapphire) drinker and let me tell you if you use the recipe on this blog you will get a bottle of what I thought tasted like potpourri. Way too strong. Here is what I do to test. Work with only a cup of 100 proof at a time and tweak the flavors until you get something you like. I have a recipe I’m working on now that tasted pretty much like Sapphire and smelled nearly identical before it went into the Britta. The filtering definitely takes some of the flavor and aroma away but I don’t think you’s want to drink all that herbal residue? So maybe start with something a bit stronger than your desired result. I’m still experimenting too but here is my test recipe:

    1C 100 Proof Vodka
    1C 80 proof Vodka
    3Tbs Juniper Berries
    2/3 tbs Coriander
    5 cardomon seeds (about 1/3 of a pod)
    2 pcs of orris root about 1/8″ long
    1 pc of Angelica Root about 3/8″ long
    1 pc of cinnamon about 1/8 x 1/8x 1/16 (a sliver)
    3 small peppercorns about the size of BB’s ( I used a green, white and a black)
    1 pc of dried lemon peel about 3/8″ x 1/4″
    1/3 of an almond

    Put everything except the juniper in a magic bullet and grind it with the flat blade.

    Put the cup of 100 Proof in clean and dry mason jar and add all the ingredients.

    Let it sit for a week but shake it vigorously several times a day.

    After 7 days, strain the herbs out of the vodka with Cheesecloth. Do not squeeze to get the last bits of alcohol out of the cloth because it will just add a bunch of junk you don’t want back into your booze.

    Once the big stuff is strained off run it through the Britta 3X. (Make sure the filter has been soaked and prepped according to directions or you will get a bunch of carbon dust in your booze)

    Now add the cup of 80 proof vodka to you 3X filtered 100 proof gin and filter the mixture 2 more times.

    You’ll end up with some pretty good stuff. It won’t taste the same as Bombay but it’s very drinkable. If you want to make it stronger just increase the recipe in baby steps and record everything. You will eventually find something you like. I find that cinnamon, orange and cardamom are the real strong flavors. If you put a whole stick of Cinnamon in anything, that’s all you will taste. I used a strip of orange peel about 1/4 inch wide and 2″ long in the above mixture and the gin had a stronger citrus than juniper flavor. Almost too much orange that’s why I reduced it to what’s in the recipe. Not to say it wasn’t drinkable, because it was, it was just not Bombay(ish) enough.

    Also remember your gin will look like Iced Tea at best using this process, if you re even able to make it that clear.

    Good luck and good tasting!

  • Jim says:

    Re to lsal

    Do you think the BATF has nothing more to do than worry about someone making a gallon of booze in a still? Start makinf 10-20-50 then you’ve got them knocking down your door. Or maybe you’re the tax man for Obama and want to help pay for his stimulas plan.

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