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”

  • Mano says:

    Shouldnt u guys add water to decrease the ABV of the final solution ??

  • chebella says:

    You guys are wild ! Can’t wait to try all the ideas and so on. Lived in England a while back for a year and had a good time with Tanqueray but this sounds like a great adventure.
    Thanks for the info

  • Nick W. says:

    I just took the recipe and used it as a base for 4 different gins. One as is, one with double citrus for aviations/last words, and two with rendered bacon fat and clove, one with a little apple as well. I really can’t wait!!!

  • chris says:

    this is just so very cool, I need to comeback and see how to fake a nice Granmarnier if possible. I read years ago the ingredients list is as long as my leg , but I thought I could do something like was done here.. And one day I will make this I want more info on how to reuse the brita cause I think it goes bad if not used once opened and wetted..

    chris

  • Genevieve says:

    Hi, Jeffrey! I tried it and posted the results and links back to you on my snarky urban homesteading blog (fermentation, food, gardening, fishnet stockings…). We tweaked the process a teeny bit, made only half as much, and changed up the spice mixture (and added lavender!) We also got my stuffed animals totally trashed, which I do regret because we’ve been trying to get them into rehab for some time.

    http://thealchemistblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/how-to-turn-cheap-vodka-into-classy-gin-using-a-water-filter-or-i-promise-not-to-get-you-arrested-this-time/

    Enjoy, and thanks so much–we love it!

    Genevieve

  • david lovell says:

    HI my friends carribean grandfather useto make slow gin,using a large marrow,cut the top thinly,scoop out the seeds only,then fill the cavity with brown sugar,place top back on,make three hole in the base,with chop stick,or similer Item for drainage,and wait,but keep topping up with brown sugar,until only the skin is left,is this true,has anybody come across this or similer,it would be great to fined out,and if its true,what about large mellons.

  • chris says:

    Hi Dave,

    I must ask what is a marrow? sounds interesting.

    Also

    can anyone answer a repeated question, are the Juniper Berries we find on Trees used around houses the same junipers that we need to make gin, or really nice pot roast?

    I have a bigun in my yard and they grow all over Long Island so any help here is appreciated.

  • chris says:

    Brita filters and juniper berries

    1) I read the treatise on how to charcoal filter spirits and kangaroo filters are reasonable, but not the best way. I noticed they make them wider now and that helps. And one must pour th ebooze through 4 times to make unflavored booze drinkable. Once you infuse the booze, passing it through more then once could quite literally clean away the flavors you just added. So a material filtering followed by a carbon filter (1 time) I would think would be helpful. Then again the Brita and the Kangaroo are both really small. Ideally you want a pipe that is 3 feel tall and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. If you make your own colum you need to boil the charcoal and rinse 5-10 times and keep it wet up to the second you pour in the spirit.Then you pass the spirit through and never let air get in it. In theory you should get a much better quality then a brita or gray kangaroo. Charcoal type is very very important, fish tank stuff is not good.

    Also you can reuse the stuff if you boil it and dry it in an oven (dicey proposition if you don’t boil wash it a few times first, you risk a fireball and severe harm)

    Grey Kangaroo will give you cheap refills if you send in old ones. I suspect they pop’m open wash’m and recycle the coal, Bravo to them, that makes good sense.

    The process they use to make AC is nasty and that is why you need to wash out, boil, wash out a new batch of AC before using it. Wetting it before use is to AC what warming up is to you, it prepares the receptor sites to get working. If you don’t (assuming no dust) you must do a few extra times.

    Juniper berries,

    can any one tell me if the trees that grow all over LI (eastern cedar?) are what one needs for gin and pot roast?

    I did not realise that the berrries take a year to grow. And the nicve ripe ones are behind the weird looking front ones. I am going outside now to check out my tree.

    thanks
    f anyone is reading and responds

    chris

  • Danny says:

    A couple people have asked, but nobody has answered regarding picking fresh berries. i was just out in the California desert and I picked some fresh juniper berries off a tree that’s over 1,500 years old, I’m told. It seemed like a good idea to make some Gn from that.

    Anyone know how to adjust the recipe for fresh juniper berries? Are there different kinds of juniper? It sure smells like gin straight off the plant.

  • chris says:

    Hey Danny,

    I do not believe that Jeff M reads this anymore as he nor anyone else has responded to posts (sad).

    I would love to know if my juniper out in my yard is usable for such purposes.

    Since no one else seems to care enough to respond I suggest you use at least the same amount of fresh then taste and if it is too strong weaken it with more vodka.

    I put up a batch of cherry liquer b4 Xmas I uses 160 proof vodka ( NY state allows a max of 160 proof other states allow 180 🙁 )

    Next batch will also be at 16o then after that 180 (everclear). The reason being I want finished product at 80 proof and to do that with sugar and more water the higher the spirit level the easier it is when diluting the final product. Should be done after april 30th.

    MMM MMM MM good MMM MMM Good morning VOdka is Mmmm MMM GOOD!

    ok ok that was uncalled for, but is anyone reading this?

    TTFN

    • Chris

      Although I’d love to have time to respond to everyone’s question or comments, the sad truth is that I just don’t. In between running a bar, schlepping drinks five nights a week, and trying to maintain an actual life, my schedule is pretty full.

      So all I can suggest is this: try my recipe and my detailed instructions above. If you want to try something different, please be my guest – the odds are good that I haven’t tried every possible permutation of this recipe, up to and not limited to fresh juniper berries from your tree wherever you happen to live.

      But if you do go out on your own and try something new with this recipe, I encourage you to post your results here so that others can share in your success.

      Cheers.

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