Artisanal gin is all the rage in Cape Town, with gin bars popping up all over serving delicious and beautifully presented mixes. But what many gin fans don’t know is that it is incredibly easy to make at home.
In order for a liquor to qualify as gin, it just needs to have a 37.5% alcohol volume, and a predominant flavour profile of juniper. So you can take a neutral spirit with not much taste of its own (like vodka), infuse it with juniper berries, and then add your own selection of botanicals to create a unique and delicious gin.
Just use your imaGINation! After making a few batches of our own, we’ve found the second hardest part about making your own gin is waiting two weeks for the flavours to infuse. The hardest part is realising how much money you’ve spent on something you can make much cheaper and tastier at home.
You will need:
1 bottle of vodka (you don’t need top-shelf tipple, but not even juniper berries can save disgusting vodka, so go middle of the range)
A selection of botanicals (these are up to your personal taste – some great ones are stick cinnamon, cardamom pods, coriander seeds, star anise, cloves, pimento, rosemary and citrus zest.
NB: Don’t use the powdered versions of any of these, as it’ll be impossible to sieve it out after infusing) A glass jar or bottle with lid A sieve or strainer
Step 1 – infuse your juniper
Pour your vodka into a jar or bottle. Add a tablespoon of juniper berries, close up the jar or bottle, and leave for a week in a cool place out of direct sunlight.
Step 2 – infuse your botanicals
Open up the bottle and have a taste. It’s now technically gin, with all the kick of pure of vodka and the piney, citrusy notes of juniper. But it doesn’t taste very full or flavoursome yet – in fact, it’s probably reminding you why gin is also known as Mother’s Ruin or mascara thinner. Time to add topnotes of flavour with your botanicals.
There really aren’t any rules to follow here, and it’s up to you to experiment and find combinations that you love. We’ll give you some ideas for your first round though.
Citrus: orange zest, coriander, lemon zest, black pepper. Be careful to use only the zest and not the white part of the peel, as it’s very bitter.
Spiced: cardamom, coriander, allspice, cinnamon, orange zest, star anise.
Lavender: coriander, chamomile, lavender, cardamom, bay leaf, allspice, and grapefruit zest.
Leave the mixture to infuse for another two days to a week, shaking the bottle every so often to help infusion, then taste. Keep on tasting until you’re happy with the flavours and their strength.
The longer they infuse, the stronger they’ll be. Bear in mind that powerful flavours like aniseed, clove and chili can get overbearing quite quickly.
Step 3 – filter and bottle
Open up your infusion and marvel at the complex aromatic vapours wafting from your unique creation. You would’ve paid R150 for a shot of this stuff in a gin bar, and that’s without the tonic.
Now, you have two choices: either leave your gin as is, and pour it out through a sieve as you serve it, to avoid any plant matter in your drink. The flavours will continue infusing and getting stronger until you finish the bottle. Or, you can strain all your gin immediately. Pour it through a sieve to strain out all the seeds and botanicals, into a clean glass bottle.
It will probably be golden amber in colour, depending on your ingredients. Now you can discard your used botanicals, and store your gin like any other alcohol. Serve it with tonic water, ice cubes, a slice of lemon, and pride.
Picture: Instagram @lyds_henderson