When it comes to distilling with botanicals, experimentation is king. If gin jumps to mind when you think of the use of botanicals in distilling, you’d be right!
Defined by its distinct juniper flavor, gin is made with a neutral base of pure grain spirit (like vodka) and then steeped with juniper berries and other botanicals. Because this type of gin is essentially flavored vodka, you can easily create your own variations at home.
Here, we’ll give you the flavor profiles of the most popular distilling botanicals used in gin making, and some ideas on how to use botanicals that will have your cocktails packed with complex flavor.
Which other botanical could we start out with? This particular flavor is what makes gin gin. Even though gins may feature other flavors besides juniper, it needs to be the most prominent flavor.
Juniper berries give gin the strong pine flavor it’s known for.
At SF Herb, we offer both Eastern European and Italian Juniper berries. The difference? Eastern European juniper berries have a more piney, straight-juniper flavor. Italian juniper berries have a more complex, fruity flavor than their Eastern European counterparts.
Coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant and is one of the more popular botanicals added to gin. These seeds lend a citrusy, floral flavor to gin. Coriander is also used in brewing beer, particularly in Belgian whites.
It’s the zest, not the juice, of lemons and oranges that add flavor to gin or infused vodkas. The citrus, candy-like flavor of these two botanicals shouldn’t overpower the juniper, and the subtle notes can complement the crisp piney taste very well.
The root of the angelica plant is also one of the botanicals used most commonly for gin distillation. Angelica root possesses an earthy, almost bitter taste. It is best used in small amounts to add a background of bitter, herbal notes to gin.
Try Your Hand at Botanicals
If you’re curious about botanicals, the good news is you can make gin at home without a still using a quality brand of vodka by adding your choice of botanicals to vodka. It might be difficult to find the perfect balance of flavor on the first couple of tries, so we suggest starting out your experiments with small batches.
As demand grows for new and exciting flavors of gin, small craft gin distillers are popping up over the country and are also experimenting with a variety of unexpected botanicals. For those who craft gin as a profession and are looking for a little flavor inspiration, try browsing through our selection of bulk botanicals full of unique and bold flavors.
Persistence is Key
Botanicals can add tons of character to a surprising amount of drinks — both alcoholic and non! They’ve also been used to create distinct flavors in the world of beer and hard cider.
Finding the right balance of flavors with botanicals can often be a tricky process. All it takes is an adventurous spirit and a little determination and patience to craft the perfect drink. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out our huge selection of distilling botanicals and get experimenting.