Savoury and herbaceous is one of my favourite gin categories. I’m a starter-over-dessert kind of person, so I often prefer savoury flavours over sweet or floral (although there some exceptions, Silent Pool Gin for example).
The botanicals don’t necessarily have to have a salty taste and they can include herbs, vegetables and fruits that aren’t sweet or citrusy. These can range from earthy to grassy green to full-on salinity. Some botanicals bring sweet minerality, others can add a vegetal taste or herbal aroma. A combination of various savoury botanicals and other perhaps more common ones create a nice balanced flavour profile. I have listed a few possible ingredients below.
Vegetables & fruits: olives, tomatoes, celery, Jerusalem artichoke, fennel, mushrooms, truffle, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts
Herbs: rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram, savory, raspberry leaf, lemon verbena, Scots lovage, bay laurel
Other: pine, various types of seaweed, rock samphire, scurvy grass (related to mustard seed), ground ivy (parsley-like aroma), smoked chestnuts, oyster shells, Douglas fir
Tips for mixing with savoury gin
Let’s start with a simple G&T. You can complement the savoury gin by using various flavoured tonic waters. Gin Mare, for example, is easily enhanced with 1724 Tonic as it is light on quinine and has a subtle mandarin flavour and incredible Champagne-like fizziness. Try Fentimans Valencian Orange Tonic if you’re looking for a flavoured option. Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic (made with rosemary and lemon thyme) is also designed to complement savoury and herbaceous gins. Cranberry and pomegranate juices pair well with piney flavours. Luscombe Cranberry Crush, for example, has a nice fizziness and crisp flavour, or try Double Dutch Pomegranate & Basil, with its herbaceous aroma and tangy finish. Or simply use a nice all-natural premium tonic water and focus on the garnish instead.
It goes without saying many savoury gins make an epic Martini. Make it dirty (Gin Mare), Gibson (Amass Dry Gin), with a twist (Curio Gin), with an olive (Sabatini Gin), with blue cheese or anchovy stuffed olives (Kalevala Gin) or with a bay leaf (St George Terroir Gin). You can find tips on how to master a Martini on my previous article.
Gimlet, Red Snapper, Strawberry & Basil Smash, Limoncello Spritz with rosemary garnish and Aperol Spritz with added gin and olive and orange garnish are all excellent options with many savoury gins. Make easy herbal sugar syrups to complement your savoury gin cocktails and G&Ts.
How to garnish a savoury G&T
Herbs are the most obvious choice, anything from basil to sage to rosemary. Mint also complements gins with seaweed. Pair herbs with other ingredients: thyme & blueberries, rosemary & lemon twist (or zest), basil & olives, thyme & peach… the list is endless. You can add acidity by using a slice or two of nice crisp apple, which can easily replace the usual lemon or lime.
Lavender can brighten up a savoury gin, or if you want to complement the pinene, use mango slices or mango peel. Mango has high levels of pinene, which can also be found in juniper and rosemary. If the gin is more herbal than saline, garnish with green samphire (known as sea asparagus) as it has a crisp and salty flavour.
When choosing garnish for your gin, you should first decide which botanicals you want to enhance. Is it citrus or juniper, for example? If the gin is low on juniper you can add juniper berries to bring out those notes. Sometimes you might want the garnish just for show so you can fully enjoy the gin itself, in which case you should choose a mild garnish such as blueberries, star fruit, a celery stick or even parsley.
Savoury gins to try
This list is endless so I am aware I’ve missed out a fair few, but I hope these will offer you some new ideas for next time you are buying a bottle or ordering a drink at a bar once we get out in the wild again.
Amass Dry Gin – Citrus followed by herbaceous and earthy notes of mushrooms and bay leaves. Distilled with 29 organic botanicals.
An Dúlamán Maritime Gin – This gin has a strong coastal influence. It uses five locally harvested seaweed varieties and six other botanicals. It is salty, but not over the top. The flavours are nicely balanced with juniper and citrus. One of my favourites from last year!
Arcturus Torridon Gin – Many botanicals are locally foraged, including kelp seaweed. A saline and herbal gin with fennel and parsley.
Arcturus Torridon Gin Scots Pine Edition – Botanicals include lemon verbena, rosemary, Scots pine and Douglas fir.
Curio Coastal Gin – Made with 15 botanicals, including rock samphire and seaweed. The savoury taste is balanced nicely with spices and citrus. I also love their cute and colourful labels.
Edinburgh Seaside Gin – Made using marine plants such as ground ivy, bladderwrack and scurvy grass, which are complemented with aromatic spices. My favourite from the Edinburgh Gin range.
Gin Mare – A gin full of Mediterranean flavours, including olives, rosemary, basil and thyme.
Hills & Harbour Gin – Vibrant savoury gin with Noble fir needles and bladderwrack seaweed.
Isle of Bute Oyster Gin – The world’s first oyster gin. Makes a fantastic Martini.
Kalevala Gin – Plenty of pinene notes from juniper and rosemary and green grassy ones from raspberry leaves. Also, their Navy Gin has the same botanicals with added Jerusalem artichoke.
Moletto Gin – The key botanical after juniper is tomato. Rosemary and basil add to its herbal notes with a touch of balsamic. More fragrant and refreshing than many other savoury gins.
Nginious Smoked & Salted – Subtle smokiness with a good measure of salinity and piney juniper. Made with juniper, coriander, bitter oranges, ginger, cold-smoked chestnut flakes and salt from the Swiss Alps. A very interesting gin, although perhaps not to everyone’s taste.
Radoune Gin – The juniper berries used in this gin are dried in salt before being distilled. To add to the earthy profile, the gin is made using four different types of mushrooms.
Renegade Gin – The savoury botanicals are kept a secret, but the spirit has plenty of green leafy notes and piney juniper. I’m a fan of this distillery and their grain-to-bottle approach.
Rutte Celery Gin – Classic Dry Gin with a savoury touch from celery. Notes of mint, parsley, celery and aniseed.
Sabatini Gin – The savoury botanicals include wild fennel, sage, lemon verbena, olive leaves and thyme, which are all harvested on the Sabatini property in Tuscany. Plenty of juniper throughout.
Shetland Reel Ocean Sent – Another Scottish gin featuring bladderwrack. The seaweed is native to the island.
St George Terroir Gin – Green forest flavours from Douglas fir, coastal sage and bay leaves. One of my (favourite) new finds.
Truffle Gin – Made with white truffles from Alba. Sets you back £80.
Not gin, but still interesting and savoury
Audemus Spirits Umami – The base flavour for the distillate comes from Italian capers, and it is then combined with an infusion of Italian parmesan cheese and two other secret ingredients. The blend is left to rest in an old cognac barrel for several months. The outcome surely is something you have never tried before but you can’t get enough of.
Do you like savoury gins? Which one is your favourite?
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