Spiced gins are very popular, and no wonder as the spices work beautifully in many cocktails, including our favourite Negroni. Spiced gin is often created with the ancient spice routes in mind. Ships sailed through various countries on their way to the UK to meet the high demand for a wide array of spices from India, Morocco, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Spain and several other countries.
Spiced gins are warm, spicy, nutty and sometimes a bit earthy. Distilleries not only use the traditional spices found along the Maritime Silk Road, but also many more ‘modern’ botanicals.
Some traditional spices can be found in most gins, not just spiced ones, as they are considered as ‘core botanicals’. In spiced gins the distiller might want to bring out these flavours more by using larger quantities of the core spices. For example, coriander seeds will add citrusy notes, nuttiness, warmth and a hint of spiciness when distilled. It is actually the second most used botanical after juniper.
Cinnamon bark is a delicious one. It is sweet to taste and has a hot aromatic smell.
Cassia bark is similar to cinnamon and this often leads to confusion between the two botanicals in both taste and texture. Cassia bark adds a sweet flavour with an extra peppery punch.
Nutmeg gives a lengthy finish, although not necessarily a nutty one. It has a slight warmth on the palate, yet the taste is earthy and a little bit sweet.
Liquorice has a long-lasting, sweet and woody flavour. Liquorice neutralises any bitterness that might come from other botanicals, bringing out the best in them. It is similar to anise, but without the menthol.
Cumin is rich in essential oils, giving a distinct warmth and earthiness.
Cloves are aromatic with rich floral and herbal notes.
Both green and black cardamom can be used. Both are slightly sweet, but green is strong and intensely aromatic, and it is also one of the most expensive spices in the world. The black cardamom has a smoky flavour but is not so bitter.
Grains of Paradise have a peppery flavour profile.
Pink peppercorn is spicy, but when used in gin it is not overly hot. The light spiciness of pink pepper works nicely together with sweeter botanicals.
Black peppercorns provide spicy warmth and add that lovely peppery finish to many spiced gins.
Ginger root brings warmth, sweetness and a hint of citrus.
Cascarilla bark is a warming and bitter botanical and quite a unique one too. More commonly, it can be found in many Italian bitters and vermouths.
Szechuan peppers are earthy and smoky, adding rich spiciness and warmth to any gin.
Frankincense has an intense woody, peppery and spicy flavour profile with a hint of citrus.
Cubeb has a taste that matches both allspice and black pepper.
Other spices include vanilla, curry leaves, caraway, mace, allspice, dill seeds, bay leaf, chipotle chilli, turmeric, myrrh….
Mixers for spiced gin
You can enhance the spiciness with flavoured tonic waters. Fever-Tree Aromatic tonic is made using vanilla, ginger, pimento berries, angostura bark and cardamom. It offers gentle spiciness together with citrus and vanilla sweetness. Vanilla complements a wide variety of spices beautifully. Alternatively, their clementine tonic has a delicate but lovely balance of sweet clementine and cinnamon. Use when you want to add a little sweetness to your G&T. Talking about vanilla, try Luscombe Drinks (one of my all-time favourite mixer ranges) Madagascar Vanilla Soda next time you make a spiced gin fizz.
Many ginger beers also work well with spicier gin, although I wouldn’t necessarily choose anything overly fiery, as these won’t allow the botanicals from the gin to shine. Franklin & Sons Mandarin Mixer with Ginger is a nice change for a classic ginger ale. Their range also includes a sparkling Cherry & Plum which is nice with botanicals such as cinnamon, black pepper and vanilla. Or simply use a plain premium tonic water and focus on the garnish instead.
How to garnish a spiced G&T
Most gin brands recommend garnishing their spiced gin with a juicy slice of orange. However, I find that if the flavour profile is sweeter, the orange can be a bit much. In which case I prefer a slice of pink grapefruit to freshen it up. Mandarin and blood orange are also flavours often paired with spiced gin.
A slice of ripe pear is nice with gins that have slightly Christmassy flavour profile. Fig complements many peppery gins (try with Ludlow Spiced Gin as fig pairs nicely with almonds). Strawberries match well with gins with a peppery finish. Other berries also work. Try gins made with cloves, ginger, black pepper and cinnamon with blackberries, and use blueberries with cardamom and nutmeg. Since I tried Pinkster Gin Winter Cocktail Jam, I’ve been loving raspberry flavours with winter spices and some citrus.
Be careful when using extra pink- or black peppercorns as garnish, these can disturb your senses a bit too much as the spice kick often remains on your tongue for quite some time. Chase GB G&T perfect serve is with a slice of fresh ginger. Cinnamon stick can also be used to bring extra sweetness and aroma, but I would also add some citrus with it for freshness. Even if it’s just a peel.
Makar Gin has unusual garnish recommendation, fresh green chillies. It really works and adds a nice gentle kick to your G&T. Mango usually pairs well with pink peppercorns and it always complements juniper.
Spiced gins lend themselves to Negroni and you see it recommended by pretty much most brands. Martinez works with many gins, as the vermouth can handle stronger spices. Even better if you can find an oak-aged spiced gin! Another classic is a Dry Martini, but I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy this with gins that have an extra peppery finish or strong cardamom notes.
Create a gin sour with flavoured syrup. You could enhance the spices using cinnamon, vanilla, ginger or chilli syrup. Or add fruits such as pear in together with the spices. These syrups can also be used in a Gin Hot Toddy with spiced gin.
Learn more on how to add sweetness into your drinks. The Essential Guide to Cocktail Sweeteners
Southside or a Strawberry & Basil Mash are improved by peppery gins. Clover Club and Bramble are other fruity cocktails easily paired with spiced gin.
Many fresh citrus juices, syrups and liqueurs pair well with spiced gins. Try blood orange, sweet or bitter oranges, pink grapefruit or mandarin. Even lemon and lime work with most.
It goes without saying that Red Snapper is an ideal recipe for gins with a spicy and warming flavour profile.
Spiced gins to try
Makar Gin, 43% ABV – The spices include black peppercorns, liquorice, coriander seeds, angelica and cassia bark. Lemon peel and coriander add a little citrus to the flavour profile.
Seven Crofts, 43% ABV – This gin has a long and warming finish from the pink peppercorns and cubeb. Check also their Fisherman’s Strength.
Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin, 40% ABV – This is a proper spice bomb. The botanicals list includes ginger, cumin, cardamom, coriander, black pepper and more. Don’t forget to check their European Edition (aromatic bitters), Far East Edition (Szechuan pepper) and Arabian Edition (black lemons). Their RTDs come in cute mini bottles.
Sacred Gin, 40% ABV – The botanicals list includes cardamom, nutmeg, liquorice and frankincense. They also have a Cardamom Gin (43.8%) and Coriander Gin (43.8%) for those who enjoy these botanicals more. They aren’t for everyone’s palate.
Chase GB Gin, 40% ABV – The base spirit is Chase potato vodka. The botanicals include cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger and liquorice. The outcome is a dry gin with a spicy flavour profile and refreshing citrus on the palate. Check the link above as the gin is currently on offer!
Copperhead The Gibson Edition, 40% ABV – As the name suggests, this gin was designed with Gibson Martinis in mind. The flavour profile is savoury and spicy. The botanicals include allspice, cassia, dill seeds, fennel, ginger, mace, cardamom pepper and more.
Pink Pepper Gin, 44% ABV – The key botanical here is obviously the pink peppercorn, but they also use cardamom, honey and vanilla.
Lind & Lime Gin, 44% ABV – Very dominant notes of pink peppercorns with some zesty citrus. Personally, I find the gin a bit one dimensional when mixed with tonic. For me it works better mixed in cocktails such as Singapore Sling, Red Snapper, Southside or even Bramble.
Palma Oak Aged Spiced Gin, 40.4% ABV – This stunning gin is aged in ex-wine barrels with added vanilla, cinnamon and cloves. Lovely notes of baking spice and dried fruit.
Hapusa Gin, 43% ABV – This vibrant Indian gin is made using spices such as cardamom, coriander seeds, ginger and turmeric. Local mango helps to balance these spices.
Stranger & Sons, 42.8% ABV – Another excellent spiced gin from India. Made using several local botanicals such as black pepper, mace, nutmeg and coriander.
Zealot’s Heart, 44% ABV – This juniper-forward gin is made with a wide array of botanicals, including grains of paradise, Szechuan peppercorns, Sansho peppercorns, allspice, coriander and mace. The flavour profile is more citrus and floral, however, with sweet spice lingering throughout.
Portobello Road Gin, 42% ABV – This one is more classic London Dry-style gin, but includes botanicals such as coriander, orris root, liquorice root, cassia bark and nutmeg.
McQueen Smokey Chilli Gin, 42% ABV – Made using chipotle and smoked chilli. They also have a new Five Chilli Gin (37.5% ABV). Both warming on the palate for sure.
Hrafn Gin Thought & Memory, 45% ABV – Fresh and juicy with a warming finish. Botanicals include mandarin peel, coriander, cubeb pepper, orris root and more.
Hrafn Gin Winter, 43% ABV – Similar to the above with added frankincense and myrrh.
Ludlow Spiced Gin, 42% ABV – The spice list includes ginger, nutmeg, caraway, cubeb, grains of paradise, liquorice and cassia. Almond and elderberries help to balance the spices.
Colombo Seven, 43.1% ABV – Based on a recipe from 70 years ago, it includes Sri Lankan cinnamon bark, curry leaves and ginger root.
Darnley’s Spiced Gin, 42.7% ABV – This is an earthy and spiced gin. The botanicals include cloves, grains of paradise, cinnamon, ginger, cassia and nutmeg.
Martin Miller’s Winterful, 40% ABV – Beautifully balanced notes of mandarin, cinnamon and cardamom.
Four Pillars Spiced Negroni Gin, 43.8% ABV – A gin designed with Negroni in mind. Made using Tasmanian pepperberry leaf, cinnamon, grains of paradise, blood orange and ginger.
Hayman’s Spiced Sloe Gin, 26.4% ABV – Hayman’s upgraded their sloe gin by adding some seasonal spices to it.
I’m sure I have forgotten some great spiced gins from the list – there simply is a wide range to choose from. It is good to remember that not all spiced gins have a super-spicy, aromatic or dry flavour profile. Many brands use a selection of floral botanicals or a range of citrus to lift up the overall taste. One of the first spiced gins I tried (a long time ago) had a strong cardamom flavour, which I found too intense and it put me off the flavour category until I realised there is much more to the spiced flavour range.
It also matters how you serve the gin. On its own, the flavour profile may not work for you, but once mixed with the right tonic and garnish, the notes are better balanced. Play around with different fruit and see what works for the gin in question and matches your palate.
Do you like spiced gins? How do you like to serve them?
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