Which Gin Makes the Best Martini? A Blind Taste Test.

Names can be misleading. Take me for example. Ginny Tonic was my stage name when I was helping out at a cabaret, and I still use it when go-go dancing with Dr. Bombay and the Atomic Bachelor Pad but I have never actually been much of a gin drinker. Perhaps because my first-ever hangover was inflicted after a night of heavy gin and tonic consumption, I’ve never warmed to the taste of gin. In the past, it has struck me as harsh and overly reminiscent of cleaning products. But as we shall learn here, past impressions can be misleading as well.

Photo by Alexa Clark

On a bit of a whim, I recently decided to give gin another chance. After all, my tastes had changed considerably in the past ten years, and I am much more used to drinking spirits.  Perhaps a top-shelf gin would help me to finally appreciate a good martini, “the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.” So I picked Bombay Sapphire because I liked the bottle, made myself a martini, and to my surprise I really enjoyed it. It tasted clean and refreshing and not at all the gag-inducing beverage I remembered from trying one once in college. I was a convert. So much so that my friends and I quickly got through that bottle and then another over the next few weeks. But since this was the first brand of gin that we had tried, we decided that we had to do a taste testing Charlie Tonic-style.

Blind Tasting Gin for Martinis

Charlie was surprisingly eager to get into a blindfold.

In Episode 49, Charlie and I procured four different gins and a blindfold. All that was left was for Charlie to suit up and for me to start mixing. I made four martinis with the following four gins: Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, New Amsterdam, and Hendrick’s. The prices range from about $13 for the cheapest (New Amsterdam) to $33 for the most expensive (Hendrick’s).

Blind tasting 4 gins for a Martini

I fully expected a more expensive gin to come out on top and that at least one of the cheaper brands would prove to be disgusting. It turns out price can be misleading as well. To start with, all the gins made a decent martini.

Bombay Sapphire & Tanqueray

The Bombay Sapphire did not do as well I as I would have expected in comparison to the other gins. Both the Sapphire and the Tanqueray had a milder flavor that let the vermouth come through, perhaps a bit too strongly.

Hendrick’s Gin

Hendrick’s on the other hand, was very strongly flavored, almost perfumey. The flavors of rose and cucumber in addition to the traditional juniper seemed almost to overwhelm, and I don’t think these sweet flavors complimented the olive very well at all. Charlie really liked the Hendricks, but I found it to be a bit much. Perhaps I should have stuck to enjoying it over ice with a slice of cucumber as the bottle suggests.

Best Gin for a Martini? New Amsterdam!

The real surprise was the New Amsterdam. This American-made gin was smooth with a delicious citrus flavor that made it stand out from the rest. Of course, the juniper was still there but it was more subtle and played well with the lemon flavoring. I have since learned that New Amsterdam has a reputation for winning over non-gin drinks for just this reason. It was by far my favorite martini of the group and considering the price; I can tell you now that it will be the go-to gin for all my martini needs in the future.

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