May 30, 2020

How to make gin!

Making gin is actually so easy I made it during lockdown!

How did you spend the nearly six weeks of Level 4 lockdown New Zealand?

I also got into a frantic cleaning spree with my family via WhatsApp all showcasing our feats which saw my fridge get thoroughly cleaned, my oven (which hadn’t been cleaned ever!), even my lightshades got a wipe down. Fortunately that petered out about week two. But the baking was another trap – and being only two of us in our bubble, it was definitely not good. I only baked three times.

I also wrote a children’s book for 2-6 year olds as a fun rhyming time capsule to remind us all what was going on during the pandemic of 2020. I initially wrote it for download, but then people asked for printed copies, so as I type they are being printed and some have started buying them on pre-sale for NZ$19.95.

But another little foray I tried was making gin. And it was dead easy!

Gin in crystal decanter
My mission is to fill these decanters!

Back story: My husband and I did a whiskey tasting in Fort Worth Texas a couple of years ago, and one of the things I learned was that pretty much all spirits start as a white spirit: aka vodka.

So to make homemade gin you start with vodka – because I did not distill my own alcohol. That would involve a distillery and the appropriate licenses. But very simply, to convert vodka to gin you just add juniper berries. The other tastes are up to you.

There are loads of recipes online for making gin, and I fiddled about for a few weeks brewing some concoctions.

Here are two gin recipes that I have made and like so far. You could also halve the recipe and make 500ml of both from one bottle of vodka.

Line up of gins
Comparing 2 bought gins against my juniper infused vodka to see if it is ready

How to make Autumnal Mulled Gin

I called it Autumnal for the autumn/winter fruits I added, but when I tasted it, it had a kind of mulled taste thanks to the cinnamon stick.

Ingredients

1L vodka
4 tbs juniper berries
1 apple
1 pear
1 feijoa skins (dried in oven)
1 cinnamon stick

You’ll also need a sieve or strainer and a large jar (washed and sterilised with boiling water) with a lid and then a pretty bottle or decanter to serve in.

Start with 1 litre of vodka, poured into your glass jar (so you can get the fruits in and out easily). I used 37.5% proof vodka, which is actually less alcohol than most gins, so next time I will buy a higher alcohol content vodka as you don’t get the same heat and kick.

But gin is ALL about the juniper! I love the ginny taste and smell of juniper berries (they are also used in meat stews – go figure), so while some recipes just called for 2 tablespoons, I found 4 tablespoons (4 packets of Mrs Rogers juniper berries – you’ll find them in the herbs and spices aisle for about $2 per packet) gave the best flavour. Pour them in, give it a stir and let these infuse in the vodka for 24-48 hours in a dark cupboard. It will change the colour to a yellowy tinge but that’s all part of the home brew experience!

Taste your gin on a teaspoon or a little shot glass after 24 hours and see if you are happy with the juniper taste. If not, leave it for another 12-24 hours and taste again. And yes you need to taste it neat!

Gin tasting
Tasting and testing!

Once that flavour is right, it’s time to add your fruits and any botanicals. I cut an apple into quarters and a pear into pieces (took out the pips but left skins on) and put them in the jar for three days. On day two I dried my feijoa skin in the oven and dropped it in. Note: it’s not a big deal, you can leave them out (especially if out of season).

On day four taste again. I then added a cinnamon stick for 24 hours. This gives the “mulled” flavour and interestingly, when you add tonic to drink your gin with friends, you’ll just get a hint of cinnamon after you have swallowed.

Pour your Autumnal Mulled Gin into a cute decanter and wow your friends!

Gin on bench in jar
Autumnal gin on left ready to decant, Zesty gin on right

How to make Zesty Gin

This is the simplest and probably the most recognisable gin flavour for regular gin drinkers who like a slice of lemon.

Ingredients

1L vodka
4 tbs juniper berries
1 lemon
1 orange

As above, pour your vodka into a sterilised glass jar and add juniper berries to the vodka for 24-48 hours, tasting on both days until you are happy with the taste. Once you are happy, strain the gin through a sieve into a large glass bowl to remove the berries, then pour back into the jar.

Peel the skin from the citrus without the white pith as much as you can. Dry them in the oven at about 50˚C for half an hour or a bit longer. If there is still white pith, scrape it off with a blunt knife. It is a very bitter taste.

Drop your skins into the juniper infused vodka in the jar (the reason for the jar is so you can strain out the fruits) and let it infuse for another 24-48 hours. Taste neat to see if you’d like another day or not with the citrus in.

Strain into a glass bowl with a spout to make it easy to pour into a glass decanter or back into your original vodka bottle – with a new homemade label of course!

About Megan Singleton

Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

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