Since the advent of the Coffey still in 1832—which paved the way for “dry” (unsweetened), actually palatable gin—distillers in London and around the world have been perfecting the juniper-forward London Dry style of gin. With a couple hundred years of practice, they’ve turned out some fine beverages, appropriate for sipping in cocktails, over ice or even neat—but some are just that much better than others. Here are the best London Dry gins.
Beefeater isn’t the fanciest gin (despite the fancy regalia of its mascot). It isn’t the most expensive or hippest either. But it’s hard to get much better than this time-tested classic. Beefeater concentrates on the basic London Dry botanicals—juniper, citrus, coriander, licorice root, and so on—and delivers every time.
Along with Beefeater, Tanqueray is a standby for Martinis and G&Ts, thanks to the subtle way the distillers make juniper really shine. More floral than piney, more buttery than peppery, the juniper in Tanqueray creates a soft base for the rest of the botanicals. Angelica root and licorice add an earthy spice to the mid-palate, which gives way to a long, dry and balanced finish.
Bombay is one of the more recognizable bottles in the premium gin category, making it an easy call for sophisticats. But distillers also take a lighter hand on the juniper, creating a smooth, elegant flavor good for anyone just dipping their toes into gin (or even those who profess to hate gin). Not to mention the bottle looks absolutely beautiful on a home bar.
We love Sipsmith’s entire range, from the juniper overdrive in V.J.O.P. to the intensely fruity sloe gin, but their flagship London Dry holds its own. The distillers bring their intense, purist dedication to the most classic of styles, creating a thoroughly satisfying dry gin with touches of honeyed sweetness, orange marmalade, yeast and tingling citrus zest. Juniper spice lingers on your tongue after every sip, and the gin is especially heavenly on ice.
The lads over at Portobello Star, a gin mecca in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood, know a thing or two about London Drys, seeing as how they educate visitors every day at their esteemed Ginstitute. Putting their botanicals where their mouths are, the crew created this classic-style gin. With a slim list of botanicals (just juniper berries, lemon peel, bitter orange peel, coriander seeds, orris root, angelica root, cassia bark, licorice and nutmeg), this bottling shows how to do London Dry right. It’s clean, fresh and easy to drink in a cocktail or simply over ice.
Martin Miller’s has generated a devoted fan base with their flagship London Dry bottling, which is clean, soft and citrusy at 40-percent ABV. But we especially love this slightly higher-proof version, which heats things up at a still-quite-quaffable 45 percent. Not quite a Navy Strength gin, not quite a typical London Dry, the Westbourne Strength Gin provides cocktails with Martin Miller’s signature citrusy, floral style but adds just a touch more chutzpah.
Pretty much everyone seems to love Elephant Gin for one reason or another—the first reason being that it’s an awesome gin and the other being that every bottle contributes to the preservation of endangered elephants in Africa. A German-made gin inspired by the flavors of Africa is a pretty unlikely candidate for best London Dry in the world, but Elephant Gin can go toe to toe with the best British bottlings. While juniper leads, particular botanicals like baobab fruit, buchu plant, African wormwood, lion’s tail and devil’s claw give the gin a unique fruity and piney flavor, along with the buttery sweetness of marzipan and clear notes of blackcurrant, elderflower and ginger.