What Is London Dry Gin, Anyway?
There’s more to gin than a stuffing a bunch of herbs and spices into a bottle of vodka and waiting for them to infuse “botanical” flavor into the booze (a quick way to DIY a batch, in case you were wondering). Gin has been around for centuries, riding the crest of the British Empire to every corner of the Earth, and it’s the classic London Dry that remains the flagship style most of us know and throw in our tonic. While you might take the juniper-flavored spirit for granted at this point, you probably don’t know what exactly makes a gin a London Dry gin—or where that name comes from (seriously, London is so rainy and wet, the name makes no sense whatsoever). Here’s everything you need to know about the boozy botanical workhorse, London Dry gin.
The Gin is Dry, Not LondonAnyone who’s been to London in the winter—or the fall, or the spring, or the summer (when you might see a few sunny days if you’re lucky)—knows that the British capital can be a bit dreary and far from dry. And if the constant rain was enough to drive you to drink, imagine what it did during the Gin Craze back in the 17th century, when desperate Londoners first got their hands on the stuff and started distilling all sorts of dreck on horrible stills. Those early drinkers sweetened their barely potable ersatz gin with anything they could to suck it down.
Only with the advent of the Coffey still in 1832 were people able to distill quality, unsweetened gin, termed “dry” in contrast to the sickly sugared swill. Since most of these newfangled dry gin makers were in London—well, you do the math. These days, to meet the legal qualifications for London Dry gin, distillers can add no more than 0.1 grams of sugar per liter after distillation, and the gin must be distilled at 70 percent ABV or above (though it’s typically bottled at 40-50 percent), without artificial flavors or colors.