Whether you like it in a martini or just straight up, every home bar needs a good gin or two. Perhaps more than any other classic spirit, gins differ significantly since each possesses a unique identity all its own, thanks to each recipe's different combination of botanicals. Needless to say, exploring them can be an interesting and worthwhile process.
Thankfully, it doesn't need to be an expensive one. Right now, there are many quality offerings on the market that taste like they cost far more than they actually do. If you want to branch out with gin but don't want to spend too much money, give these 10 bottles a shot. Just kidding. Sip them slowly.
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1. Citadelle Gin
Price:$24.99 19 botanicals in the recipe. Double Gold Medal at the 2012 San Francisco Spirits Competition. Gold Medal at the 2012 International Wine and Spirits Competition. Named Grand Gin Master 2012 by The Spirit Business. Finding a gin this affordable with bragging rights like these is no easy feat, and giving this small-batch gin a try is a risk-free investment. It's pretty much guaranteed it'll be worth the money.
2. SW4 London Dry Gin
Price:$29.99 If you're seeking a strong example of a traditional London gin, SW4 London Dry Gin will do just the trick. Boasting layers of taste thanks to its recipe of 12 botanicals, this small-batch bottle definitely stands on its own, but the brand's centuries of experience ensure that it fits right in with its peers.
3. Valentine Liberator Gin
Price:$32.99 While its name pays tribute to the WWII bomber that was built in Detroit, Valentine Liberator Gin is earning a remarkable reputation all its own by bombing the mouths of everyone who tastes it with deliciousness. At the American Distilling Institute's 7th Annual Judging of Craft Spirits, it was awarded the Gold Medal and the titles of "Best in Class" and "Best in Show." In 2013, the Beverage Testing Institute gave it a score of 90 points. It took home a Gold Medal from the International Craft Spirits Awards. Get your hands on some before everyone else realizes what they've been missing.
4. Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin
Price:$29.99 Looking for a quality NYC gin without the NYC price tag? Brooklyn-based Greenhook Ginsmiths, as the name suggests, focuses on one spirit in particular, and its American Dry is proof that their efforts have paid off. Earning the acclaim of The Wall Street Journal and an "Outstanding" from Tasting Panel Magazine, this gin is a reminder that there's always room for new bottles on the shelf.
5. Tanqueray No. Ten
Price:$34.00 Tanqueray may be a predictable entry in any discussion of gin, but if you're merely familiar with the London Dry variety, it's time to turn your attention to Tanqueray No. Ten. For a remarkably fair price, you can enjoy the only white spirit to make its way into the Hall of Fame of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It's a citrus-heavy gin that's especially appealing during the summer months and works particularly well in fruit-centric drinks.
6. North Shore Distiller's Gin No. 6
Price: $27.99 It's caught the attention of The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and the Beverage Testing Institute, which awarded it an "Exceptional" rating. Its distillers recommend using it as a Martini gin, but no matter how you choose to enjoy it, you'll probably be satisfied. Finding a gin this well-received without shelling out an absurd amount of cash is pretty awesome.
7. Ransom Old Tom Gin
Price:$36.99 Gin fans trying to find a spirit that captures the qualities of 19th century cocktails will be more than happy with Ransom Old Tom Gin. Accolades aside—Gold Medal and "Best in Category" at the San Diego Spirits festival, Gold Medal at the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 93 points from the Beverage Testing Institute, just to name a few—they'll be most pleased with the fact that the recipe involved much input from historian David Wondrich, who made sure the gin authentically captured the essence of a particular time period. For its price, that's a rare find. It's also cool because it isn't clear. Trick your friends!
8. Beefeater 24
Price:$33.99 You're likely already familiar with Beefeater Gin, but this award-winning entry may take you by surprise. Made with 12 botanicals and perfectly suited for a wide range of cocktails, it's a quality product that can work reliably in just about any of your gin cocktail recipes.
9. Tuthilltown Half Moon Orchard Gin
Price:$37.00 The team at Tuthilltown Spirits is committed to capturing the character of New York's Hudson Valley region in all of its offerings. Case in point: its Half Moon Orchard Gin, named after the ship which carried Henry Hudson and his crew upriver, relies on local wheat and apples for its base. The result is a distinctly American gin that's unique enough to catch your attention, but traditional enough to work well in a variety of cocktails.
10. St. George Dry Rye Gin
Price:$36.99 Weaning yourself off whiskey in order to explore what gin has to offer? You can't do any better than St. George Dry Rye Gin. Its rye base means it maintains that whiskey kick while remaining perfectly suited for gin cocktails. It's already received acclaim from The Washington Post, Playboy, GQ, and Esquire. Give it a shot if you're feeling a little adventurous.
Joe Olivetois a staff writer at Supercompressor, and is also on his way to the liquor store. Follow him on Twitter.