Gin Styles & Cocktails

Botanicals Make Interesting Flavours

Has there ever been a better time to be a gin drinker? A gin renaissance has unfolded over the past few years and in Alberta we are truly reaping the benefits. Thanks to our privatized market with no barriers to entry, we have access to many examples of this unique and distinctive spirit. On there are currently 132 types of gin available – including over a dozen homegrown options distilled in Alberta.  Taking advantage of this growth and introducing your customers to new gins is an excellent way to add value to your customer experience.

A Brief History

Gin was first crafted in the Netherlands, and its name is derived from the Dutch word ”Jenever”, meaning “juniper”, which is this spirit’s distinguishing ingredient and flavour. Gin’s success in England started with the Thirty Years’ War in 1618, when soldiers were given a measure of “Dutch Courage” to see them through the campaign, and it became a popular choice in the country after the succession of William of Orange to the throne in 1689. However, it was shortly to become the scourge of London, since by 1720, 12 million litres were distilled in a city of 600,000 people. That’s more than half a litre per week for every man, woman and child! It was famously immortalized in William Hogarth’s “Gin Lane” print of 1751. Fortunately, consumption was curbed after the Gin Act of the same year, and today gin is an entirely different story, with fantastic examples produced in every corner of the globe.

Styles of Gin

In the simplest sense, gin is nothing more than flavoured vodka. Technically, gin is defined as an alcoholic beverage of at least 40% abv that possesses the signature flavour of juniper berries. While the juniper character predominates, there is a wide range of additional botanicals and flavourings used to add complexity to the product – such as coriander, citrus peel, orris root, angelica, licorice and dozens more.  The lowest quality is known as gin or compound gin, where flavours are simply added to the neutral spirit. If the base spirit is redistilled with botanicals and juniper, then it is known as a distilled gin. London Dry is an example of a distilled gin that utilizes natural plant and botanical ingredients with no sweeteners or colourants. The base spirit can come from a range of sources; barley, corn, potato, grapes and molasses are all commonly used.

These relatively loose parameters mean that there is quite a lot of room for experimentation, and the gin category is one of the most diverse of all spirits. We are fortunate to have access to many excellent gins distilled right here in Alberta in addition to gins from across the country and around the world.

There are classic London dry styles, homegrown from local Alberta grain and redistilled with a range of sometimes secret botanicals. Exotic spices, floral notes and local fruit and botanicals, such as rosehip and Saskatoon berries, complement gin’s classic juniper characteristics. The crisp and precise flavour profile of a London dry gin helps it to work well in cocktails and makes for an ideal base spirit. While it is not always ideal to use the sweeter gins in more delicate cocktails, London dry styles do not overpower the complexity of many cocktail ingredients.

Sweeter style gins, which are by no means sweet like port or sweet vermouth, have a weight and richness that make them ideal for aperitifs or a simple and refreshing cocktail. Elderflower is often infused into these sweeter gins.

A rapidly growing style that we are now seeing frequently is barrel-aged gin. After the gin is made, it is placed in charred oak barrels–often American ex-bourbon barrels–to add richness, roundness and finesse. The oak flavours are not obvious or dominant, but rather distinctive with baking spice characteristics. There are a number of these gins produced by distilleries across the province. They add extra complexity and intensity to cocktails like negronis.

Another showcase for the vast variety of gin styles is the very unique apple cider gin made from water recovered from the production of iced apple cider. This apple water gives the product an unusually delicate fruitiness with white spruce and lichen. There is a lot of room for experimentation with this gin, and it would add extra complexity to a number of cocktails!

Gin is one of the most classic spirits, and most customers will have a specific idea of what they are looking for. Here is a great opportunity to introduce them to the breadth of styles now available and guide them to find a new favourite alternative while still staying true to the spirit of gin!

Cocktail ideas

Wishbone’s Beautiful British Columbia


Find this new classic at Wishbone restaurant in Edmonton or recreate it yourself at home. While this utilizes Okanagan Valley sparkling wine, any dry bubbly would work with the delicate flavours of this classic London dry style gin made for cocktails!

1.5 oz Victoria Gin

.75 oz Salt Spring Island Lavender Syrup

.5 Fresh Lime Juice

3oz Haywire’s “The Bub”

Ice & Lime Wheel Garnish


Fiore Negroni


Vivo Ristorante Downtown in Edmonton has a bright and light negroni with local Alberta gin distilled from wild seaberry.

1 oz Strathcona Gin

3/4 oz Aperol

3/4 oz Lillet

Squeeze from 1/4 grapefruit

Stir all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into rocks glass with large ice cube. Garnish with grapefruit twist ( grapefruit peel rose optional).