Gin and vodka might just be the two most popular spirits in the world. Any liquor store you go to, you’re sure to find the shelves packed with different variations of gin and vodka.
Gin is known for its pine and herbal flavors, while vodka is famous for its odorless, tasteless profile. They are both very distinct drinks, but they also share a lot of similarities.
For one, both spirits are relatively strong. Expect a serious buzz when sipping on either of these drinks, as both spirits usually hover around the 40% ABV mark. They can be higher or lower than this value but usually contain about this much alcohol.
The two drinks are even substitutes for each other in cocktails like the martini or gin and tonic. Without the proper knowledge, it’s easy to mistake these two spirits for each other.
Some people think of gin as flavored vodka. This is a drastic oversimplification. If you’re interested in learning more about the differences between gin and vodka, continue reading below with Saucey.
What is gin?
The main ingredient that distinguishes gin from vodka is juniper. Most of the flavor from gin actually comes from this berry. In fact, the federal government classifies gin as “spirits with a main characteristic flavor derived from juniper berries produced by distillation or mixing of spirits with juniper berries and other aromatics or extracts derived from these materials.”
The history of gin
The history of gin is kind of blurry, but the first records of the spirit date back to the mid-17th century. Apparently, this drink evolved from a Dutch, malted, medicinal drink known as “Genever.” This drink was also made from juniper berries and served as the inspiration behind gin.
Gin has always been popular in the Netherlands. To this day, it is still one of the country’s most consumed drinks.
This spirit really grew in relevance in the early 1700s when the British government loosened restrictions on producing gin and began placing heavy taxes on all imported spirits. This change in law led to a massive, nationwide movement in creating gin, introducing several new variations to the market. This movement is known as “the Gin Craze.”
Though the Gin Craze helped make gin into what it is today, it also led to significant social strife and alcohol-related deaths in the country. This duress didn’t cease until the implementation of the 1751 Gin Act.
Gin brands and styles to keep in mind
Today, there are four main styles of gin: London Dry, Old Tom Gin, Plymouth Gin, and American Gin. The most prominent gin brands include Beefeater, Tanqueray, and Bombay Sapphire.
What is vodka?
Vodka is the most consumed liquor in the United States. And it’s not even close. This Russian spirit has been America’s most consumed liquor every single year since the 1970s. Americans drink nearly 157 million gallons of vodka annually.
This spirit actually has a history that dates back to the early 1400s, though. Its origins can be traced to Eastern Europe. “vodka” comes from a modified version of the Slavic term, “voda,” which translates to water.
What is vodka made of?
What most people don’t know is that vodka is made primarily of ethanol and water. Yes, vodka can include many ingredients, but this is the base of every glass of vodka.
Vodka can be made from nearly anything, including corn, rye, wheat, potatoes, or beets. It is made by distilling any starch or sugary grains.
With how diverse the vodka ingredients can get, it is easier to identify the drink for what it isn’t, rather than what it is. For instance, the U.S. government classifies it as “any neutral spirits distilled or treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.”
So what about flavored vodka? Well, the flavor or aroma in your vodka is added after the distillation process. In its rawest form, vodka is completely tasteless and scentless.
Vodka brands to keep in mind
Some of the most prevalent vodka brands today include Grey Goose, Absolut, Smirnoff, and Ciroc. If you’ve ever had a shot of vodka, it was likely from one of these brands.
Much of the American vodka imports come from a region in Eastern Europe called the “Vodka Belt.” The Vodka Belt includes Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Poland, and Ukraine. This is where the spirit originated from, and most of the world’s vodka is still produced in this area.
Gin vs. vodka: how they taste
In terms of appearance, these two spirits are very similar. Both gin and vodka are colorless. The liquids are pretty much transparent. But when it comes to their tastes and aromas, they are vastly different.
What does gin taste like?
Since gin is made from juniper, you can expect a very piney and biting taste. The taste can be compared to tonic water, which is often paired with gin. Overall, gin is sharp and acidic.
Some finer bottles of gin contain hints of olive, coriander, and licorice root. The taste also varies depending on what kind of gin you’re drinking. For example, with London Dry, you’ll taste coriander, the second most used ingredient in the spirit. This ingredient gives the drink a bit of a citrusy spice.
Plymouth Gin is very similar to London Dry except with a floral, orangey twist. The herbs in this variation really overpower the flavor of the juniper. If you’re not a huge fan of juniper or you’re looking for a fruitier flavor, this may be the gin for you.
Old Tom Gin’s flavor is developed through aging in barrels and the addition of sweeteners like sugar, honey, or anise. As you can imagine, it is sweeter than a traditional gin.
And lastly, American Gin can be described as a wet version of London Dry, featuring bursts of floral and fruity notes.
What does vodka taste like?
On the other hand, vodka is pretty much tasteless. Vodka can use flavoring or sweeteners like pineapple or mango, but its base will always be flavorless. Cheap, low-quality vodkas can actually taste like nail polish and cause a burning sensation in the throat.
Gin vs. vodka: how they’re made
Considering that they have different tastes and use different ingredients, it stands to reason that gin and vodka would be made slightly differently.
How vodka is made
The first step in producing vodka is fermenting the starch or grain. Then, the mixture has to be distilled to increase its alcohol content.
The fermentation process results in a product with about 16% ABV – obviously much lower than desired. To combat this issue, the product is distilled or heated up in a container called a still.
Alcohol boils at a lower heat than water, so collecting the evaporated alcohol and separating it from the water is easy. The product can reach its desired ABV through this process, usually up to 30 or 40%.
How gin is made
In contrast, gin can be produced in a variety of ways. The first step is always steeping.
Steeping is a process used to extract flavor from certain foods by soaking it in a liquid. Juniper berries are typically left in a container of ethanol for 48 hours before being purified. Then, it is distilled, redistilled, or compounded.
When it’s distilled, the mash and the juniper are purified together. When being redistilled, the juniper is added when a neutral spirit is redistilled. And when it’s compounded, the neutral base spirit is added with the juniper.
After being purified, the essential oils and aromas extracted from the food are carried by vapor and condensed at the top. When the product is condensed back into a liquid, these oils and aromas will be infused into the product.
Gin vs. vodka: how they’re served
For the best results, vodka should be served chilled. When it’s very cold, it hits even harder. Gin can also be consumed chilled. However, it also works fine at room temperature. Either way, its aromatic flavors will shine.
Both of these spirits are great for cocktails. Vodka, in particular though, is an extremely common component of mixed drinks.
You can find vodka in the Bloody Mary, Screwdriver, Sex on the Beach, Moscow Mule, White Russian, Black Russian, and many more. It can also be mixed with soda water for a simple, low-cal cocktail.
For gin, its flavors really come alive when blended with simple flavors, like in a gin and tonic. All you need is that hint of quinine and citrus to make its flavors gin pop. Other popular cocktails that use gin include Ramos Gin Fizz, Martinez, Gin Rickey, Red Snapper, Tom Collins, White Lady, Hanky Panky, Clover Club, and more.
These two spirits have been enjoyed by generations of people and by countless different cultures. Without a doubt, gin and vodka will always hold a special place in the hearts of spirit fans.
No matter which one you choose, you’re in good hands. Both drinks have centuries of history behind them. And both drinks pack a serious punch.
For a wide selection of gins and vodkas delivered straight to your door, visit Saucey. We offer a variety of spirits, as well as beers and wines. For reliable, affordable alcohol delivery, no one is more reliable than us.