It can get expensive to build and maintain a fully-stocked bar because there are certain things you should have on hand all the time to make a variety of classic mixed drinks. One of the things you need to keep on your bar cart is a good gin. There are so many great distillers making small-batch and craft gin, and you could shell out big bucks for one of those. But the best gin isn't always expensive gin. Here's what you need to know to find the best cheap gin for your bar.
Gin has a reputation for being a strong-tasting liquor; the taste comes from the juniper berries that are required for the distilling process (if it doesn't use juniper berries in the distillation process, it's basically vodka). If you're not a fan of gin, it might be because you've been drinking gin that tastes like a pine forest and not everyone likes that distinct taste.
There are four types of gin, with a range of flavors from juniper-forward to spicy to sweet and citrusy.
London Dry gin: Classic London Dry gin is what most people think of as the traditional piney flavor profile for gin. The number of flavors, coloring and sugar distillers are allowed to use for London Dry gins is restricted.
Plymouth gin: Must be produced in Plymouth, England to earn the name. It's a little sweeter than London Dry.
Navy Strength gin: Navy Strength is less about a difference in taste and more about proof. Navy Strength gin is 57 percent ABV or roughly 110 proof, which is higher than most gins (to be called gin, it must be at least 40% ABV or 80 proof).
Old Tom gin: If you're not a gin fan, Old Tom is the type of gin you should try. It's sweeter and doesn't have as strong a botanical flavor.
You can make most classic gin cocktails like the negroni, gin and tonic, Tom Collins, and gin martini (stirred, not shaken, please, no matter what James Bond says), with any of the four types of gin. In fact, it's fun to play around with the gin to change the flavor profile of the drink, going more fruity or keeping it crisp.
And many distilleries are starting to experiment with their gins, trying different botanicals to create different flavors and even colors (yes, pink gin is a thing). But it's mostly the bigger distilleries that are going to have the best cheap gin. And even if you're not a big gin drinker, there are a few gin distilleries you're probably familiar with on our best cheap gin list.
The 10 Best Cheap Gins You Can Buy
Prices vary around the country, so these prices are on average and for a 750 ml bottle.
Gordon's London Dry
The best cheap gin is what you want for mixed drinks, especially if most of the drink's flavor is coming from juices or other strong mixers. For those drinks, you can't go wrong with Gordon's on taste or price. You can get a bottle for around $12.
Seagram's Extra Dry
Seagram's is a bar standard for a reason. It's easy to find and the price is a good value. It's good for a variety of gin-based mixed drinks. You can get a bottle for around $12.
New Amsterdam Stratusphere London Dry
New Amsterdam is a fairly new distillery (it opened in 2007). It's an excellent gin for people who don't like gin with a sweeter, more citrus-forward taste. You can get a bottle for around $15.
Beefeater gin is another gin staple and another one that's easy for gin beginners to like. It's a nice mix of spicy and sweet, with hints of lemon peel. It's good in any martini recipe. You can get a bottle for around $20.
Bombay Sapphire is an excellent starter gin. It has a mild taste with licorice and citrus notes, so it's easy to drink and mixes well in cocktails. You can get a bottle for around for $24.
Smooth, but with a spicy finish, try this gin in a martini with a really good vermouth. You can get a bottle for around $25.
Okay, we'd be fans of Aviation just for their ads, but the gin is really good, too. It has a smooth citrus and spice taste, without being too junipery. You can get a bottle for around $26.
If you're willing to spend a bit more, here are three of the best cheap gins for $30-$40 price range.
Because you can use all sorts of botanicals to flavor gin (as long as it's not London Dry and as long as at least one of the botanicals is juniper berries), some gin brands add more in the way of floral notes. This Scottish gin adds rose petals and cucumber to its botanical blend for a distinctive taste. You can get a bottle for around $33.
Tanqueray has a balanced citrus-heavy flavor; the distiller uses lemons, oranges and grapefruit in its botanical mix. Pair the gin with dry vermouth in a 5:1 ratio for a classic Dry Martini. You can get a bottle for around $40.
A small-batch gin, Sipsmith London Dry is has a clean juniper taste mixed with lemon peel and cracked black pepper. It's a favorite of both home and professional mixologists. Try this gin in a gin and tonic. You can get a bottle for around $40.
Editors Note: This article was originally published on December 24, 2020.