Gin: the liquor versatile enough to casually drink on a Tuesday evening and get downright smashed on the following Saturday night. As my favorite (liquid) vice, gin has been steady and wholesome throughout my college career.

Despite my peers belittling gin as a “grandmother's” drink, I maintain that gin is the most delicious, classy, and sophisticated alcohol a 20-something can drink. It’s got all the potency of absinthe without the regret of Fireball; college students underrate it simply because they’re not used to its depth or what it tastes like. 

I acquired a taste for gin because it was the only liquor my sister purchased while we lived together in college (thanks, Alex). What are sisters for except for developing one’s alcoholic preferences? According to Google Dictionary, gin is “a clear alcoholic spirit distilled from grain” – what a modest definition for such a complex beverage. So, what does gin taste like? Hopefully this article can answer that for you and convinces you to go out and try it. 

How Is Gin Made?

oak barrels, vineyard, Winery, wine barrels, wine
Amelia Hitchens

Gin is basically neutral alcohol (think vodka) infused with berries and spices. Most distilleries begin with a raw spirit (usually made off-premises) and combine that with juniper, coriander, lemon peel, and other natural ingredients. This mixture is then re-distilled a second time with water to lower the alcohol content and condensed to a liquid form. 

The key distinction between gin and a run-of-the-mill vodka is the inclusion of juniper. These small, blue berries (found at Amazon and Walmart) are what gives gin its distinct, pine tree flavor and aroma. I didn’t know gin was called a “Christmas liquor” until I did research for this article – I just assumed its flavor was refreshing and biting instead of holiday-esque.

What Does Gin Taste Like?

Mackenzie Patel

Exactly what does gin taste like? As I mentioned above, people often describe gin as being the liquid form of a pine tree – the needles and sticky cones condense into a glass bottle and voila, Christmas gin. However, gin tastes like rubbing alcohol mixed with fruit extract to me. Slightly sweet and intensely fresh, it reminds me of adult Sprite – although it leaves a biting residual flavor that Sprite could never compete with.

It also hints of caraway seeds and black licorice, which is probably a leftover association that I have with my absinthe from Italy. Especially when it’s mixed with diet tonic water, gin is the Queen of Nightcaps and leaves a put-together, cool tipsy for the drinker. I can also drink it straight from the flask and not feel like throwing up—the party definition of success.

How to Make Gin Taste Better

Maria Pinzon

Fun fact: gin and tonic was supposedly created to help fight off malaria. Instead of drinking quinine straight (the main ingredient of tonic water), gin was added to make the drink more palatable – and the famous gin and tonic was born. 

Tonic water is the #1 way to make gin taste better; the two components are similar and complement each other like curry spice and bratwurst. Diet tonic is key because the calories and sugar are lower.

If gin isn’t your cup of tea, other ways to heighten the taste include adding it to diet cranberry juice and Sprite. There’s also a slew of fancy gin cocktail recipes online, although the basic gin and tonic is the best way to enjoy the essence of gin without getting blitzed within minutes.

#SpoonTip: To make gin shots go down easier, chase them with water instead of soda or other fruit drinks. I usually do this, and it eases the burning without getting rid of the flavor.

A Moment of Silence For Gin's Goodness

Mackenzie Patel

One of my missions in college is to convince people that gin is a liquor worthy of flask-toting and pregame shenanigans. Students are so used to Natty Light, Keystone, and Smirnoff vodka that the profundity of a well-distilled gin escapes them.

Bombay SapphireBeefeaterSeagram'sTanqueray—all are gin brands worthy of late-night sips. The juniper elevates the raw liquor from bearable to enjoyable and makes connoisseurs out of frat party children. Mix it with some juice and you’re basically Snoop Dogg.