Gin vs. Vodka: What you Need To Know

  1. Gin is great for simple cocktails
  2. Vodka is best served ice cold
  3. Either one makes a great martini
  4. Vodka is great for mixed drinks
  5. Gin can be dry or sweet

Photo credit: Uv Vodka

Photo credit: Uv Vodka

Vodka and gin are both grain-based spirits with a rich tradition of European distilling. Vodka is often associated with Russia; famous premium brands such as Stolichnaya, Russian Standard and Smirnoff were founded there. The Russians trace their vodka production all the way back to the late 9th century. Gin on the other hand is a relative newcomer.

The Dutch started production of a precursor to gin — geneverin the early 17th century as a medicinal spirit for ailments. In fact, a crude version of gin was given to British soldiers fighting in the 30 Years’ War to steel their spirits. If you’ve ever wondered where we get the term “Dutch courage,” now you know.

Gin vs. Vodka

A difference of taste

While both vodka and gin are clear, colorless spirits that can be made from a variety of grains, including barley, wheat and potatoes, they differ in their flavor profiles. Vodka is virtually neutral and tasteless, while gin often has distinctive, herbal notes. So what accounts for the difference in flavor? Vodka is essentially pure alcohol mixed with water, which lends itself to more of an unfettered, clean finish. Original dry gin uses eight botanicals to achieve a unique, juniper-laden flavor.

Photo provided by Atlas in Nantucket.

In gin, a neutral grain alcohol is distilled with natural flavorings like cinnamon, orange peel and licorice, along with juniper. Brands such as Bluecoat in Philadelphia use a mix of, among other things, natural coriander seeds and angelica root. Where gin impresses with flavor, vodka relies on its mouthfeel and purity to really shine.  A good vodka should be soft and smooth, never harsh or burning. All good gins should taste balanced but can range anywhere from citrusy and spiced to soft and floral.

Check out a few more key differences between vodka and gin, so the next time you’re in the mood for a stiff drink, you’ll know exactly which spirit to reach for:


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