For a social drinker, gin and vodka can be difficult to tell apart since they’re both clear liquids interchangeable in cocktail recipes.
Sure, gin goes better with fizzy drinks while vodka tastes better with fruit juices. But at their core, what actually makes gin different from vodka?
And most importantly, which one is better in certain circumstances?
This quick guide to gin vs vodka will answer all these questions and more. From their origins, ingredients, taste, and alcohol content, we’ve got it all covered for you!
As an added bonus, we’ve also compiled a list of gin and vodka cocktail recipes to help you spice up your parties.
The #1 Difference Between Gin and Vodka
At first glance, gin and vodka may look similar, but their biggest difference lies in their ingredients.
They’re both distilled from grains, but gin contains a variety of botanicals that are dominant with the taste and smell of juniper berries. While vodka may not have a distinct taste, it’s often infused with a variety of flavors, including grapefruit, lemon, or orange.
Although vodka is best enjoyed straight and ice cold, you can also use it as a substitute for gin in cocktail recipes due to its neutral taste.
What Is Gin?
Gin is a type of distilled spirit that contains juniper berries and a blend of botanicals. It’s known for its crisp pine flavor with a hint of herbal and floral notes.
It’s believed that an early version of gin was available back in the 13th century. While some sources say Franciscus Sylvius, a Dutch physician, created the recipe in the 17th century for medicinal use.
Gin soon became popular in England when returning soldiers introduced their beverage of choice. But it wasn’t until the Dutch king, William of Orange, took the throne, that London became the gin capital.
Since everyone created their own formula, by the 18th century overconsumption of the beverage became a social issue.
Good thing laws and regulations were soon put in place, and that’s why the quality of gin is still preserved.
Now, there are over 180 types of gin available in the market, and regulations state that it should contain a minimum of 40% alcohol by volume (ABV) and have a predominant juniper flavor.
Is Gin Made From Vodka?
Since gin and vodka look similar and contain the same grain base, you might be asking the question: is gin vodka?
It may be easy to think that gin is just a flavored version of vodka, but they’re actually different spirits. Gin has a distinct taste and odor of juniper berries, while vodka remains tasteless and odorless.
They both also have slight differences in their distillation process, which we will discuss below.
How Is Gin Made?
Aside from flavor, the other factor that makes gin and vodka different from each other is their distillation process. Gin distillers may choose to use between 3 methods, while vodka distillers only use one.
So how is gin made vs vodka?
When making gin, distillers start by creating their base by mixing the grains with yeast and water. They then heat and stir the mixture to combine them well.
Once the base is ready, it’s then stored for 1-2 weeks to ferment. This breaks down its compounds to produce a natural alcohol, called ethyl alcohol.
Once the fermentation process is complete, they strain the liquid from the solids. They then distill the liquid once or twice to create a purer result. Depending on the brand or origin, gin distillers may choose to use steeping, vapor infusion, or vacuum distillation as a technique for distillation.
After collecting the liquid after distillation, they then dilute it with water until it reaches the desired alcohol content. Once they’re done, they bottle and seal the gin up so it’s ready for your enjoyment!
What Is Vodka?
Vodka is a type of distilled spirit that’s made from wheat and potatoes but now there are a few brands that use corn, whey, honey, or fruits as a base.
Traditional vodka normally is neutral and has no taste or odor, unless they’re flavored or use a nontraditional base.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of vodka, but it was highly popular in Russia and Poland in the 14th century. By the 15th century, vodka was in high demand and soon was soon distributed to Western Europe and the United States.
Now, it’s still one of the staple beverages in bar menus and cocktails all over the world. Similar to gin, a spirit is only considered vodka if it’s neutral and contains a minimum of 40% ABV.
How is vodka made?
Making vodka follows similar steps to making gin, except it only uses one technique of distillation process.
To start, vodka distillers create the base by mixing and heating the grains with water and yeast. They then ferment the base mixture for 1-2 weeks so it produces ethyl alcohol.
After the fermentation process, they strain the mixture and distill it heating and vaporizing. Vodka distillers may do this process three or more times to create a purer beverage. They may also choose to add botanicals at this stage to produce flavored vodka.
After collecting their product, some distillers may go the extra mile to filter their vodka so it has a smoother and cleaner mouthfeel. They then dilute the liquid with water until it achieves the desired alcohol content. Once they’re satisfied, they bottle and seal their product so they’re ready to sell.
3 Popular Vodka Cocktails
In a cocktail shaker, place a few ice cubes and pour 4 ounces tomato juice, 2 ounces vodka, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 dashes hot sauce, 2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce, and a pinch of celery salt. Shake gently until the shaker feels cold on the outside. Then, strain the cocktail into a tall glass with ice, and garnish with a celery stick.
In a copper mug, pour 1 ½ ounce of vodka, and ½ ounce of lime juice. Fill the mug with a handful of ice, and top it up with ginger beer. Stir the mixture a few times with a spoon or straw to make the drink cold, and garnish with a lime wedge and sprig of mint for a touch of freshness.
In a cocktail shaker, add some ice, 2 ounces of vodka, 1 ounce of cranberry juice, ¾ ounce of lime juice, and ¾ ounce of triple sec. Shake until the outside of the shaker feels cold. Strain the cocktail into a martini glass, and garnish with an orange twist.
3 Popular Gin Cocktails
Gin and Tonic
In a highball glass, add ice, 2 ounces of gin, and 4 ounces of tonic water. Stir gently with a spoon or straw, and garnish with a slice of lime.
In a cocktail shaker, add ice, 2 ounces of gin, and 1 ounce of dry vermouth. Shake until the container feels cold, and strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon peel twist or a skewer of 2-4 olives.
In a rocks glass, place a handful of ice, 1 ounce of gin, 1 ounce of Campari, and 1 ounce of sweet vermouth. Stir gently and garnish with an orange peel.
3 Drinks That Can Use Either Liquor
For a classic gimlet, add ice, 1 ½ ounces of gin, ½ ounce of lime juice, and ½ ounce of simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
For a vodka gimlet, add ice, 2 ounces of vodka, ¾ ounce of lime juice, and ½ ounce of simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Shake until chilled, pour into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lime wheel.
In a cocktail shaker, add ice, 2 ounces of vodka (reduce to 1 ½ ounces if using gin), ½ ounce of coffee liqueur, 1 ounce of espresso, and ½ ounce of simple syrup. Shake for 30 seconds to create a frothy foam. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with 3 coffee beans.
Rim your martini glass with a mixture of white sugar and lemon zest, and set aside in the fridge. In a cocktail shaker, add ice, 2 ounces of vodka or gin, ½ ounce of triple sec, and ½ ounce of simple sugar. Shake until the container feels cold. Pour into your chilled margarita glass and garnish with a lemon wheel or peel.
Is Gin Really That Different From Vodka?
To sum it up, gin and vodka may be interchangeable in cocktail recipes, but they’re two distinctly different spirits.
It may be difficult to tell from their clear appearance, but looking into their country of origin, ingredients, flavors, and distillation process tells a different story.
They’re both excellent beverages on their own, but mixing them into the proper cocktails can bring out their natural flavors.
If you want to learn more ways how to incorporate gin and vodka into your drinks, check out these cocktail recipes.