In bars, pubs, and homes across the world, an argument is raging over which drink is best, vodka or gin. And while the vodka versus gin battle ultimately comes down to personal taste, many people don’t quite know the intricacies of the differences between these two spirits and the best ways of enjoying these delightful beverages.
Gin is a classy drink that’s a great taste experience for folks of all backgrounds. Flavored with aromatic berries, it’s a drink that’s a perfect accompaniment to all manner of situations, from a peaceful afternoon tea to a nightcap at the end of a long summer’s day. Its delicate taste and surprising complexity will have you keen to try different varieties and sample the many delights of the gin world.
Vodka is a hard, versatile drink that, while almost flavorless, packs a serious punch, and boasts a character all of its own. Perfect for a night on the town, the heady kick of a good vodka is sure to get you buzzing and full of energy for a night on the town. Alternatively, use it as a hard alcohol base with a mixer for a sweet drink, or throw in some extra ingredients and create a delicious cocktail.
Gin and vodka start from the same simple base, with both drinks made by fermenting grain alcohol. And both emerge as clear, strong spirits, perfect for mixing cocktails. While there are a few similarities in the manufacturing, appearance, and viscosity of these beverages, there are some key differences that ultimately make them distinct and unique choices, each with their own quirks and special features.
Gin is made from grain alcohol, distilled with juniper berries. It’s the berries that give gin its natural flavor and odor. Vodka can be made from a variety of fermented ingredients and is primarily known as a potato-based drink. But plenty of other ingredients can be used as a base, with everything from corn and wheat, to molasses, rice, and soybeans used in production. As long as it’s got plenty of starch or sugar, practically any plant can be used.
Due to their different backgrounds, vodka and gin have very different tastes. Vodka is almost tasteless, with many vodka aficionados favoring this drink for its strong viscosity and mouth-numbing abilities. Meanwhile, gin has a more delicate, herbal taste, with a huge range of different varieties, as well as subtle undertones and aftertastes to set your palate buzzing.
Both have their own fans and it’s up to you to decide which drink, if any, you prefer. If you’re a fan of hard liquor that’ll numb your mouth and throat, perhaps you’re a vodka person. If you enjoy more of a refined, delicate taste, gin might be more up your street.
The alcohol content of any drink is going to vary depending on how it’s prepared and sold, but as a rule, vodka is a little more alcoholic than gin. The standard ABV (alcohol by volume) content for vodka is around 40% but can be as high as 90%, while the minimum ABV for gin in the United States is 40%, but it rarely climbs above 60% on average. Both drinks can vary wildly in alcohol content, so be sure to check the label before you sample.
It’s important to be aware of the relatively high alcohol content of both gin and vodka. If you’re used to drinking mostly wine or beer, you may be surprised by how strong spirits are. But remember, one of the advantages of both gin and vodka is that you can add as much mixer as you like to lower the potency of the drink. Even if you prefer to take your drinks neat, a little water or ice can do the trick to dilute the strong alcohol.
While some prefer their spirits pure, others like their vodka or gin with a dash of mixer to bring out the flavor. And both drinks pair well with different mixers. When it comes to vodka, something sweet is best, with cola and other soft drinks popular. Fruit juices also work well. Of course, orange juice is a famous pair, but pineapple, cranberry, and grapefruit juice all work well too. If you’re looking for a few bubbles, try ginger beer or lemonade.
Tonic is the classic mixer for gin, offering the perfect complement to the taste of the juniper berries and allowing you to add bubbles without losing too much of the taste. Seltzer and soda water work well on this note too. Alternatively, try a juice with a lighter flavor, like cucumber or lime.
If you’re looking for something a little more ambitious than a simple mixer with your drink, you could try adding multiple ingredients for an all-out cocktail. Gin is perfect for a range of classy, fruity cocktails, delicious to cool off with on a hot day. Try a Bramble, with gin mixed into lemon juice, sugar syrup, crème de mûre, and crushed ice.
Vodka lends itself to an enormous range of quality cocktails, with its neutral taste matching almost any taste. Popular options include the Classic Moscow Mule and the Vodka Sour, adding a flavorful twist to take the edge off this rough drink. Or if you want to enjoy the best of both drinks at once, enjoy a Long Island Iced Tea. This classic cocktail ought to encompass both vodka and gin.
No self-respecting bartender, or even a conscientious party host, would simply dump drinks in a glass and serve them as they are. Some thought should be put into the presentation of the drinks, and of course, these different varieties are best served in slightly different ways to accentuate their best features, with temperature, garnish choice, and other factors all playing their part.
Most vodka lovers prefer their drink fully chilled. When it’s ice-cold, the punchy, mouth-numbing feel of the drink is amplified, with its best qualities brought to the forefront. Gin, meanwhile, is often served a little closer to room temperature. A few ice cubes and a dash of the chilled mixture is enough to make it refreshing on a hot day without taking away from its delicate taste.
Just as with any other drinks, there are a huge range of different varieties when it comes to vodka and gin. In fact, it’s becoming rarer and rarer to see plain spirits drunk by patrons of bars and pubs. Gins are often flavored with a variety of herbs, known as botanics, making them even more aromatic and flavorsome. Cardamom, coriander, cassia bark, and even licorice can be used to enhance the liquor.
Infused flavorings are also popular with vodkas. Here, fruity flavors are king, but all kinds of varieties are available. If you still choose to use a mixer with a flavored drink, be sure to factor in the end result of an infused flavor with a mixer. A thoughtless mix could spoil the flavor but give things a little thought and you could end up with a unique and flavorsome beverage that could even become a hit!
Both drinks vary in price depending on a range of factors, including quality, age, flavoring, and origin. But as a rule, gin is more expensive than vodka. This is due to the fact that true gin traditionally contained juniper berries, while vodka often featured artificial flavorings.
But don’t let that trick you into thinking one product is inherently superior to the other! Both come with all kinds of different qualities and are now commonly made with artificial flavorings. But even the most discerning spirit lovers will be hard-pressed to notice the difference between traditionally and artificially flavored drinks. The range of different varieties on offer means you’re sure to find a drink to suit your wallet as well as your taste buds.
Feeling adventurous? Why not try adding gin or vodka to your cooking! With its aromatic flavoring, gin is perfect for use in boozy desserts. Add a splash to a trifle for a taste sensation or mix a little into the jelly layer of a fruity cheesecake for a perfect summer snack. Adding an alcoholic kick to a sweet dish is the perfect way to spice up an evening.
Vodka also has its uses in the culinary arts and has been used across the world in a variety of dishes for decades. For an inventive dinner party dish sure to get your guests talking, consider making penne alla vodka, a pasta dish prepared with vodka mixed into the sauce for an extra kick. Vodka can also be used instead of water when baking, helping to make flakier pastry. Give it a try and see what you come up with!
Despite their differences, there’s one thing most people would agree is similar about vodka and gin. They’re both quality beverages! Enjoy plenty of great varieties of both, along with other great food and drink options, at Town’s End Stillhouse & Grill.