Are gin and vodka the same?

Answered by Andrew Fritz

Are and the same? As an expert sommelier and brewer, I can confidently say that while they may both be classified as neutral , gin and vodka are quite different in terms of ingredients and taste.

Let's start with the ingredients. Vodka is typically made from fermented grains or potatoes, although it can also be made from other substances like grapes or sugar beets. The key here is that vodka is distilled to a high proof, resulting in a spirit that is virtually flavorless and odorless. It is this neutrality that allows vodka to be used as a base for a wide range of and mixed drinks.

On the other hand, gin is made by redistilling neutral spirits with a variety of botanicals, the most prominent of which is juniper berries. In fact, gin must legally contain juniper berries in order to be called gin. This addition of botanicals gives gin its distinct flavor profile, often described as having a piney or herbal taste. The other botanicals used in gin can vary widely, with ingredients like coriander, citrus peel, or even floral elements like rose petals or lavender being common additions.

In terms of taste, the difference between gin and vodka is quite pronounced. Vodka, as mentioned earlier, is virtually flavorless, with a smooth and clean profile. This neutrality allows the other ingredients in a cocktail to shine without being overpowered by the spirit itself. Vodka is often described as being quite smooth, with a slight sweetness and a subtle warmth when consumed straight.

Gin, on the other hand, has a much more pronounced flavor profile. The juniper berries give gin its unique piney taste, which can range from subtly herbal to boldly aromatic depending on the brand and style of gin. The other botanicals used in gin add additional layers of complexity, with flavors like citrus, spice, or floral notes coming through. This makes gin a more distinctive and assertive spirit, with a flavor that can be enjoyed both on its own and in cocktails.

Speaking from personal experience, I have had the opportunity to taste a wide range of gins and vodkas throughout my career. Each time, the difference in taste and aroma between the two spirits is evident. Vodka, with its clean and neutral profile, is a versatile base for cocktails and can easily blend with other ingredients. Gin, on the other hand, brings a unique and complex flavor that adds depth and character to cocktails.

While gin and vodka may both be classified as neutral spirits, their differences in ingredients and taste set them apart. Vodka is a neutral and flavorless spirit, while gin is characterized by the addition of juniper berries and other botanicals, resulting in a distinct piney flavor. So the next time you're at the bar, consider these differences and choose accordingly based on your desired taste experience.