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Martinis remain one of the most glamorous and iconic cocktails of all time and typically consists of gin, vermouth, and an olive or citrus peel to garnish. Although the classic cocktail can also be made with vodka, think of gin as the most flavorful option. Steeped with all sorts of herbal botanicals—mainly the piney juniper, coriander, and the earthy, medicinal angelica-plant root (hello, Amaro)—gin is a distinctive spirit with equally diverse flavor profiles.
A well-made martini is only as good as the gin within. Impress bartenders (and house guests) with your tasting knowledge of the 10 best gins to mix into your next quaff. These go-tos come from the U.S. and as far away as Australia, The Netherlands, and a remote Scottish island. Now, all that's left for you to ponder is that age-old debate: Shaken or stirred?
Add lemon instead of olives to make your martini extra refreshing.
For the world’s perfect martini, you’d be hard-pressed to find better gin than Few; the Chicago-based distillery has never let us down. In addition to the classic ingredient, juniper, Few American Gin also has dueling hints of lemon peel and warm vanilla, making it one of the best martini-making bets, no matter the season.
Hendrick’s is good in just about everything—from complex cocktails to simple gin-and-tonics. Martinis are no exception, and this Scottish gin is a favorite among seasoned cocktail lovers. Because it’s distilled in small batches, the spirit yields an ultra-precise flavor that’s as balanced as it is distinctive. It's ideal for those who enjoy a more botanical profile—think notes of elderflower, fresh cucumber, and rose water.
Another gin of Scottish origin, The Botanist cultivates a wild, down-to-earth appeal that hinges on foraged botanicals from the remote Isle of Islay. Major tasting notes include cassia bark, coriander, and orris root.
Much like fine wine, the best gins have a knack for capturing the spirit and flavor of the places where they’re made. If you’re looking for a gin that tastes nothing like gins produced in England or Scotland, St. George's Terroir gin evokes pure California. Crafted in small batches near San Francisco, the spirit conveys notes of coastal sage, bay laurel, and woodsy Douglas fir, making for a martini that’s both earthy and refreshing.
On the off-chance that a classic martini isn’t strong enough for you, allow us to suggest Four Pillars Navy Strength gin. This under-the-radar Australian distillery has become a darling of the craft cocktail set, with strong followings at spots like the Drop Bear Inn's downstairs pub in Melbourne and the Accomplice Bar in L.A. Be advised, "This gin contains 58.8% alcohol-by-volume (ABV), making it not only one of the top gins for martinis but also one of the most heavy-hitting. But if you’re the type to go big or go home, you’ll enjoy this gin’s fruity, spicy, and delectably fragrant flavors."
The Netherlands-based Nolet Distillery (it also produces Ketel One vodka) has been making spirits in Schiedam, Holland since 1691. Experts recommend its Silver Dry floral, fruit-forward gin for martini newbies. Produced "dry" (aka made sans artificial sweetener), it's a modern update on an old-school, lower-quality method of gin-making. Expect fewer juniper notes as well as fruitier ones, such as raspberry, peach, and Turkish rose.
You & Yours
For another contemporary take on gin, turn to You & Yours Distilling Co., Southern California's first female-owned "urban-destination" distillery. The San Diego-based company, founded in 2017 by the entrepreneur Laura Johnson, produces Sunday, a dry, citrus-forward American-style gin that's distilled from grapes. With a flavor profile bursting with Valencia oranges, grapefruit, mint, coriander, and just a hint of peppery juniper, Sunday is a great introduction for the gin-curious as heavier juniper notes can be overwhelming.
Santa Fe Spirits
The U.S. Forest Services estimates that juniper woodlands cover as much as one-quarter of the land area in New Mexico, where Santa Fe Spirits makes its Wheeler's gin. Named for the explorer, Major George M. Wheeler (and so is New Mexico's highest point, Wheeler Peak, but we digress), this gin tastes equally earthy (thanks to cascade hops, white desert sage, and osha root) and bright on the palate, with notes of cucumber and hibiscus culled from the blossoms of the cholla cactus. Each of these ingredients is native to the American Southwest and sourced from within a 30-mile radius of the distillery.
Hotaling & Co.
For a boozier (49.3% ABV) "assertive" gin, try this fresh, spicy gin made by the folks at Hotaling & Co. (formerly Anchor Distilling) in San Francisco. Botanicals like anise, cardamom, and sweet orange peel balance out its juniper-forward profile.
California's central coast is best known for its wines. Lucky for us, some of the state's foremost winemakers have created sustainable grape-distilling practices, too. Alex and Monica Villicana (the husband-and-wife duo behind the Villicana Winery in Paso Robles) now make clean, grape-based spirits, including brandy, vodka, and the company's Re:Find gin. Layered with a bouquet of local botanicals—from juniper to lemon and orange peels—the gin also has notes of lavender, coriander, and orris root, all sourced from regional farms.