Martinis remain one of the most iconic (and glamorous) cocktails of all time, typically consisting of gin, vermouth, and an olive or lemon peel as a garnish. And what is gin? In very basic terms, when you get down to distilling process, gin can be described as a vodka steeped with botanicals—a fancy word for plants—like, most notably, juniper.
Since the martini recipe is mixed with little else, a well-made martini is only as good as the gin it’s made with. Whether you’re ordering a martini or mixing it up at home, it doesn’t hurt to impress your bartender (or your guests) by knowing the top options for your drink of choice. Read on for 10 of best bets gins for martinis hailing from Europe, Australia, and across the United States.
This Chicago-based distillery has never let us down, and for the world’s perfect martini, you’d be hard-pressed to find better gin than Few’s. In addition to the classic juniper, Few’s gin also carries hints of lemon peel and warm vanilla, making it one of the best gins for martinis year-round. While an olive won’t taste out of place, we recommend trying this one with a lemon twist.
At the end of the day, Hendrick’s is a gin that’s good for 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 gin yields an ultra-precise flavor that’s as balanced as it is distinctive. Hendrick’s is ideal for those who enjoy a more botanical profile—think notes of elderflower, fresh cucumber, and rose water.
The Botanist, another gin of Scottish origin, cultivates a wild, down-to-earth appeal that hinges on foraged botanicals from the island of Islay. Major tasting notes include cassia bark, coriander, orris root, and 18 other botanical ingredients.
St. George Terroir
Much like fine wine, the best gins have a knack for capturing the spirit (and flavor) of the place where they’re made. If you’re looking for a gin that tastes like the exact opposite of England or Scotland, St. George Terroir is for you. In fact, it tastes like pure California. Crafted in small batches near San Francisco, St. George conveys notes of coastal sage, bay laurel, and woodsy Douglas fir, making for a martini that’s both earthy and refreshing.
Four Pillars Navy Strength
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 a strong following at spots like the Drop Bear Inn in Melbourne and Accomplice in L.A. Be advised: This gin clocks in at an ABV of 58.8% alcohol, 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 definitely need to get a ride home), you’ll get to enjoy the gin’s fruity, spicy, and delectably fragrant flavor profile.
Nolet's Silver Dry Gin
Holland-based Nolet's (maybe you've heard of Ketel One vodka?) has been making spirits since the 1690's, and experts recommend their floral, fruit-forward dry gin for newcomers to the Martini. Dry, meaning made without artificial sweetener, a very old school method of gin-making that, way back when, lacked the quality standards we enjoy from our spirits today. Expect less juniper notes and more fruit, including raspberry, peach, and Turkish rose.
You & Yours Sunday Gin
For another contemporary take on gin, turn to southern California's first woman-owned urban distillery. The San Diego company, founded by Laura Johnson makes Sunday Gin, an American-style gin distilled from grapes, and a flavor profile bursting with citrus, fresh mint, coriander, and a hint of juniper. Since juniper can be an acquired taste, Sunday Gin is great introduction for the gin-curious.
Santa Fe Spirits Wheeler's Gin
In New Mexico, where there is an abundance of juniper in some parts comes Santa Fe Spirits's Wheeler's Gin. It's equally earthy—thanks to osha root—and bright on the palate, thanks to cucumber and hibiscus notes from botanicals like cholla blossom. Both botanicals are indigenous to the Southwest and all are sourced from within 30 miles of the distillery.
For a boozier (49.3% ABV), definitively more juniper-forward gin, try Junípero Gin from the folks at Hotalin & Co. (formerly Anchor Distilling) in San Francisco. For balance, you'll also notice botanicals like anise, cardamom, and sweet orange peel as part of its tasting profile.
California's central coast is best known for its wines, and lucky for us some of those very winemakers have gotten into distilling and creating a sustainable grape operation in the process. Take the husband and wife duo behind Villicana Winery in Paso Robles, who have found a way to make clean, grape-based spirits, including gin. Re:Find handcrafted gin is layered with a bouquet of local botanicals, from juniper to lemon and orange peels, to lavender, coriander and orris root sourced from the region's farms.