The definition of a spirit is any alcohol which has gone from a fermented substance through a distillation process to become a much stronger and potent type of alcohol. Amongst the many different spirits on the market, there are five ‘base’ spirits which cover most flavour profiles and can be enjoyed both ‘on the rocks’ or as a foundation for cocktails.
Up first, it’s gin, which is officially the UK’s favourite spirit (overtaking whisky) – over a quarter of Brits have purchased a bottle of gin in the past 12 months! There are no set regulations for gin production, however it’s accepted that juniper berries must be included. It’s a clear spirit distilled from neutral grains such as barley, corn, rye and wheat and flavoured with a mix of botanicals which vary by brand. The most common botanicals added are citrus, aniseed, spices and fruit. The best way to enjoy gin is with your favourite tonic in a G&T but it’s also the main ingredient in other classics like a Martini, Negroni and French 75.
Try: Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin
Vodka, translating to ‘little water’ in Russian is a clear spirit that can be made from almost anything. Neutral grains (rye, corn, wheat) and potatoes are most commonly used, although some vodkas are made from grapes or beets. Vodka tends to have a neutral taste which makes it one of the most versatile spirits, perfect for use in lots of different cocktails.
Try: Mermaid Salt Vodka
Whisky is another versatile spirit, thanks to its many different styles and flavour profiles. Distilled from malted grains such as corn, rye, wheat and barley, whisky is typically aged in charred oak barrels. Some whiskies are blended whilst others are single malts. Whisky is one of the more common spirits to be enjoyed without a mixer, but it also pairs well with many fruits and other spirits to create cocktails.
Try: Lakes The One Orange Cask Whisky
Rum is made from the fermentation of sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice, giving it a sweet toasted sugar taste which pairs well with tropical flavours. There are two main types of rum: dark rum and white rum. White is aged in stainless steel tanks for up to a year and has a lighter flavour than the dark or aged rums which taken on a richer, often sweeter flavour from spending time in charred oak cases. The rich, sweet taste of dark rum makes it more popular for sipping, whilst white rum is often used to make classic cocktails like Daiquiris, Mojitos and Piña Coladas.
Try: CUT Spiced Rum
Tequila, distilled from the fermented juices of the blue agave plant in Mexico is actually a type of Mezcal, the broader category which includes spirits made from the agave plant. Blanco tequila is un-aged, but the Reposado and Añejo varieties are aged, often in oak barrels, giving it a richer taste. Unlike other spirits, Tequila production is highly regulated – one of the rules being that any agave spirits produced outside of Mexico cannot be labelled ‘Tequila’. Similar to whisky, the many complex flavour profiles of Tequila mean it can be enjoyed alone, but it’s equally delicious in Margaritas or in spicy cocktails.
Try: Cazcabel Honey Tequila