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Before any botanicals are added, is gin the same as vodka?
The quick answer, is yes. The interesting answer, like gin, takes a little more time.
Gin is made by infusing a neutral spirit (flavourless alcohol of 95 or 190 per cent proof, obtained mostly from grain or molasses) with botanicals (berries, roots, seeds, fruit, and herbs etc.
This is often done by steeping the botanicals in the spirit and then re-distilling it or by packing the botanicals into the head of the still to infuse it.
To understand a little of how gin came to be distilled in England we need to dip a toe into the past. Gin became popular due to higher taxes imposed on malted barley (barley wasn’t native to Britain and didn't grow particularly well so it was imported) which was perfect for making beer. So the ever inventive people of the countryside started to add botanicals to distilled spirit made from grains that weren't taxed so heavily.
People at the time, being more in touch with nature, also believed that botanicals would add a medicinal feature to their gin.
While gin is all about the added botanicals and flavours, vodka on the other hand can be made of almost anything and is used as the base for almost all gins.
Distiller, Director of Marketing and Bar Manager at Boot Hill Distillery, which could only be located in Dodge City, Mark Vierthaler, says that for the most part, yes. “Most distilleries (ourselves included) use our vodka as our base in an effort to create a blank canvas where the botanicals can really shine. A lot of spirits historians even refer to gin as the first-ever flavored vodka. Some distilleries, like FEW in Illinois, use their white whiskey as the base, however. This creates a maltier, heavier product that is a bit more akin to gin’s precursor – Genever.”