The Sipsmith Blog

Around the World in 80 Gins: German Gin

in Articles November 11, 2013

Ranking just shy of the top 10 gin drinking nations in the world, Germany (which clocks in at number 11) is still a country that is passionate about its gin.

Next in our Around the World in 80 Gins tour, we’re stopping off to find out more about German gin and the country’s long love affair with juniper.


As with much of Europe, juniper trees are native to the country, and the aromatic, piney berries have long been used in traditional German cooking. Here, ‘Gemeiner Wacholder’ (otherwise known as common juniper) is used to spice up classic local dishes, from sauerkraut to Christmastime game dishes and Black Forest ham.

In addition to its culinary incarnations, juniper has been around for many years as an essential ingredient in genever, the Dutch spirit that predated modern gin. The German region of East Frisia, which borders the Netherlands, has produced a number of genever-influenced juniper spirits for centuries. One of the best known brands is Doornkaat, a light schnapps-style beverage made with fermented maize and flavoured with juniper, which has been produced in the region since the distillery’s founding in 1806.

Despite Germany’s long history with juniper-flavoured spirits, though, gin and its cousins fell largely out of favour by the mid-twentieth century. Vodka was the spirit of choice for decades, and only recently has artisanal German gin started making inroads in the country, and its burgeoning craft cocktail scene.

What do they drink

The artisanal spirits revolution has made waves in Germany, where small-batch gins are starting to gain heightened popularity amongst the country’s drinkers and bartenders. Adler Berlin Dry Gin, which is made by Prussian Spirits Manufactory, is popular. The low-temperature, vacuum-distilled gin was re-released in 2004, though its origins date back to 1874.

The Duke, an organic, small-batch gin that has been produced in Munich since 2009, is also a popular choice amongst gin drinkers. Containing Bavarian hops in addition to traditional botanicals, it puts a uniquely German spin on the spirit.

But perhaps the best-known German gin right now is Monkey 47, which is produced in the Black Forest region of the country and won Gold at the 2011 World Spirits Awards. Its name references the extraordinary 47 different botanicals in the recipe, including native cranberries, many of which are sourced from the surrounding forest.

While Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire both still dominate, these up-and-coming, smaller batch spirits are making steady inroads.

Cocktail recipe

The Gin Basil Smash

Invented by leading Hamburg-based bartender Joerg Meyer, who works at the world-class Bar Le Lion, this cocktail was his winning entry in 2008’s Tales of Cocktail Spirited Awards. Since then, it’s been adopted into the new canon of beloved German cocktails.

1 bunch basil

½ lemon

20 ml simple syrup

50 ml gin

Muddle the basil and the lemon together in a cocktail shaker, putting pressure on the lemon to extract the most juice. Add simple syrup and stir quickly with a bar spoon. Fill the shaker to the top with ice and top with the gin. Shake vigorously before double straining into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a basil leaf.

Feature images © iStock/Thinkstock, iStock/Thinkstock

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