Gin is just vodka with some added flavorings.
Sorry, gin aficionados, but it’s true. The gin might find itself retailing for a few times the vodka price in a handblown crystal bottle with a bejeweled stopper, but they both started life as the same, un-aged, flavorless, grain alcohol.
That’s why it’s so easy to make your own gin.Commercial gin producers start by distilling grain into the vodka-esque base. Most producers will put it through a second distillation to get the flavoring in there in vapor form, but some will simply flavor it and bottle it. That’s what you’re going to do, and it makes a perfectly respectable gin, especially since you get to flavor it to your liking.
Home distilling is illegal.
In fact it’s illegal in every single country in the world, with the sole exception of New Zealand. No worries though, because there’s plenty of inexpensive, already distilled, neutral-tasting alcohol to use as your base. In other words, you’re going to start with some cheap vodka.
The basic recipe is no more complicated than making tea. You soak juniper berries, coriander, and citrus peel in the vodka and strain them out when it’s flavored. A funnel and cheesecloth will do, although a Brita-type filter pitcher is even better (and as any budget-conscious cocktail lover knows, an initial run through the Brita does wonders for inferior vodka).
Premium gins are distinguished by subtle differences in their taste profiles—Tanqueray is pungent with juniper, Bombay Sapphire has a hint of licorice, Hendrick’s tastes like cucumbers—but the precise blend of spices and botanicals in each is usually a closely guarded secret. Homemade gin gives you license to experiment. You can spice it up with dried chiles and peppercorns; warm it with spices like star anise, cloves, and cinnamon sticks; and add herbal, fruit, or floral notes.
Aspiring mixologist types that don’t know where to start can buy a gin-making kit complete with a pre-mixed blend of spices, botanicals, flowers, and aromatics.
You can also find plenty of gin-making recipes and other resources at any of the social networks for cocktail enthusiasts like Imbibe, See My Drink, On the Bar, and eGullet’s Spirits & Cocktails Forum.
DIY G&T: Serious Eats has a recipe for homemade tonic water.