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gin vs vodka

When it comes to spirits, there’s two main players in the cocktail world: gin and vodka. These two alcoholic drinks are both known for their versatility and light flavours. But what sets them apart?


Whilst both are clear, distilled and often interchangeable with each other, gin and vodka are actually very different spirits. From origins to how they are made, each has their own unique story. Plus a surprising mix of flavours that make them recognisable from the juniper-infused taste of gin to the crisp taste of vodka.


Here we dive into the difference between the two.



Gin and vodka are both clear, colourless spirits, renowned for their ability to work with a wide range of cocktails. Despite these similarities, they possess distinct characteristics that make them different.

Firstly, there’s a few legalities about what can be called gin. In order for gin to be called gin, it must contain juniper. This natural berry is what gives gin its signature piney taste, as well as other botanicals such as citrus and herbs. It must also be at least 37.5% ABV, whereas vodka’s minimum alcohol content is 35%. Despite this technicality, both spirits usually sit at around 40% and are equally strong spirits, depending on the brand’s individual bottle.



Alongside juniper, gin is made from water and grains such as wheat and barley. Vodka can be made from similar grain but is also created with a variety of other fermented ingredients, most commonly potato.


Find out more about what gin is made from


When it comes to the process, each is slightly different. Vodka is made by mashing the base ingredients to convert starches into fermentable sugars. It’s then mixed with water and yeast to create the alcohol, before distilling the liquid and filtering it to remove impurities. 


On the other hand, gin is made by macerating the botanicals which in layman’s terms means to infuse the ingredients into the base liquid for 24 hours, a bit like steeping a bag of tea. Once this is done, the liquid is distilled. Both vodka and gin are then diluted to the desired ABV.



Technically you can make a sort of DIY gin from vodka by infusing juniper and other botanicals such as cardamon and grapefruit peel into the alcohol. This is known as compound or bathtub gin. Whilst it’s good fun to try at home, it’s not the real deal if you want a proper bottle of botanical gin.

The taste of gin vs vodka

Vodka is a naturally clean, neutral tasting spirit. It’s often thought of to be flavourless which is why vodka is often used in cocktails with more pungent ingredients.


As gin requires the infusion of juniper berries to be classed as gin it will always have a slightly piney, peppery taste. But there’s plenty more that goes into the taste of gin including hints of herbs and citrus.


Each and every gin producer uses a different set of ingredients to flavour the alcohol, otherwise known as botanicals. These can be any natural ingredient whether it be a herb, spice, fruit or flower. 


Aside from juniper, the most popular gin botanicals are coriander seeds, angelica root and orris root. But you’ll also commonly find black pepper, lemon or orange peel, almond and liquorice.


Whilst gin has a more distinctive, herbal flavour, both spirits are interchangeably used for classic cocktails such as the Lemon Drop and Bloody Mary. The preference being up to the drinker. 


The most common vodka and gin cocktail is the Martini. This timeless drink is infamous for its many variations be it shaken not stirred, served with an olive or by swapping from dry to sweet vermouth. Find out more about gin vs vodka Martinis to decide on your favourite.


Other classic vodka drinks include:


  • Moscow Mule: vodka, ginger beer and lime juice served in a copper mug with ice 
  • White Russian: a creamy mix of vodka, coffee liqueur and cream or milk over ice
  • Screwdriver: a simple mix of vodka and orange juice with ice
  • Cosmopolitan: a city living classic of vodka, cranberry juice, Cointreau and lime
  • Espresso Martini: vodka, coffee liqueur and espresso with a foamy top


Whereas the most popular gin cocktails are:


  • Gin and Tonic: the unbeatable mix of gin and tonic water with a fresh citrus wedge
  • Negroni: the original Italian cocktail with equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth
  • Gin Spritz: a refreshing mix of gin, soda water and Lillet Blanc
  • Pink Lady: a vintage style drink made with lemon, sugar and gin, served with a foamy top
  • Bramble: tart blackberries, lemon and Beefeater London Dry Gin muddled to perfection


There is very little difference in the nutritional profile of both gin and vodka. 


So that’s that. Gin and vodka are definitely different spirits and whilst each is great to have behind the bar, gin comes out top when it comes to flavour. As the world’s most-awarded gin* we’re kind of biassed. But if you’re not sure, try a bottle of Beefeater London Dry Gin and taste the difference for yourself.


Want to know more? Find out how gin is made in more detail or discover the fascinating history of the gin and tonic, the original gin cocktail.

Speaking of, there’s plenty of gin cocktail recipes to get mixing with Beefeater. From the best party drinks to serve a crowd to our favourite fruity gin cocktails.

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