Thanks to its centuries-old pedigree combined with a versatility and flexibility in flavoring, gin has fast become the buzziest booze on the back bar.


Synonymous with whisky, Scotland may seem an unlikely gin mecca. But this country’s longtime distilling know-how helped birth a new gin movement. Gin offers a playful, less regulated outlet for master blenders’ creativity. It also offers quick cash. Single malts are capital intensive, requiring heavy outlays upfront and decades of patience before any profit is turned. Make a gin, however, and it can be sold in weeks—a reliable, short-term income stream while whisky matures. So it’s no wonder more than two-dozen small batch gins have been recently launched here. The industry has even come together to create an official “Gin Trail” map for the thirsty and adventurous. Standouts include Isle of Harris Gin, accented with flavors of local sea kelp that grows around the wild islands of the outer Hebrides where it’s made alongside a new whisky. Also try The Botanist from Islay—a crisp, spearmint-tinged gin sibling to peaty Bruichladdich.


Amid Kyoto’s temples and ryokans sits Japan’s first modern gin distillery, where a rice-based spirit that’s laced with botanicals is painstakingly sourced from across the country. Head distiller Alex Davies and his team spent more than a year scouring Japan for the perfect ingredients, including hinoki wood chips, Japanese peppercorns, and yuzu from an 80-year-old farmer just north of Kyoto. And the water is sourced from the sake-brewing district of Fushimi. The result? Ki No Bi dry gin, which means ‘The Beauty of the Seasons.” Furthermore, it’s packaged in a keepsake bottle. Handblown in Osaka, expect a screen-printed label by Kyoto’s oldest practitioner of karakami or woodblock patterns on paper. This gin is best served neat, or over ice, to fully appreciate its delicate flavors.


No city is more synonymous with gin than London. Fairfax Hall and Sam Galsworthy, an eccentric, tweed-clad duo, began Sipsmith distillery by poring over vintage recipe books that mentioned acacia bark and orris—neither of which were native to the UK during gin’s heyday in Georgian London. “Of course, it sounds exotic, but that’s the whole thing,” Hall explains. “They were lying around the docks in London because of the spice trade, which is why distillers here started using them in gin.” Once they settled on a recipe, the pair commissioned a custom, 300-liter copper pot from a German stillmaker. The first bottle was produced in May 2009 in a small suburban garage in West London, and was an instant hit across the city’s craft cocktail bars. Maker’s Mark parent Beam Suntory snapped up the entire operation two years ago, but Hall and Galsworthy remain in charge.  


First it was tequila, and then it was mezcal. The next traditional Mexican spirit to surface on high-end cocktail lists is raicilla (rye-SEEah). The floral, agave-based spirit is often nicknamed Mexico’s homegrown gin. Made in the highlands of Jalisco from the rare Maximiliane agave, anticipate a heavy, heady aroma—think roasted fruits and a citrus tang—far stronger than tequila or mezcal. It’s also more versatile. Raicilla will substitute well in almost any gin-based cocktail. Swap it into a negroni, with sweet vermouth and Campari, for a fresh veggie-inspired take on the classic. It’s produced two ways, either by pit- or clay-roasting agave hearts. Look for varieties produced the latter way if wanting a gin alternative, as this gives the final product a cleaner flavor. Two need-to know names aiming to bring raicilla into the mainstream are Estancia Distillery and La Venenosa, both of who export stateside and beyond.