If you aren’t already aware, it is possible to buy non-alcoholic versions of gin, including such mainstream brands such as Gordon’s 0.0% alcohol free gin and Tanqueray 0.0 alcohol free, but also possible to find non alcoholic versions of craft gin such as Three Spirit Social Elixir non alcoholic gin.
What is alcohol-free Gin?
Firstly, we need to start win a technicality.
To legally call something a gin, the liquid that is made must contain an alcohol level (ABV) of at least 37.5%.
Therefore, any non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic gin, can not legally call itself ‘gin’. But you will find very similar appearances in the design and labelling that helps to convince buyers that what they are buying is a low alcoholic version of their favourite spirit.
Although not technically gin, we will refer to this drink as ‘low alcoholic gin’ and ‘non alcoholic gin’ for the rest of the article.
How is low-alcoholic gin made?
There are two main ways in which lower alcoholic versions of gin can be made. We will discuss them both.
Low Alcohol Gin – Distillation Method
The method for low alcoholic gins follows a similar process to that of ‘real’ gins, with the addition of an extra step at the end of the manufacturing process.
To start, the full alcoholic version of gin is made.
A plain alcohol is added to a copper still, alongside a range of botanicals that influence the flavour of different brands of gin.
Another legal requirement to claim a drink as a gin is for the predominant taste to be of juniper, which is obtained from using juniper berries as one of the botanicals.
Once the plain alcohol and botanicals have been added to the copper still, the alcohol is heated to create an alcoholic gas. The volatile alcoholic passes through a series of tubes that contain the botanicals, capturing chemicals that create the overall aroma and taste.
As the alcoholic vapour is cooled, it turns back into a liquid, creating the final product – the gin.
During this step, the gin can be diluted down with water – as long as it remains at 37.5% or higher. But for low alcoholic versions of gin, additional volume of gin is added, causing a resulting drink that can be claimed as ‘low-alcoholic’.
Non-Alcoholic Gin – Distillation Method
Using the same methodology mentioned above, it is possible to create a non-alcoholic ‘gin’ drink.
During the heating process, the alcohol turns into a vapour which separates from the water. Once the molecules responsible for aroma and taste have been captured, it is possible to then separate the volatile alcohols and remove them from the copper still.
Doing this for long enough will eventually remove all the alcohol, leaving a solution of water with the extracted botanical molecules.
This way, a non-alcoholic ‘gin’ is created, without any presence of alcohol.
Non-Alcoholic Gin – Maceration
In this process of creating alcohol-free gin, no alcohol is involved in the process.
The chosen botanicals are left to soak in a liquid – typically water – that eventually develops a taste similar to gin.
Although this process can take longer, it is possible to create a flavour and mouthfeel that feels more like gin than water.
Why is Low Alcoholic Gin and Non-Alcoholic Gin so Expensive?
It is understandable to think that because a low alcohol or zero alcohol version of gin has less, or no, gin, that the price would be less.
However, this isn’t always the case.
And the high prices of these gin variants can come down to two main factors.
Firstly, the method of manufacture is responsible for this.
To create low-alcoholic gins through the distillation method, an additional step is required to dilute down the full strength gin and ensure that is gets to a concentration that is required.
In the maceration process, the time it takes for flavour and aroma compounds to be extracted in a liquid that is not alcohol takes longer to happen.
Longer manufacturing times typically mean a higher manufacturing cost, which results in a more expensive bottle of non alcoholic gin.
Secondly, the price of these drinks compared to alcoholic versions is influenced by the volumes that can be made at once.
In production, the more volume that can be made at once, typically results in a lower overall price. And because the popularity of non alcoholic and low alcoholic drinks is not at the same level as alcoholic versions (yet!), the volumes of which these new drinks is made is a lot less.
So, until the manufacturing process or the total volume of liquid that can be produced at once increases, the price is likely to remain.
What Does Alcohol-Free Gin Taste Like?
The reduction or total absence of alcohol from a typical gin will affect the overall taste of non alcoholic or low alcoholic versions.
The presence of the usual botanicals adds to the typical gin flavour and are clearly distinguishable. However, due to the lack of alcohol, the taste somewhat lacks to full bodied taste associated with alcohol.
But, if you are using zero alcohol gins as a replacement in your typical cocktails and mixers, you are less likely to notice the difference so much.
However, there are always new brands and variants that are looking to address the gap in flavour profile, causing distilleries to become inventive with how they produce these new gins.
Of course, as soon as we can get our hands on new samples to try, we will make sure to update you with our section dedicated to zero alcohol gins.
Why is Alcohol-Free Gin Becoming More Popular?
There is no single reason why non-alcoholic drinks are becoming more popular with the general population. But some of the most popular reasons for the increase in popularity can be attributed to people looking to live a healthier lifestyle, coupled with the fact that drinking regularity increased when the UK first went into lockdown.
Before lockdown, the popularity of gin was already booming, so as users stick to what is popular whilst opting for a reduction in alcohol consumption may be the reason behind the popularity.
Where to Find Non-Alcoholic Gin
The rise in popularity in non-alcoholic gin means that more retailers are looking to get involved and offer options to consumers.
We have written a post dedicated to where you can buy non-alcoholic gin, which we aim to keep updated as best as possible!