I need to restrain myself here, because I really mustn’t say that the main difference between gin and vodka is that I have to really fancy gin to drink it, whereas I can down vodka any time, any place, anywhere. Oh darn, I think I just said what I wasn’t going to say – I must have had too much vodka – again!

Seriously, there are a number of similarities – and one big difference – between the two most popular cocktail ingredients in the world. Let’s establish what they have in common first. Both are white spirits, usually distilled from grains, although it’s also possible to make both gin and vodka from potatoes. Gin is more commonly distilled from barley and rye, while vodka is distilled from wheat and barley, and occasionally rye.

Both spirits have been around for a long time, and are of European origin – gin was introduced to the UK by King William III in the 17th century from his native Holland, while vodka was being commercially produced in Russia in the 14th century.

So, what is the difference between the two drinks? Well, basically, it comes down to flavour. While both spirits start out as ‘neutral,’ with no discernable taste or aroma after distillation, it’s what happens next that marks the major difference between gin and vodka.

Gin is flavoured with a collection of herbs and spices known as ‘botanicals.’ An essential element of the flavouring is juniper berries, and other flavourings come from, among other things, fennel, carraway, cardamom, ginger, citrus peel and zest, almond, angelica and coriander. Each brand has its own characteristic blend of botanicals, and the exact formula is a closely and jealously guarded secret.

Vodka’s name is derived from the Russian for ‘little stream,’ and vodka has a lot in common with water. It’s pure and clear, with premium brands being filtered through charoal or quartz sand, and it’s colourless, odourless and more or less tasteless, just like water. Flavoured vodkas are very popular these days, and vodkas can be flavoured with all sorts of fruits and spices, although there is no ‘must have’ ingredient for flavouring vodka. Gin has to contain juniper berries to be gin, but vodka can pair up with more or less anything the manufacturers can come up with and still be called vodka.

I’m an old fashioned girl, and I don’t buy into the flavoured vodka thing. I like my vodka with orange juice, lemonade or bitter lemon, and plenty of ice, along with a slice of lemon or lime. Cheers!


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