Questions & Answers

Q&A. Jump to:
Gin - British through and through?
What's in my gin?
Gin - Mixing it!
Vodka - From Russia with Love?
Vodka - Mixing It!

Gin - British through and through?

Does 'London' on the label mean it is made in London, England?

A. London gin is a style of gin and not a geographical description.

How did gin get its name and has it anything to do with juniper?

A. The English word 'gin' is derived from the French word 'genievre' meaning juniper, the original herb used by the ancient distillers to make their medicines. It must still be the most prominent flavour in gin under EC regulations.

How long has gin been made in the UK and is it a British invention?

A. A type of distillate flavoured with juniper was made in England for medicinal purposes long before it became popular as a drink. King William III, a Dutchman who came to the English throne in 1689, encouraged the drinking of gin and was responsible for it becoming a fashionable drink in England.

Is gin or vodka low in carbohydrates?

Gin and vodka contain only traces of carbohydrates.

What is the significance of 'dry' as in 'dry London gin'?

A. This is a reference from the old days when the most popular gin was 'Old Tom' which was sweetened with sugar and glycerine. Dry gin was so named to distinguish it from the sweet version. London dry gin is a particular style and quality of gin and is now the most famous type of premium gin

What's in my gin?

Does gin or vodka contain allergenic substances?

Since November 2005 in the European Union, foodstuffs containing allergenic material or substances that cause intolerances must be labelled accordingly. As far as gin and vodka are concerned, independent research funded by industry and conducted by recognised laboratories has shown that the distillation process destroys allergenic materials such as gluten in cereals and the yeast used in fermentation.. As a result of this earlier work, the European Food Safety Agency granted spirit producers a 2 year derogation from labelling whilst further more detailed research was undertaken. The results of the current work will be forwarded to EFSA for scrutiny in the summer of 2006.

The allergenic ingredients most commonly used in the production of gin and vodka are:
  • Gin - yeast for fermentation, almond nuts and cereals containing gluten.
  • Vodka - yeast for fermentation and cereals containing gluten.

Those suffering from Coeliac Disease are recommended to visit the Coeliac Society website: for confirmation of that gin and vodka are safe to consume.

Does gin or vodka contain caffeine?

There is no caffeine in gin and pure vodka.

What are 'botanicals' and which are the most common botanicals used in gin?

A. Botanicals are the spices, herbs and fruit used in the production of gin. According to EC regulations juniper must be the predominant flavour. Other commonly used botanicals include: coriander, angelica, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, liquorice, caraway, grains of paradise, lemon and orange. It is the essential oils from these that supply the evocative taste and aroma of gin. The precise mixture and quantity of botanicals varies from producer to producer and is usually kept as a closely guarded secret

What is gin made from?

A. Gin is made from alcohol of agricultural origin that is distilled, flavoured with botanicals.

What is the calorific value of vodka or gin?

The alcohol in gin and vodka is the same as the alcohol in all other spirit drinks, beer and wine. All alcohol is calorific as shown below:

Substance: Amount: kcal: kJ

White sugar (100% sucrose) 100g : 394 : 1680

Glucose (syrup, 80% glucose) 100g : 318 : 1355

Glucose (calculated to 100%) 100g : 397 : 1694

Alcohol at 40%abv 100ml : 222 : 919

Alcohol (100%) 100ml : 555 : 2297

Alcohol (100%) 100g : 700 : 2899

These are the standard values for calculating dietary energy from food analysis or recipe composition.

Carbohydrate (sugars, starches): 4 kcal or 17 kJ/g

Alcohol,: 7 kcal or 29 kJ/g

Gin - Mixing it!

Is it correct to put ice in a gin and tonic?

A. The main function of the ice is to chill the drink - to enhance its refreshing flavour in the mouth. Why not try chilling your bottle of gin by storing it in the fridge or even the freezer? Ice does add to the sensual pleasure of the drink though - the crackle as the liquid is poured over and the evocative clink of cubes in the glass. Some people maintain that the ice should be made from distilled water or still mineral water - that tap water has too many impurities. However most people do seem to prefer using ice but it must be fresh from the freezer not half melted so that it dilutes rather than chills - and if the gin and the tonic are already chilled the ice will not melt so quickly anyway.

What are the most popular mixers with gin?

A. The most famous mixer is tonic water as in a Gin and Tonic and of course, the vermouth in a Martini. Adding lime cordial makes a 'Gimlet' - click on our cocktails page for many more ideas.

When did the lemon first meet gin?

A. Lemons and other citrus fruits have been known to travellers and explorers for centuries as protection against scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency. With the line, the Royal Navy famously issued it to its crews - leading to the slang term 'limeys' for the British. It may have also been the reason why the British in India added lemon or lime to their gin and tonics. Whatever the original reason - piece of peel or slice of lemon, or lime is still a favoured addition to many gin-based drinks

Vodka - From Russia with Love?

Aren't all these flavoured vodkas a new idea from the West - not very Russian?

In fact flavoured vodkas originated in Russia and Poland and many dozens of different flavourings from pepper to bison grass have been used there from the earliest times.

How long has vodka been made in the UK and is it the same as Russian vodka?

Vodka production in the UK began in the 1960s and 1970s by distillers with a long experience making other white spirits. They use the most modern techniques and equipment to make vodka of the highest quality. Each vodka producing country tends to develop a style of its own but the popularity of UK produced vodkas is now so great that 35% of all production is exported - to be enjoyed all over the world including the USA and Russia.

I've heard that vodka is the purest spirit - does that mean it doesn't cause hangovers?

Vodka makers aim to remove most or all of the 'congeners' or flavouring elements from the spirit by distillation and filtration over charcoal to make it as pure as possible. It is these congeners that contribute to the 'hangover' effect that tends to be more evident with other alcoholic drinks.

What is vodka made from and how did it get its name?

Vodka was originally known as "the water (voda) of life" from the similar word for water in both Russian and Polish, the countries from where the drink originated. Under European Commission regulations it must be made from alcohol of agricultural origin.

Vodka - Mixing It!

Help! Should a true Martini cocktail have a green or black olive or a twist of lemon peel or a cocktail onion?

A. Join the debate! Some favour a piece of lemon peel twisted above the glass to release the essential oils from the fruit but not added to the drink. Others then drop the twist into the glass with an olive or just an olive on its own. Definitely a green olive though and never an onion - that's another cocktail entirely.

Is it true that vodka should be stored in the freezer?

Yes - it won't freeze because of the alcohol level - and it will be instantly at the right temperature for mixing your favourite cocktail.

Shouldn't vodka always be drunk neat?

There are no rules about how to drink vodka in the UK! Vodka cocktails are currently very popular - click on to the GVA cocktails icon and see for yourself.

Shouldn't vodka always be served with snacks?

Historically vodka was drunk neat and served with a series of appetising snacks. Caviar is the classic accompaniment but many other food flavours are heightened by vodka. In the west we are more likely to combine vodka with food by incorporating it into a recipe - click on to the GVA cocktails icon for some delicious menu ideas.


Is it safe to drink 20 year old gin or vodka?

An unopened bottle of 20 year old of gin or vodka should be perfectly safe to drink.

What is a safe quantity of gin or vodka to consume?

Medical authorities have slightly different ways of expressing what should be a safe and sensible amount of alcohol for an individual to consume on a daily/weekly basis. The GVA fully supports the sensible drinking guidelines issued by "Drinkaware." We recommend visitors view the Drinkaware website at:


Does an opened bottle of spirits evaporate over time?

Sadly, the answer is yes if there is not a tight fitting closure sealing the container in which the drink is kept.