Gin gin gin! Love it or love to hate it, gin is the liquor on everyone’s lips. Not so long ago, even the best cheap gin was a lonely, dusty bottle in the cabinet. Today this spirit has become a more commonplace fixture. As the European Bartender School explains, this change began taking root in 2009, when “trendy West London gin distillery Sipsmith won a historic, two-year legal battle with the HMRC which gave distilleries the legal right to produce and sell gin in small amounts.” Suddenly, distilleries were free from restrictions that people in other places around the world may have never been aware of.
As restrictions eased and distilleries were liberated to produce gin in quantities that allowed them to actually prosper, the spirit’s market share exploded. Suddenly, new innovations enlivened a gin industry that lacked the excitement of other storied liquors like whiskey and tequila. Next, Hendricks burst onto the scene with sleek bottles and bold cucumber accents, taking the alcohol’s famous full-bodied, pine taste to new frontiers of flavor. In fact, some of the best new gin in the world is coming from Japan, a locale culturally distant from gin’s deep English roots.
While longstanding stigma and regulations held strong in the UK until 2009, gin has enjoyed a global renaissance.
You’ve heard of Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray, upper shelf staples that come to mind when one hears “gin.” While there’s a ton of irresistible new high class gins on the market, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy this botanical booze. We’ve lined up a little learning and the best cheap gin to enjoy happy hour on an efficient budget.
A Very Abbreviated History of Gin
What is Gin?
Simply put, gin is a distilled alcohol made with juniper berries. Whether your reaching for top shelf, or the best cheap gin on the bottom shelf, all gin must have no less than 40% alcohol by volume. Juniper gives gin its very distinct taste. Gin is a healthier alternative to other alcohols, with a low calorie count and sophisticated (albeit sometimes polarizing) taste.
Where did it start?
First, gin came about roughly around the 11th century AD, when monks and alchemists concocted it as a medicinal liquor. The liquor’s name stems from jenever, the Dutch word for “juniper.”
The New Yorker gives an interesting, thorough account of gin’s origins: William of Orange ascended the English throne in 1689, becoming the triple-pronged monarch of England, Ireland, and Scotland. He originally hailed from Dutch nobility. William set trading bans against enemy France, curtailing the availability of spirits like French brandy. Still thirsty, people turned to domestically produced gin in droves.
Thus began the “Gin Craze” around 1720. Thousands of gin shops popped up and the streets swarmed with the clinically wasted—one of the principal ingredients in gin of this era was turpentine, never good for mental health. Soon, gin became associated with social problems, culminating with William Hogarth’s 1751 moralistic engravings Beer Street and Gin Lane—the propaganda of their day. A series of eight Gin Acts sought to stymie the problem, but not without sparking riots first.
While longstanding stigma and regulations held strong in the UK until 2009, gin has enjoyed a global renaissance. Younger generations love the liquor’s easygoing taste and erudite flavor profile. Since gin’s original advent, new technologies have arisen, enabling all kinds of inventive twists from sweet new flavors to varietals like rhubarb or spiced gin. Still, even today, there’s nothing better than a simple martini or G&T. That’s the stuff of classics.
Gin Types on the Market Today
This is the OG, most famous variety of gin. The style originated in England, and juniper dominates its flavor. This species of gin typically comes in higher proofs—great for cocktails!
Produced in the south of England, this gin has less alcohol and less juniper taste. Similar to reigion-specific champagne and cognac, this gin MUST be produced by Plymouth Gin Distillery.
Richer and more antique, Old Tom Gin comes with a malty mouth sensation and more sweetness.
This is actually not gin at all, but a drink of its own that’s commonly conflated with its cousin, gin. Born in 16th-century Holland, Genever is sweeter and warmer than regular gin, but with the same juniper and geographical roots.
Sometimes also called “modern” or “western,” these are the movers-and-shakers of the modern gin scene, breaking free from custom, geography, and tradition with new birthplaces and flavors.
Best Cheap Gin to Imbibe Without Breaking the Bank
Best cheap gin for beginners: New Amsterdam Gin
New to gin? Fret not. Classic vodka iconograph New Amsterdam recently capitalized on what some are calling a “Ginaissance” by introducing their own gin for their avid fan base. New Amsterdam produces some of the best cheap gin in the United States, incorporating traditional tasting notes like juniper and anise alongside innovations like orange, lime, and vanilla into their London Dry Gin recipe. Great straight or in a mixer, New Amsterdam’s creation offers a gateway into enjoying this storied spirit. “Every bit as good as Bombay Sapphire at half the price,” writes reviewer David Dodd. “That simple.”
Best Gin for Mixing: Hofland Gin
At $15.99 for a fifth, this London Dry Gin born in the Netherlands ranks one of the most affordable on our already budget-friendly gin brand list. This very balanced liquor incorporates eight botanicals: Juniper (obviously) along with citrus, iris root, coriander, angelic root, ginger, vanilla, and liquorice root. “Crisp, citrus-forward and not heavy or syrupy like other London dry gins,” writes ClaudioV. “I play up the citrus with some lemon peel to make an excellent well-balanced G&T that would be worthy of a gin triple its price.”
Gin for the Francophiles: Citadelle Gin
It’s kind of funny to drink French gin, considering the gin craze that took hold three centuries ago when William of Orange suppressed French imports. Today, the country has put the past behind them and embraced the liquor’s rising popularity, creating the best cheap gin for Francophiles around the world. This modern, international gin has a higher ABV at 44%. It incorporates a startling 19 aromatic notes in its flavor profile, but stays true to gin’s roots with a dominant trifecta of Juniper, Citrus, and an exotic blend of pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon. At less than $30 for an entire handle, you can enjoy the French new wave on any budget.
All American: Bluecoat Gin
Okay, at $32 for a handle, this one’s on the higher end of the best cheap gins on our list, but we promise it’s with good reason. If you’re looking for a little Americana in the international gin landscape, this modern gin out of Pennsylvania packs an incredible punch. First off, it’s loaded with a whopping 47% alcohol by volume. That’s more bang for your buck! In terms of gin bottles, this is definitely one of the sexiest out there. What’s more, Bluecoat Gin is both organic and aromatic, “designed for a refined palate,” according to the product’s own description. The small batch gin pairs best with fruit, pasta, salads, and more tame meats like turkey. Keep it American and keep it classy without wounding your account balance.
The Classic: G&J Greenall’s Gin
Cost-wise, this classic gin ranks around the same area as Bluecoat, but comes from across the pond. “G&J Distillers have evolved into Britain’s second largest distiller, and is the leading producer of super-premium gin in England,” reads the producer’s story. Backed by 250 years of experience and born in the place where gin first took real root, this approachable London Dry Gin is aromatic, citrus-y, herbal, spiced, and most importantly, balanced. “At almost 1/2 the price the taste is very similar to Tanqueray, very enjoyable,” writes one reviewer who’s made the switch to the more cost-effective side.
Liquid History: Broker’s Gin
Check out that bowler’s hat on the cap! Despite the fact that this classic English brand boasts one of the most fun gin bottles on the market, it might catch you by surprise to learn that it contains a no-nonsense, bulletproof cheap gin borne of complete tradition. Brokers crafts their gin in a 200 year old facility in England that still uses the traditional copper pot-still. Their recipe eschews all inventive botanicals to deliver classic gin straight from history. “There are no oddball ingredients in Broker’s Gin,” their description states. “We believe our forefathers did an unbeatable job perfecting gin recipes over many hundreds of years.” You can sip this blast from the past at unbeatable prices, as low as $24 for a whole handle.
Closeout Costs: Mr. Boston English Market Extra Dry Gin
I think this brand of booze somehow broke the laws of supply and demand. At the bottom barrel rate of $17 for an entire handle, one might understandably assume this Extra Dry Gin tastes too unpalatable to end up on any best gin lists, even ones like this centered around boozing on a budget. However, a 2018 article by Paste Magazine samples and compares all the bottom barrel bottles on the market to determine the best cheap gin one can order at the bar. Their work gives this forgotten classic surprisingly pleasant reviews. Somehow, the brand maintains its cutting edge price tag despite the fact it’s difficult to come by on the internet. Happy searching, and happy sipping. Godspeed!