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The Best Gins in India: Meet the Winners of the Cosmo India SNAs

The first annual Cosmopolitan Saturday Night Awards identifies the best spirits available—the wines, champagnes, gins, vodkas, whiskeys, and more. Team Cosmo India and our expert jury panel judged hundreds of Indian spirits to arrive at a list of fabulous winners. 

1. Best London Dry Gin

Beefeater London Dry Gin

Founded in 1876 by the Devon-born pharmacist James Borrough, who started producing liqueurs and fruit gins at the Chelsea distillery in London, the Beefeater gin got international success in 1963, when it became the only gin to be served on board for Queen Elizabeth II’s maiden voyage. With Desmond Payne becoming its master distiller in 1995, and after being bought by Pernod Ricard in 2005, Beefeater has become one of the world’s most awarded gin. And here’s another award for this popular gin, by Cosmo India’s SNA panel! So what makes Beefeater special? Made in the London distillery (that has nine stills and uses as many premium botanical ingredients), Beefeater is the quintessential London Dry Gin. Having a big juniper character and strong citrus notes—it’s an authentic London Dry Gin for those who like the taste of a pure, classic gin. Made with James Borrough’s original recipe, this bold and distinct gin sets the standard for London Dry Gins everywhere.

Beefeater Gin

Koi Coal Clogs, Shivan& Narresh,  ₹23,950

 

2. Best London Dry Gin

Samsāra London Dry Gin

Samsāra is one of those Goa-born Indian craft gins that is truly representative of New Age India. Embodying the sense of exploration and freedom, Samsāra is distilled using the classic London Dry method, using 11 handpicked botanicals that include hemp seeds (sourced from the Ratan Tata-backed Bombay Hemp Company), rose petals, vetiver grass, green cardamom, and juniper berries.

It is worth mentioning here that when Cosmo’s SNA panel blind-tasted Samsāra, the gin scored impressively on all counts, across categories! This is a floral and citrusy gin with a subtle whisper of spicy earthiness—an exceptionally easy-to-drink, erm, drink. Each bottle of Samsāra is crafted sustainably and responsibly, and the gin is poised to make its debut in the US, soon.

Samsara Gin

Selena Kaia Bag, Mistry, ₹6,000

 

3. Most Versatile Gin - Editor's Choice

Greater Than London Dry Gin

It was in 2015 that two young men of the alco-bev industry in India decided to start making gin for themselves, at a time when the world was just about rediscovering this spirit. Ironically, India, the original home of gin during the British Raj, was a little behind in this renaissance, and Vaibhav Singh and Anand Virmani (Founders of Nao Spirits) ended up making their very own, premium gin to make up for the scarcity. They went on to experiment with different spices, herbs, and fruits, and distilled away dedicatedly in a copper still in Goa. They finally got what they wanted—Greater Than or >, the London Dry Gin made in India using botanicals from around the world—truly one of India’s first craft gins, and also the most versatile! In Greater Than, you will find juniper berries, coriander seeds, lemongrass, ginger, chamomile, fennel, Spanish orange peels, and almonds. To taste, there are notes of clean juniper (ofcourse!), with fresh lemon peel on the nose, and a zing of ginger on the finish. Co-founder Anand Virmani likes to drink his Greater Than with a tonic—straight and simple.

Greater than London dry gin

Sunglasses, Gucci, price on request

 

4. Best Contemporary Gin - Editor's Choice

Stranger & Sons Gin

We knew Stranger & Sons will walk away with many accolades! With its juniper, Gondhoraj lebu, coriander, black pepper, mace, angelica root, and cassia bark—all sourced from local farms in Goa—you’re literally engulfed in the sensation of familiar spices. We love how this gin is young, forward-looking, yet rooted in our traditions and heritage (including how ‘& sons’ is often used to identify family businesses). As for the taste, you can feel the aromatic citrus mix build up gently on your palate, followed by the warming, sweet liquorice and a spicy undertone, that lingers due to the pepper! Third Eye Distillery is also high on sustainability. Any unused citrus is returned to the local supplier to be made into pickles and cordials, so that there is no wastage.  And the pronounced flavours, along with packaging we love, is what makes this authentic Indian gin a winner.

Stranger & sons gin

(From left to right) Beaten Drop

Earrings, Valliyan by Nitya Arora, ₹6,500;

Starlit Danglers, Radhika Agrawal

Jewellers, ₹6,800

 

5. Most Unique Botanicals

Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin

Bombay Sapphire has an intriguing name that makes you wonder about its Indian connection. It is called so because of the blue colour of the crystalline bottle that harks back to the Star of Bombay diamond. It is one of the most premium gins in the market, that burst onto the scene in 1987, taking other, more established brands head on. A London Dry Gin, it is vapour-infused with 10 sustainably-sourced botanicals (which are held separate from the spirit in perforated copper baskets) and is delicately flavoured but not overwhelmingly so, making it ideal for creating cocktails. Master of botanicals Ivano Tonutti, had personally chosen the botanicals (some of them are the usual suspects, such as juniper, liquorice, citrus), to give it its distinctive flavour, made with a time-honoured (secret!) recipe dating back to 1761 (and this is a well-guarded secret as Tonutti went to great lengths to maintain a great rapport with the growers of the herbs that go into this gin, since these botanicals are the very thing that gave the gin such a cachet back in the ’80s). Bombay Sapphire’s distillation, using vapour infusion, was pioneered by the Dakin family in the early 1830s in Warrington, England. The brand’s compelling mix of heritage, sustainably sourced botanicals, and perfectly balanced flavour makes this exquisite gin the choice for drinkers and mixologists alike.

Bombay sapphire gin

Lucia Mini Bag, Aanchal Sayal, ₹9,000

 

6. Best Contemporary Gin

Tanqueray London Dry Gin

Tanqueray gin has been the number one choice of bartenders across the world, for the perfect Gin & Tonic, and according to our panel it was the best gin that blended history and contemporaneity. Back in the 1830s, Charles Tanqueray was not afraid to shake things up and bravely pursue ideas in his own unique style. He invented an unmistakable gin, which is still celebrated to this day as the perfect mix of ingenuity, heritage, and discernment. Since then, Tanqueray London Dry Gin has always used the same award-winning recipe made from four classic gin botanicals—piney juniper, peppery coriander, aromatic angelica, and sweet liquorice. The recipe has remained unchanged since the days of Charles Tanquerary. And the iconic bottle, which is modelled on the three-piece cocktail shaker popularised during Prohibition, epitomises the vibrant elegance of the ‘Roaring 1920s’. The pineapple fruit was considered to be the ultimate symbol of hospitality in 1830s England, and it features the Tanqueray family crest and adorns every bottle from the Tanqueray Distilling Company. Tanqueray London Dry Gin is best enjoyed as a simple Gin & Tonic: add ice to a copa glass, pour in 50ml of Tanqueray London Dry. Add 150ml fresh tonic water; garnish with a wedge of lime; and stir. You can also use it to make a perfect Negroni.

Tanqueray Gin

Pearl embellished waistcoat, Sesaa, ₹41,000

 

7. Most Unique Botanicals - Editor's Choice

Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice

This is a gin that literally looks like a magic potion—the Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice is a small batch, limited-edition from Hendrick’s Gin. It occupies the top spot on the Editor’s Choice list because of its flirtatiously floral incarnation (think orange blossom, iris, and cut grass) that it is perfect for brunches and enjoying summertime picnics. Like a holiday romance or the lifespan of the mayfly, Midsummer Solstice is a poetic expression of temporality—once it’s gone, it’s gone forever! On the nose are notes of lilac, chamomile, raspberry, fragrant juniper, and grass. On the palate, there’s sweetness from honey and berries, and a floral bouquet. It finishes with a touch of rose and violet. It’s very similar to the sensation of perfume, but this time, on your buds. This winner lends itself perfectly to drinks such as the Midsummer Salty Dog: take 45ml Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice; 90ml ruby red grapefruit juice; 7ml simple syrup; and a grapefruit slice to garnish. Combine all ingredients in a salt-rimmed highball glass filled with ice cubes; and churn lightly, garnish with a slice of pink grapefruit. Or try a Tom Collins with it! Either way, it is the kind of sophisticated, floral gin that will appeal to all seeking the finer pleasures of life (and liquor).

Hendrick's gin

Sunglasses, Valentino, price on request

 

8. Coolest Packaging Award

Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin

This is seriously one cool-looking gin in a dark bottle complete with a cork stop that looks like it came straight from a 1800s apothecary in Europe, which is probably legit since it was born in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) region of Germany, but slightly more recently in 2010. Monkey 47 is a handcrafted gin, distilled with 47 handpicked plant ingredients, using extremely soft water from the region. It’s that kind of incredible feat that makes this gin extremely complex and refined on the taste buds.
Montgomery Collins is an adventurous character at the heart of this gin’s story (the gin was actually founded by German gin aficionados as an homage to RAF wing commander Lieutenant Colonel Montgomery Collins). The son of a diplomat posted in East Asia—he was born in Chennai [then Madras] in 1909 and served in the military in the ruins of Berlin. He gifted the zoo there a monkey called Max (the mascot of this gin!) and finally settled in the Black Forest, opening a guesthouse where he served a gin named after Max. Apparently, someone found the old recipe for the gin and that is how this gin was born. A good third of the ingredients of this unique gin are native to the Black Forest, that is 47 ingredients plus the hand-picked lingonberry that is the piece de resistance, plus masterful distillation, and maturation in earthenware containers at their distillery in Lossburg, Germany. On the nose, there are woody notes with citrus notes and sweet pine...while on the palate, it’s a robust gin with a lot of spice, again with citrus and pine notes. Did someone say, “Perfect for a martini...”? We agree!

Monkey 47 gin

Sandals, Kakasumi, ₹12,500

 

9. Coolest Packaging Award - Editor's Choice

Stranger & Sons Gin

 Made in our very own Goa in the Third Eye Distillery, this award-winning gin founded in 2018 by three maverick entrepreneurs, truly impresses with its silky mouthfeel and wonderful palate. With an exquisite mixture of botanicals—in addition to a citrus peel mix of Gondhoraj lebu, lime, Indian bergamot, and Nagpur oranges, there’s also coriander seeds, angelica root, cassia bark, liquorice, and warm spices such as mace, nutmeg, and pepper. Plus, it has got a fantastic backstory that reads like a true Indian legend. The tale of the two-tailed, three-eyed creature who chanced upon juniper berries hidden in the secret pocket of a sari blouse is the mysterious story of this gin. The strange creature appears on full moon nights, holding a pot with her human hand (whoa!) and with secret ingredients held by her two tails. She can be found around the local bars in Panjim, Goa, but there have been sightings in London, Singapore, and Thailand as well. The illustrated label of this gin with the prowling tiger, reflects upon this and other wondrous folklores of India, and the reason why Editor Nandini chose it as The One.

Stranger & sons gin

Kyla Hand
Harness Ring, Esme, ₹6,050

 

10. Best Made In India Gin - Editor's Choice

TERAI India Dry Gin

TERAI is truly proud to be made in India, but that’s just one of the reasons it made it to the Best Made In India Gin, Editor’s Choice.

First, the name—TERAI is named after a belt of lush, fertile marshlands running along the foothills of the Himalayas, which is the location of the TERAI family’s agriculture and distillation activities. Then, there is the grain-to-glass philosophy: this craft gin is distilled in Behror, Rajasthan, and the base distillate is the rice grain spirit selected from the adjoining family distillery.

But there’s more, including the bottle itself, which features a stopper that reminds us of wooden toys from yesteryears—TERAI’s stoppers are handcrafted in Channapatna, Karnataka, fondly called India’s ‘toy town’. The label features vintage Indian coins, and the bottle is inspired by ancient Indian architecture.

And then, of course, it’s how TERAI tastes. This modern gin is rooted in London Dry Gin-making traditions, but with the full flavour profile of its intrinsically Indian ingredients. It’s a vibrant gin that begins with lush green notes lifted by a citrus zest, followed by a characteristic floral bouquet, and a sweet and piney juniper aroma. On the palate, sweet and herbaceous flavours are balanced by a dry spice and savoury finish. All 11 of its botanical ingredients are sourced from the Khari Baoli, Asia’s largest spice market—from juniper berries and lavender, to almond, citrus zest, fennel, angelica root, holy basil, orris root, coriander, lime peel, orange peel, and rose petals. This truly is a homegrown gin, and made in India with lots of love...

terai gin

Poppy Danglers, Radhika Agrawal Jewels, ₹6,500

 

11. Most Luxurious Gin - Editor's Choice

Hendrick's Gin

This is the original Hendrick’s that gin lovers swear by. A rather unusual gin, created with 11 botanicals—the curious, yet marvellous infusions of rose and cucumber infuse this spirit with its uniquely balanced flavour, resulting in an impeccably smooth gin. Hendrick’s made Editor Nandini Bhalla think about what luxury truly meant in a spirit like gin—and that is the luxury of time.
In a truly slow and indulgent way, what the good people at Hendrick’s actually do, is create two gins. They take an old-fashioned Bennett pot still and make a rich and intricate spirit from it, and then, from a long-necked Carter Head, they produce a more refined spirit. Each still is then infused (by steaming in a perforated basket atop its lofty neck) with an unusual symphony of botanicals—chamomile, elderflower, juniper, lemon peel, orange peel, caraway, coriander, cubeb berries, angelica root, yarrow root, and orris root. The gins from the two stills are then married together and graced with aromatic infusions of rose and cucumber. This odd method allows Hendrick’s to taste light, yet intriguingly complex. The result? A wondrously refreshing gin with a delightfully floral aroma. Try the Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic: take 50ml of Hendrick’s Gin; 150ml of tonic water; and combine them in a highball glass with ice. Garnish with three thinly sliced cucumber rounds.

Hendrick's gin

Gucci Dionysus leather ballet flats, Gucci, price on request

 

12. Best Made In India Gin

Samsāra London Dry Gin

Samsāra was a hit with the Cosmopolitan SNA Panel, and here it is again. Previously, we spoke about how this Goa-born Indian craft gin (founded by Aditya Aggarwal of Spaceman Spirits Lab), is the embodiment of a new spirit of a new India. And we discussed how Samsāra is distilled in a classic London Dry method using 11 handpicked botanicals, giving it a flavour that’s floral, citrusy, and also spicy-earthy. But there’s more: Samsāra takes sustainability and social responsibility very seriously. From sourcing local botanicals, to using organic packaging material, to running a women-centric production facility, the folks at Samsāra strive do their bit to ensure their very likable gin is beneficial for the environment as well as the local communities. PS: the brand recently introduced a pink gin, which, we’re thinking will be as good as this one.

Samsara Gin

Sunglasses,Giorgio Armani, ₹30,790

 

13. Best Gin For Your Home Bar - Editor's Choice

Gordon's London Dry Gin

This London Dry Gin made the cut because it’s the kind of crowd pleaser that mixes well—with friends and splashes of tonic. Gordon’s is popular for many reasons—it is smooth on the palate; has a fresh, classic Juniper flavour; and is well-priced, making it perfect for your personal bar cabinet.

If you like a little history and tradition in your home bar, you’ll find that the British-made Gordon’s comes with plenty. Almost 250 years ago, Alexander Gordon started his distillery in London and set about creating the recipe for brilliant tasting gin. His passion for business began to take shape in 1769, and he built a distillery in Southwark, London, which was well known for its excellent, clean water supply. The triple-distilled gin uses a secret combination of botanicals that fans of the brand find distinctive 

Today, Gordon’s is a gin to be enjoyed after work on a Friday evening—or a casual Tuesday (no-one’s judging)—with friends. You can even regale guests with tales centred around the boar’s head that features on the bottle’s label. Legend has it that a member of the Gordon clan saved the King of Scotland from a wild boar when he was out hunting. Ever since, the ancestors of Alexander Gordon sported a boar’s head on their coat of arms.

PS: this also happens to be the world’s best-selling gin, awarded four Royal Warrants, and an impressive selection of international gin prizes.

Gordon's Gin

Orchid Earrings, Valliyan by Nitya Arora, ₹8,500

 

14. Gin Of The Year - Editor's Choice

Hapusā Himalayan Dry Gin

 Made by the lovely people at Nao Spirits, who brought us Greater Than, Hapusā from Goa is the first Indian gin made from indigenous juniper berries from the Himalayas (normally juniper is sourced from Macedonia)—even its name is derived from the Sanskrit word for juniper and the botanicals that go into its making can be found all over India. The fact that there’s turmeric and mango inside, make it an absolutely standout gin, as far as its composition goes. There are also coriander seeds, ginger, Gondhoraj lebu (lime), cardamom, and almond—which are ubiquitous in our country. On the nose, there’s pine forest and wild flower notes, with a bold earthiness and a slightly smoky finish. Mix it with a classic tonic water garnished with a spring of holy basil or mint. The Cosmo Editor and SNA panel made a special note about the bottle—a chunky black one, which will definitely stand out on your bar trolley. This gin really looks like the home-grown champion that it is, as it bagged a gold medal at a recent world spirits competition.

Hapusa Gin

Selena Blue Moon Bag, Mistry, ₹5,250

 

15. Best New Launch (January 2020 onwards) 

 Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice

A highly unusual gin, Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice is a delightfully floral gin that is lighter and crisper than the original Hendrick’s, making it perfect to drink during the day—long summer days, anyone? The fact that it’s so floral (with some highly secretive essences), coupled with the unmistakable rose and cucumber finish of the original Hendrick’s made in Scotland, is what has left the Cosmo SNA jury impressed. Tasting notes: lush flora coupled with the unmistakable Hendrick’s signature cucumber and rose finish. And if you like a little exclusivity (who doesn’t?), you’ll love that this is a small-batch, limited-edition creation by the woman who first created Hendrick’s—master distiller Lesley Grace. It’s interesting that it is best recommended to be had during the summer since the name of this gin itself suggests a midsummer libation. It is a bright take on a Hendrick’s house style, that makes it ideal for the long, warm months, and can be enjoyed in a refreshing drink, when mixed. Add elderflower liqueur; soda; lemon; and a cucumber garnish to make a Midsummer Spritz. Or create a Midsummer Mimosa or Salty Dog... Enjoy this magical gin!

Hendrick's gin

Adrianne Metal Buckle Crossbody Bag,Miraggio, ₹5,000

 

16. Gin Of The Year

 Samsāra London Dry Gin

Samsāra, the Goa-born Indian craft gin is the embodiment of a new spirit of a new India. Samsāra is distilled in a classic London Dry method, using 11 handpicked botanicals that includes hemp seeds (sourced from the Bombay Hemp Company), rose petals, vetiver grass, green cardamom, and juniper berries. It’s floral and citrusy with a subtle whisper of spicy earthiness—but it’s the celebration on our taste buds and innovation that led it to become our gin of the year! From sourcing local botanicals to organic packaging material and running a women-centric production facility, the people at Samsāra strive to ensure everything they do at the distillery and for the gin, is beneficial for the environment and the communities.

Samsara Gin

Fendi Slingbacks, Fendi, price on request

17. Best Overall Taste - Editor's Choice

Stranger & Sons Gin

Editor Nandini Bhalla is a gin aficionado—not that she doesn’t like her other spirits—but homegrown Stranger & Sons impressed her with its luscious mouthfeel and wonderful palate. With a stellar mix of botanicals—citrus peel mix of Gondhoraj lebu from Kolkata, nimbu, Indian bergamot, and Nagpur oranges, coriander seeds, angelica root, cassia bark, liquorice, and spices such as mace, nutmeg, and home-grown pepper—it’s got the kind of infusion that leads to a truly Indian-origin taste that is at home in the world. As for the taste, you can feel the aromatic citrus mix build up gently on your palate, followed by the warming sweet liquorice and a spicy undertone, that lingers—due to the pepper!

Stranger & sons gin

(From left to right) Wheelie Studs, Anaash, ₹6,000; Swarovski Choker, ₹8,500