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whats the differnce between gin and vodka ...

Customer Question

whats the difference between gin and vodka?
Submitted: 11 years ago.
Category: General
Expert:  Ms Chase replied 11 years ago.
Gin and Vodka don't taste the same, but if Vodka is good in something, then Gin is probably good also.



Vodka can be made from many different kinds of agricultural materials. In the EU it is usually produced from grain or molasses. In Eastern Europe it is also produced from potatoes, or rice. Neutral spirit of at least 96% alcohol by volume (ABV), having been checked that it is of the appropriate quality is either redistilled to produce a pure and flavourless spirit or filtered through activated charcoal which removes any residual impurities and odours. The definition of activated charcoal is that which has been treated either by steam or chemicals to make it more absorbent.

In many cases, the spirit is redistilled once or twice then blended with pure demineralised water, reducing its ABV to about 55% before being filtered through the charcoal. Filtration is done by either pumping the vodka through several consecutive columns of charcoal or, in the case of cheaper vodkas simply seeping it into tanks containing charcoal.

Very pure water is now added to the spirit to give the legal EU minimum ABV strength of at least 37.5%; it is not unusual to have vodkas of up to 50% ABV. This pure spirit drink does not legally require anything adding to it although some producers include additives to improve the characteristics whilst others introduce flavouring by either adding natural essences or by steeping fruits or herbs in the vodka for several days. No maturation period is required for vodka.



There are several methods of producing gin but the European Community Regulation which governs spirit drinks (No. 1576 of 1989) defines only two. First, and by far the more important, is 'distilled gin' (of which London gin and Plymouth gin are recognised as types) which is produced in the traditional method, described below. Secondly, gin can be produced simply by flavouring suitable alcohol with natural flavouring substances which give a predominant taste of juniper: this method is known technically as 'compounding'.

Gin can be made from any spirit alcohol which meets the requirements of original (agricultural) strength (at least 96% alcohol by volume - ABV) and purity (given maximum levels of residue) of the EC Regulation. The finest base for this 'neutral' spirit is either grain (normally barley and maize) or molasses and has no flavour at all.


The flavouring ingredients are all natural and are referred to as 'botanicals'. The type and quantity of each producer's botanicals vary according to their own closely guarded recipes; all are carefully selected and tested for purity and quality. All gins include juniper as an ingredient: other botanicals used are coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon peel, cardomom, cinnamon, grains of paradise, cubeb berries and nutmeg. Typically a fine gin contains six to ten botanicals.

--distillation process----

The detailed processes for the distillation do vary between producers. In most cases the spirit is diluted by adding pure water to reach the required strength of about 45% ABV. This is pumped into a still normally made of copper and the flavouring ingredients are added to it and it is then left to steep. Some producers place the botanicals in a tray over the spirit.

The still is heated, using a steam coil or jacket, to remove from the botanicals the essential oils (less than 5% of the weight) which give the flavouring to the spirit. The first distillate 'runnings' are re-circulated until an appropriate standard and strength (over 90% ABV) is reached. The lower quality early part of the run ('foreshots') and end of the run ('feints') as judged by the skill and experience of the 'Stillman' are run off to be redistilled. Only the 'middle run' is used to produce high quality gin; this is run off at about 80-85% ABV. The product then goes through a quality control 'Tasting Panel' and may also be analysed by gas chromatography to ensure that it meets the required specification. This ensures product consistency.

The gin is then brought to the required EU legal minimum alcohol level - at least 37.5% ABV to meet EC regulations, although some gins have a higher level - by the addition of pure demineralised water. It is now ready for bottling as it does not require any period of maturation.

There is a cheaper method of producing gin. Essential oils are either extracted from botanicals by distillation or pressed out. These are added to the appropriate water. The product of this 'cold compounding' may be called 'gin' under EC rules but not 'distilled' or 'London' gin.

This process used to be used to ensure that the quality of the alcohol was satisfactory before the distillation process took place. Advances in the production of neutral spirit have made this process unnecessary.



Vodka is a drink which originated in Eastern Europe, the name stemming from the Russian word 'voda' meaning water or, as the Poles would say 'woda'. The first documented production of vodka in Russia was at the end of the 9th century, but the first known distillery at, Khylnovsk, was about two hundred years later as reported in the Vyatka Chronicle of 1174. Poland lays claim to having distilled vodka even earlier in the 8th century, but as this was a distillation of wine it might be more appropriate to consider it a crude brandy. The first identifiable Polish vodkas appeared in the 11th century when they were called 'gorzalka', originally used as medicines.

During the Middle Ages, distilled liquor was used mainly for medicinal purposes, as well as being an ingredient in the production of gunpowder. In the 14th century a British Ambassador to Moscow first described vodka as the Russian national drink and in the mid-16th century it was established as the national drink in Poland and Finland. We learn from the Novgorod Chronicles of 1533 that in Russia also, vodka was used frequently as a medicine (zhiznennia voda meaning 'water of life').

In these ancient times Russia produced several kinds of 'vodka' or 'hot wine' as it was then called. There was 'plain wine' (standard), 'good wine' (improved) and 'boyar wine' (high quality). In addition stronger types existed, distilled two ('double wine') or more times.

Since early production methods were crude, vodka often contained impurities, so to mask these the distillers flavoured their spirits with fruit, herbs or spices.

The mid - 15th century saw the first appearance of pot distillation in Russia. Prior to that, seasoning, ageing and freezing were all used to remove impurities, as was precipitiation using isinglass ('karluk') from the air bladders of sturgeons. Distillation became the first step in producing vodka, with the product being improved by precipitation using isinglass, milk or egg white.

Around this time (1450) vodka started to be produced in large quantities and the first recorded exports of Russian vodka were to Sweden in 1505. Polish 'woda' exports started a century later, from major production centres in Posnan and Krakow.

In 1716, owning distilleries became the exclusive right of the nobility, who were granted further special rights in 1751. In the following 50 or so years there was a proliferation of types of aromatised vodka, but no attempt was made to standardise the basic product. Types produced included; absinthe, acorn, anisette, birch, calamus root, calendula, cherry, chicory, dill, ginger hazelnut, horseradish, juniper, lemon, mastic, mint, mountain ash, oak, pepper, peppermint, raspberry, sage, sorrel, wort and water melon! A typical production process was to distil alcohol twice, dilute it with milk and distil it again, adding water to bring it to the required strength and then flavouring it, prior to a fourth and final distillation. It was not a cheap product and it still had not attained really large-scale production. It did not seek to compete commercially with the major producers in Lithuania, Poland and Prussia.

In the 18th century a professor in St. Petersburg discovered a method of purifying alcohol using charcoal filtration. Felt and river sand had already been used for some time in Russia for filtration.

The spread of awareness of vodka continued throughout the 19th century, helped by the presence in many parts of Europe of Russian soldiers involved in the Napoleonic Wars. Increasing popularity led to escalating demand and to meet this demand, lower grade products were produced based largely on distilled potato mash.

Earlier attempts to control production by reducing the number of distilleries from 5,000 to 2,050 between the years 1860 and 1890 having failed, a law was enacted in 1894 to make the production and distribution of vodka in Russia a state monopoly. This was both for fiscal reasons and to control the epidemic of drunkenness which the availability of the cheap, mass-produced 'vodkas' imported and home-produced, had brought about.

It is only at the end of the 19th century, with all state distilleries adopting a standard production technique and hence a guarantee of quality, that the name vodka was officially and formally recognised.

After the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks confiscated all private distilleries in Moscow. As a result, a number of Russian vodka-makers emigrated, taking their skills and recipes with them. One such exile revived his brand in Paris, using the French version of his family name - Smirnoff. Thence, having met a Russian émigré from the USA, they set up the first vodka distillery there in 1934. This was subsequently sold to a US drinks company. From this small start, vodka began in the 1940s to achieve its wide popularity in the Western World.

Although being the older drink - vodka took much longer than gin to become popular in Western society.
However - following the Russian Revolution in 1917, a number of Russian refugees took their skills - and their love of vodka - to many parts of the world.

In the 1930s one such exile emigrated from Russia via France to the United States bringing with him the formula to one of the leading Russian makes of vodka. Through his dealings with another Russian émigré the first vodka distillery in the United States was set up in the 1930s. Although not particularly successful at first, this enterprise was sold on again to an entrepreneur who eventually made a hit in the 1950s with a vodka-based cocktail, the Moscow Mule.

Realistically though vodka did not see a great boom in popularity in the West until the 1960s and 1970s when many more brands were launched in the USA and the UK. The timing coincided with the cultural revolution in these countries - the 'swinging sixties'. With a more affluent younger generation and a generally more relaxed lifestyle and the emphasis on adventure and experimentation - vodka's 'mixability' (plus the appeal of some witty and clever advertising) led to its huge and ever rising popularity, which continues today. Vodka cocktails are almost as numerous as those of gin and are seen in the same exclusive circles and stylish bars the world over



The first confirmed date for the production of gin is the early 17th century in Holland, although claims have been made that it was produced prior to this in Italy. In Holland it was produced as a medicine and sold in chemist shops to treat stomach complaints, gout and gallstones. To make it more palatable, the Dutch started to flavour it with juniper, which had medicinal properties of its own.

British troops fighting in the Low Countries during the Thirty Years' War were given 'Dutch Courage' during the long campaigns in the damp weather through the warming properties of gin. Eventually they started bringing it back home with them, where already it was often sold in chemists' shops. Distillation was taking place in a small way in England, but it now began on a greater scale, though the quality was often very dubious. Nevertheless, the new drink became a firm favourite with the poor.

The formation by King Charles I of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, where members had the sole right to distil spirits in London and Westminster and up to twenty-one miles beyond improved both the quality of gin and its image; it also helped English agriculture by using surplus corn and barley.

When King William III - better known as William of Orange - came to the English throne in 1689, he made a series of statutes actively encouraging the distillation of English spirits. Anyone could now distil by simply posting a notice in public and just waiting ten days. Sometimes gin was distributed to workers as part of their wages and soon the volume sold daily exceeded that of beer and ale, which was more expensive anyway.

In 1729, an excise licence of £20 was introduced and two shillings per gallon duty was levied. In addition to which, retailers now required a licence. This almost suppressed good gin, but the quantity consumed of bad spirits continued to rise.

In 1730 London had over 7,000 shops that sold only spirits. Daniel Defoe wrote of "the prodigious number of shopkeepers whose business is wholly and solely the selling of spirits". In certain areas, spirits were sold on average from one private house in four.

The abuse of alcohol by the poor became a major problem. Smollett, the 18th century Scottish novelist wrote: "In these dismal caverns ('strong water shops') they (the poor) lay until they recovered some of their faculties and then they had recourse to this same mischievous potion". Lord Hervey declared: "Drunkenness of the common people was universal, the whole town of London swarmed with drunken people from morning till night." William Hogarth in his 'Gin Lane', an engraving of about this period, portrays a scene of idleness, vice and misery, leading to madness and death.

The problem was tackled by introducing The Gin Act at midnight on 29 September 1736, which made gin prohibitively expensive. A licence to retail gin cost £50 and duty was raised fivefold to £1 per gallon with the smallest quantity you could buy retail being two gallons. The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, and Dr. XXXXX XXXXX were among those who opposed the Act since they considered it could not be enforced against the will of the common people. They were right. Riots broke out and the law was widely and openly broken. About this time, 11 million gallons of gin were distilled in London, which was over 20 times the 1690 figure and has been estimated to be the equivalent of 14 gallons for each adult male. But within six years of the Gin Act being introduced, only two distillers took out licences, yet, over the same period of time, production rose by almost fifty per cent.

The Gin Act, finally recognised as unenforceable, was repealed in 1742 and a new policy, which distillers helped to draft was introduced: reasonably high prices, reasonable excise duties and licensed retailers under the supervision of magistrates. In essence this is the situation which exists today.

These changes led to more respectable firms embarking on the business of distilling and retailing gin and it became the drink of high quality, which it has since remained. Many companies established themselves as well-to-do manufacturers, often becoming patrons for major enterprises; one such was the sponsorship of the attempt to discover the North West Passage 1829-33: the attempt failed, but the expedition did establish the true position of the North Magnetic Pole.

Gin had been known as 'Mother's Milk' from the 1820s but later in the century it became known as 'Mother's Ruin', a description perhaps originating from the earlier 'Blue Ruin' of the prohibition era in the previous century.

By this time the battle for trade was hotting up between the beer shops and the gin shops. Following the 1820 'Beerhouse Act', beer was sold free of licensing control and 45,000 beer shops - aimed to be the cosy homes from home - had appeared by 1838. Spirit retailers still required licences and, to compete with the beer shops, they devised the 'gin palaces' which first appeared about 1830. These were designed to be an escape from home. As home for the poor - who continued to be gin's main supporters - was often a sordid slum, the gin palace was large, imposing and handsome and even luxuriously furnished. By the 1850s there were about 5,000 such places in London and Charles Dickens describes them in his 'Sketches by Boz' in the mid-1830s as "perfectly dazzling when contrasted with the darkness and dirt we have just left."

In the mid-1830s the temperance movement started. Whilst it failed to make a big impact, it did encourage much debate on drink which was still a problem. Thomas Carlyle wrote of gin as "liquid madness sold at tenpence the quartem". By 1869 this led to an Act licensing the sale of beer and wine (spirits were still licensed). Two years later a further Act was introduced which would have halved the number of public houses in the country, but public opinion was outraged. One bishop stating in the House of Lords that he would "prefer to see all England free better than England sober" and the act was withdrawn.

As reforms took effect, so the gin production process became more refined. So gin evolved to become a delicate balance of subtle flavours, and began its ascent into high society.


Gin and vodka are low in congeners, so it causes less hangovers!


Gin and vodka contain only traces of carbohydrates!!


Store your gin and vodka in the freezer, so they are the correct drinking temperature.


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

If you have any further questions, just ask! Hope this helped.