Gin vs Vodka

While gin and vodka have many similarities, the two spirits are distinct. Gin has pine and herbal flavors, while vodka is produced to be tasteless and odorless.
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What is The Difference Between Gin And Vodka?

Gin and vodka are two distinct spirits. Gin has pine and herbal flavors, while vodka is an odorless, tasteless spirit.

Despite their differences, gin and vodka are frequent substitutes for one another in many cocktails.

Some common bases for gin and vodka include corn, wheat, rye, sorghum, potatoes, and grapes. Other bases include carrots, beetroot, and milk. Whatever primary ingredient is used, it must be fermented and then distilled.

Distillation usually occurs at various times to remove as much flavor as possible. Afterward, water is mixed to lower the spirit to 40 percent alcohol by volume. 

Gin is then mixed with juniper and other spices and herbs. 

Many people think of gin as a flavored vodka, but several properties distinguish the two apart.

What is Vodka?

Vodka is produced to be flavorless and indistinct. Vodka usually contains at least 40 percent alcohol by volume.

The United States government defines vodka as ‘neutral spirits or alcohol’ treated or filtered to be without distinctive fragrance, character, taste, or color. 

401017 vodka

Popular vodka brands in the United States include Smirnoff, Absolut, Svedka, Skyy, and Grey Goose.

Vodka cocktails and mixed drinks typically take on the characteristics and flavors of whatever else the drink contains. This makes vodka an excellent base spirit. For example, orange juice and vodka will primarily taste of orange juice. Cranberry juice and vodka will taste like cranberry juice.

There are many popular vodka-based cocktails, including the Bloody Mary, White Russian, Moscow Mule, and the Vesper Martini made famous by James Bond.

Vodka is best served chilled. When it is significantly cold, the taste is more enjoyable.

What is Gin?

Gin is a liqueur with pine and herbal flavoring. Gin is bottled at least 40 percent alcohol by volume.

The United States government describes gin as a liqueur produced by the distillation or mixing spirits with juniper berries and other aromatics or extracts.

gin and tonic

Juniper is a gin’s defining characteristic. It tastes predominantly like pine, but it is also floral and herbal. 

The production of gin dates back to the Dutch genever. This is a wine-based medicinal spirit. The English used genever during The Netherlands War of Independence from 1566 and 1609 and the Thirty Years’ War from 1618 to 1648. This is where the term ‘Dutch courage’ originated from. 

There are five basic types of gin. These styles of gin include:

  • London Dry Gin, which is without sweetness
  • Plymouth Gin, which must be created in Plymouth, England
  • Old Tom Gin, which is slightly sweet
  • Navy Strength Gin, which must be 57 percent alcohol by volume or higher
  • West Coast or American Gin, which is usually more herbal than other styles

Popular gin brands include Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, and Tanqueray. Common gin-based cocktails include Tom Collins, negroni, and gin and tonic. 

Drink gin chilled or unchilled. Even when unchilled, the aromatic flavors of gin still provide a distinct and enjoyable taste.

Are Gin and Vodka the Same Thing?

No, gin and vodka are not the same things. While gin and vodka have their similarities, they both have distinct tastes, stories of origin, and chemical differences. 

Gin can be defined as flavored vodka. However, vodka cannot be classified as a type of gin. Gin can be considered a flavored vodka because it can be redistilled from vodka mixed with spices and herbs.

Is Gin the Healthiest Alcohol?

Gin is one of the healthiest liqueurs available. Gin is produced from juniper berries, which contain 87 distinct antioxidant compounds. This includes a compound called flavonoids, which have anti-aging properties. Flavonoids also improve heart health and can lower blood sugar.

While other alcoholic beverages can lower your sleep quality, the juniper berries in gin can promote restorative sleep.

Juniper berries are also known to improve the appearance of your complexion for a smooth and youthful look.

Calories in Gin vs. Vodka 

The calories in 80-proof vodka and gin are identical. The proof of a drink is a number that’s double the percentage of alcohol by volume of the liqueur. A 1.5-ounce serving of either liqueur is known as a ‘jigger’, containing 97 calories.

In comparison, the average glass of wine has 160 calories. A pint of beer contains 208 calories.

As either gin or vodka’s alcohol proof increases, so does its calories. Vodka or gin that is 90-proof has 110 calories per 1.5 ounces, while 100-proof vodka or gin has 124 calories per 1.5 ounces.

If you drink vodka or gin as part of a cocktail or mixed drink, the other ingredients increase the caloric content. 

As gin and vodka only contain trace amounts of sugar, they are excellent options if you are watching your weight.

Common Questions and Answers

Is Gin the healthiest alcohol?

Gin is made from juniper berries, which is a "superfruit." Therefore, gin is one of the healthiest spirits to drink in moderation due to its low-caloric content and botanical properties. Drinking gin heavily is not healthy, though, and can lead to addiction.

Is Gin more potent than vodka?

Vodka has an ABV of 40 to 95 percent, while gin has an ABV of 36 to 50 percent.

Is gin and vodka the same thing?

Gin is technically a flavored vodka. All gin bases are made from natural, botanical ingredients. Vodka is usually tasteless.


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Resources

Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation, My Health Finder, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020, https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/health-conditions/heart-health/drink-alcohol-only-moderation

Orav, Anne et al., Chemical investigation of the essential oil from berries and needles of common juniper (Juniperus communis L.) growing wild in Estonia., Natural product research vol. 24,19 (2010): 1789-99, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21104523/

Khurana, Sandhya et al., Polyphenols: benefits to the cardiovascular system in health and in aging., Nutrients vol. 5,10 3779-827. 26 Sep. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820045/

Sánchez de Medina, F et al., Hypoglycemic activity of juniper "berries", Planta medica vol. 60,3 (1994): 197-200, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8073081/

Alcohol calorie counter, Rethinking Drinking, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/tools/calculators/calorie-calculator.aspx

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Updated on: October 15, 2020
Author
Ellie Swain
About
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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